- Writing the Dream/Écrire le Rêve ed. by Bernard Dieterle, Manfred Engel
“The dream is no text and it certainly is no tale. What it really may be, is only partly known to us—at least, once we are awake and can reflect on its nature,” write Bernard Dieterle and Manfred Engel, editors of the wide-ranging anthology Writing the Dream/Écrire le Rêve. Though the dream itself may remain locked in the “black box” of a sleeping mind, this project examines the poetics and cultural patterns of “dream reports” as a literary genre. Departing from familiar psychoanalytic approaches to dream theory while remaining in dialogue with Freud’s persistent legacy, Writing the Dream/Écrire le Rêve proposes to instead “read literary dreams as part of the cultural dream-work in which many disciplines (e.g., mantics/augury, theology, philosophy, medicine, psychology) and arts collaborate in trying to cope with the >other< of the dream.” The authors examine what they term a “cultural history of the dream,” including “dream-discourse, dream-practices, dream-art, and dream-literature.” The contributors succeed in including texts ranging from the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, and Quran to contemporary Chinese, Japanese, Guinean, French, and Indigenous Californian literature. This collection is the first installment of an ambitious five-volume, trilingual series assembled by the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA) research committee on “Dream Cultures.”
Reading the editors’ account of rendering the “otherness” of dreams into a different form of language, I was struck by how their task resonates with translation theory. Engel’s “Towards a Poetics of Dream Narration” describes the task of the dream-writer who navigates “dialectical interplay between techniques of familiarization and defamiliarization. [. . .] A poetics of oneiric [End Page e-1] defamiliarization seems to rest upon two quite different strategies (or, of course, a combination of both): (1) mimicking the dream; (2) simulating a (proto-)dream experience.” In their joint introduction, Engel and Dieterle write, “Dream-reports are shaped by a—necessary and unavoidable—drive to normalize the dream by adapting it to existing cultural and textual patterns; yet there is also a drive to at least partly preserve its otherness by a poetics of deviation.” These are the same questions faced by the translator: Should a translation smoothly erase the fact of its secondariness, or should it be made strange, defamiliarizing the target language to remind readers that it is not an original?
Writing the Dream/Écrire le Rêve is divided into two sections: “Systematic Considerations” and “Historical Case Studies.” The first section includes Ritchie Robertson’s essay “Dreams as Literature: Heine, Dora, Freud,” a recovery project of sorts: Robertson reads the dreams of Dora (Ida Bauer) as primary texts, framing Freud’s interpretation as a spectacular projection of his own “active and above all verbal and literary imagination.” Robertson views Dora’s dreams not as rebuses to be decoded with the aim of revealing the latent desires of a repressed mind, but the clear manifestations of “a real wish—to educate herself.” Thus Robertson reads Freud his psychoanalytic method, listening instead for Dora’s own expressive narrative.
The second section of “historical case-studies” includes sixteen essays with philological, anthropological, and theological approaches to the study of literary dreams. Of particular interest among these are Tumba Shango Lokoho’s “L’invention du rêve ou l’autre scène du récit africain,” examining the narrative devices of dream fiction in three African novels; Jörg Lanckau’s philological research in “Dreams and Dream Narratives in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh),” which analyzes the vocabulary of dream and prophecy in biblical Hebrew and ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian texts; and Marie Guthmüller’s “Allessandro Manzoni: I promessi sposi (1827),” which maps how a dream from the nineteenth-century novel circulated in medical texts and anticipated later “scientific” investigations into the psyche.
The sole essay concerning visual art is Juliane Blank’s “Shaping the World—Dreams, Dreaming, and Dream-Worlds in Comics,” which examines the colorful children...