A Viennese colleague and I are working on a research proposal for the empirical analysis of dream transcripts. We are interested in finding out whether dreams tend to have narrative structure or not, which is a debated issue due to the often bizarre, erratic, highly compressed, and associative way in which dreams seem to unfold.
I would be interested in learning about empirical work around this topic from you, (perhaps even a recent survey article?).
I’d also appreciate discussing different theoretical approaches to narrativity and how they can be transformed into a manageable qualitative code system for a fairly large corpus. After all, how we define the notion will very much influence the answer to our question.
Finally, I would like to raise an issue that might interest those of you conversant with cognitive linguistic theory: The fact that compression plays such an important role in dreams made me think that the conceptual integration framework by Fauconnier and Turner (2002), in which compression plays a major role, might be applicable. Turner in particular, in other publications, has also applied the framework to narrative, but specific ways of bringing it to bear on our topic still elude me.
looking forward to your comments & ideas,
Así que envío esta respuesta (mi primera intervención en la lista):
Dear Michael Kimmer (and fellow members of the list):
"some dreams are born narrative, some achieve narrativity, and some have narrativity thrust upon ’em"!
It seems to me that an analysis of dream narrativity is bound to face, sooner or later, the observer’s paradox, as well as other paradoxes. There is no way to access the content of a dream as opposed to the dream tale, other than to analyze one’s own dreams as compared to one’s (re)telling of them. But if your are both the subject and the object of your experiment, some Heisenbergian distortions may be inevitable: self-consciousness about the project may intervene as a narrativizing factor. Not to mention the problem of privacy, infinite regression, etc., once your dreams have been censored and rearranged in order to be narrated, they will still have to be censored and rearranged in order to be retold along with their previous retellings in your self-analysis. And we haven’t even mentioned the nature of that censorship: Freudian issues of repression, unconsciousness, etc. So that direction of analysis is fraught with self-evident difficulties. And yet an approach to dream narratives that does not address the issue of dream "in-itself" vs. dream narrative is bound to be limited and flawed in a number of ways. Which is not to say that there are not other potentially interesting directions for analysis, including conventional narratological analysis of dream texts (alone) or comparisons of different dream-texts while leaving aside the issue of the dream itself. As to Fauconnier and Turner, I don’t know whether they address anywhere the possible links between their conceptual integration framework and the Freudian concepts of condensation and displacement, the "dream-work", quoi, but that would seem to be a must for this line of analysis. I don’t think I can be much help there, but perhaps other people may offer useful suggestions on how (not) to approach the subject.
All the best,
JOSE ANGEL GARCIA LANDA
Universidad de Zaragoza
HERE FOLLOW SOME REJOINDERS: Hi, i’ll add some comments on Tony Jackson’s comments on my comments on dream narratives in capitals... but please don’t assume I’m shouting! this is for the sake of readability.
>I’ve wondered about dreams as narratives too, and also wonder if they’ve been given any detailed treatment by literary narrative theory.
WELL I WOULDN’T BEGIN WITH LITERARY NARRATIVE THEORY BUT WITH FREUD ON DELIRIUM AND DREAMS IN JENSEN’S GRADIVA, OR BETTER STILL WITH HIS INTERPRETATION ON DREAMS, OR WITH ARTEMIDORUS... I’M ENCLOSING A SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHICAL LIST IN CASE SOMEONE FINDS IT HELPFUL.
With my understanding of Michael’s project, I don’t see the need to worry about Freud. Unless the project is to be an empirical study of Freud’s theories in particular, most of his ideas won’t matter because they’re not adequately based in scientific kinds of knowledge;
PSYCHOANALYSIS IS NOT A SCIENTIFIC DISCIPLINE, BUT AN INTERPRETIVE, HUMANISTIC AND SEMIOTIC ONE.
and also the theoretical understanding of narrative has come a long way since Freud’s time.
STILL, IF YOU REREAD FREUD YOU MAY BE IN FOR SOME FRESH INSIGHTS ALL THE TIME. BUT BY ALL MEANS, READ ALSO LACAN, DERRIDA, AND WHAT NOT.
For some kind of qualitative coding, I imagine older more structuralist work such as Todorov s or even Propp s would provide the kind of abstracted categories that could be cross-referenced and counted. I wonder, though, if this might tend to reveal only already-established archetypal plots and characters?
