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Title: Dreaming for Others in Culture and the Novel
Authors: Spellberg, Matthew Moscicki
Advisors: Brooks, Peter P.
Emerson, Caryl
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: dreaming
social life
Subjects: Comparative literature
Cultural anthropology
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation proposes a way of re-conceiving dreams and the dreamlike as ontological states with distinctive characteristics that play a crucial role in human social life and the literary arts. I argue that dreaming is best understood as a state of mind in which thinking takes on the shape of a world: in dreams the mind is a thick and complex physical reality. I argue against the prevalent belief that dreams are codes waiting to be deciphered, as in many hermeneutic traditions of dream-interpretation. In the first part of the dissertation, I develop a theory of the dreamlike based on a principle of emergent aliveness, what I also call spiritual force. I argue that in the dream-state, the mind is continuously generating living presences, and imputing aliveness beyond the boundaries of the discrete self, and that this dream-state can be induced in waking life as well. The cognitive intensity of the dream-state has been used to cement social and spiritual cohesion in a range of different cultures, but such techniques for harnessing the emergent aliveness of dreaming were gradually lost in the history of the West. I suggest that the novel may have arisen in part as a compensation for this loss of dream-sharing protocols within western modernity. The second half of the dissertation takes four novelists as case studies for the role of the dream in the novel, both as thematic and generic template. A chapter on Pushkin examines dreams as a means of staging in the mind the tyranny of social relations. A chapter on Tolstoy considers the desire to share dreams and the failure to find an avenue to do so. I then consider Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as a meditation on the fine line between a productive absorption in the dream and a dangerous alienation within it. In the final chapter, Marcel Proust is held up as the culminating figure in the novel’s long aspiration toward the dreamlike. In his work a dialectic of unselfconscious dream-attention and critical self-consciousness creates a model for the inducement and even manipulation of the dream-state in waking life.
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Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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