Using works from world literature, what are specific examples of stories and dream interpretation? What do those dreams symbolize and do you think the value of dream interpretation has improved or...

Using works from world literature, what are specific examples of stories and dream interpretation? What do those dreams symbolize and do you think the value of dream interpretation has improved or depreciated through the last few hundred years?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Although it is a little bit cryptic to use the wording "of stories and dream interpretation," I can definitely give you a good idea of some theories of dream interpretations from World Literature as well as a good example.  In short, it is the countries of Austria and Switzerland that gave us the most information over the last few hundred years in the persons of Sigmund Freud (The Interpretation of Dreams) and Carl Jung ("The Structure of the Unconscious" and "The Significance of Constitution and Heredity in Psychology" and "The Concept of the Collective Unconscious").  Further, and English author (Coleridge), wrote a very famous poem about a dream that serves as a good example from yet another country.

Sigmund Freud with The Interpretation of Dreams is the primordial example from World Literature.  In this text, Freud concentrates on identifying the differences between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind as well as the importance of childhood experiences.  As Freud ascertains, both can appear in dreams.  The conscious mind is exemplified by the dreamer being able to explain parts of dreams after he/she wakes up.  The unconscious mind remains latent and only be determined upon analysis by a professional.  Further, Freud puts tremendous value to childhood experiences in regards to dreams.  Freud names these as "wishes" that have always been "repressed" from a very early age. 

What is common in all these dreams is obvious. They completely satisfy wishes excited during the day which remain unrealized. They are simply and undisguisedly realizations of wishes.

Perhaps Freud's most famous idea is that these dreams often explore the Oedipus Complex, which is a son's unconscious desire to be sexually intimate with his mother while being jealous of the father. 

The dream is the liberation of the spirit from the pressure of external nature, a detachment of the soul from the fetters of matter.

Dreams, then, completely separate us from the constraints of morality and all of the physical limitations of this world we live in. 

Carl Jung, a big fan of Freud, took the idea of the unconscious mind even further in quite a few important essays:  "The Structure of the Unconscious" and "The Significance of Constitution and Heredity in Psychology" and "The Concept of the Collective Unconscious."  In these essays, Jung asserted that we are all part of something called "the collective unconscious."  This means that we are all connected to our ancestors in our most primordial dreams. 

The collective unconscious comprises in itself the psychic life of our ancestors right back to the earliest beginnings. It is the matrix of all conscious psychic occurrences, and hence it exerts an influence that compromises the freedom of consciousness in the highest degree, since it is continually striving to lead all conscious processes back into the old paths.

Jung's typical example would be the dream of running away from something with no hope of escaping.  Jung would connect this to our ancient ancestors whose primary goal was to stay alive and escape from meat-eating predators.  Therefore, Jung believes the unconscious is avidly connected to instinct.

In conclusion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan:  Or, A Vision In a Dream" is a good way to exemplify how these two pieces of both Swiss and Austrian literature can be used from a World Literature standpoint (a British author dreaming about China!).  Even though it is not a "story," this poem does TELL a story.  Look at these lines:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

Creating much controversy in English Literature, this poem has been interpreted both historically and sexually, all because of the ideas stated above about dreams.

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