Writing the Dreamwork Winter 2024

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What kinds of knowledge, if any, can we find in our dreams? In The Interpretation of Dreams (Die Traumdeutung), Freud writes that “there lies in dreams a marvelous poetry.” In fact, one of the primary forms of the dreamwork, condensation Verdichtung, is related to the German word for poetry, “Dichtung.” For Freud, the work of the mind is akin to the work of poetry and, thus, the work of psychoanalysis is akin to the practice of reading. But when Freud writes his dreams down, in order to transmit a theory of dreams to his readers, he admits to concealing various points of knowledge: “when I interpret my dreams for readers I am obliged to adopt [similar] distortions.” The act of translating and transforming our dreams into writing is not always so clear cut. How do poets and creative writers navigate this predicament? In this course, we will examine the relationship between “dreamwork” and the act of writing. This course will also survey theories of dreams, including Aristotle, Descartes, Freud, Lacan, Fanon, Sacks and others. We will also read selections from The Odyssey, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Passion According to G.H., and Robot Dreams.” Finbally, we will carefully record our own dreams each night and closely read writers’ dream journals in class, for example by Kafka, Tawada, Nabokov, Woolf, Plath, Sontag, Bellow, Wilde, and others. Class meetings will consist of free writing, discussions, and student presentations. We will also have a visit from a practicing psychoanalyst (TBD). Outside of the classroom, students will create their own dream journals, read the assigned readings found in the course book, write two short reflections and one longer essay, and study the dream journal of a writer of their choice. In this way students will deepen their understanding of the philosophy and psychoanalysis of dreams, while improving their interpretive abilities and sharpening their creative and analytical writing.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 20
Expected: NA
Class#: 1180
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Paper(s) or report(s); Presentation(s); Creative project(s)
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: Comparative Literature and German students
Unit Notes: Mercer Greenwald holds a Bachelor of Arts in German Studies and a Bachelor of Music in Viola Performance from Bard College/Bard Conservatory of Music. She is currently pursuing a PhD in the Department of Germanic Languages at Harvard University.
Materials/Lab Fee: $50
Attributes: SLFX Winter Study Self-Expression
STUX Winter Study Student Exploration

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