BEWARE OF READY-MADE CATEGORIES AND COUNTING. BEWARE OF THE ESPRIT DE GÉOMETRIE. (I LIKE NARRATOLOGY, THOUGH. BUT READ, ALSO, FEYERABEND, AGAINST METHOD.
>I disagree with Jose s worry about getting at the subject of study. If it’s an empirical study, then why wouldn’t you just take the written or spoken report of the dream as the narrative that matters? Just as you take a written story as the story that you’ll study?
BECAUSE A DREAM NARRATIVE IS AN ACCOUNT OF A REAL EVENT, IE THE DREAM. YOU ARE PRESUPPOSING SOME KIND OF AESTHETIC-LITERARY STUDY OF DREAMS AS IF THEY WERE FICTIONS. IT IS, AS I SAID, ONE POSSIBLE AVENUE, BUT A VERY LIMITED ONE. SURELY ONE SHOULD STUDY DREAMS AS DREAMS, NOT AS FICTIONS (WHICH IS NOT TO SAY NARRATOLOGY HAS NOTHING TO SAY ABOUT THEM, QUITE THE CONTRARY).
Then I imagine you could try to bring already established narratological ideas to bear in the examination. I assume with Jose that the subject-object problem would be a basic issue, though I might say narrator-narratee.
OK, THAT IS RELEVANT. BUT DON’T STOP AT THE NARRATOR’S LEVEL. CROSS THE BORDER TO THE AUTHOR’S LEVEL. THE UNCONSCIOUS AS AUTHOR, THE CONSCIOUS AS READER. FOR INSTANCE.
In what sense is the narrator of the dream apart from the audience? And how would you assess such audience distinctions as the kind Peter Rabinowitz has theorized? If there’s compression in plot and image, there’s likely compression of audiences as well.
I VERY MUCH AGREE WITH THE RELEVANCE OF THESE ISSUES. HOW DREAMS ARE TOLD TO A VARIETY OF AUDIENCES... FOR INSTANCE.
In fact I imagine that for this teller-listener issue, Rabinowitz might be a good place to start, though of course he’s arguing about written narrative. But of course this kind of thing would be preliminary. I’m not sure how it could rendered into a qualitative code system.
Maybe the largest conceptual problem would be establishing what narrative is to mean in the first place.
IF WE GO BACK TO BASICS, A DEFINITION I LIKE IS: "NARRATIVE IS A RETROSPECTIVE REPRESENTATION OF A SEQUENCE OF INTERPRETED AND EVALUATED EVENTS" - WITH LOTS OF LEEWAY FOR FUZZY BORDERS AND PARTIAL NARRATIVITY IN CASES WHICH DON’T WHOLLY FIT THE DEFINITION.
Most dreams, I take it, won’t look so good by Aristotle’s standards.
I DARE SAY THEY WON’T!!
Dreams seem to take on much of their basic interest precisely because they wildly violate not just everyday storytelling norms, but also in some ways postmodern norms. Yet they must be taken as they are. They automatically carry a unique[?] kind of authenticity, precisely because they have been, originally, unconsciously ’told ’, and we have to take the report of that original telling as it is.
HERE PSYCHOANALYSIS DISAGREES. THENCE ITS RELEVANCE. I SHOULD SAY, NONETHELESS, THAT MOST OF MY DREAMS DON’T NEED A HEAVYWEIGHT LIKE FREUD TO COME AND INTEPRET THEM.
So dreams tend to fall outside the usual aesthetic and critical judgments. Would we ever have the notion of trying to get better at dreaming, as we do the notion of getting better at verbal or written storytelling?
THAT’S A GOOD ONE!
And if we did have that notion, what would it mean?
ENHANCED CENSORSHIP! MORE FODDER FOR FREUD!!!
Anyway, some thoughts & >Tony Jackson
SAME THING... ALL THE BEST, JOSE ANGEL
PS: I forgot to add, something which hasn’t been mentioned is that the usual narrative function of dreams is (apart as their "real-world" functions, or not quite apart) to act as a mise en abyme of the main narrative frame, or in any case as an interpretive device which helps organize, or problematize, the meaning of the main narrative sequence.
(PS: A narratological rereading of Freud’s Delirium and Dreams in Jensen’s "Gradiva" would seem to be in order).