The Interpretation of Dreams

by Sigmund Freud

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Student Question

How do literature studies and Freud's dream interpretations interact? List three ways.

Expert Answers

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There are actually several parallels between the study of literature and Freud's ideas about the interpretation of dreams. Let's look at some of the ways these two disciplines interact to help you get started on this assignment.

First, consider the mutual interest in symbols. Symbols are a prominent literary device, and by studying how they work in a piece of literature, we can dig down into deeper meanings and interpretations than we might see on the surface of the piece. Freud claims that the same is true for dreams. They are also filled with symbols that point to unconscious desires or traumas.

You might also discuss the depths of both literature and dreams. The study of literature recognizes a literal meaning but also looks beneath the surface (as with symbols but also in other ways) to find a broader meaning. Freud does this when he interprets dreams, too. There is a surface level that may seem ridiculous or unimportant, but underneath is a wealth of meaning that can be accessed through proper interpretive techniques.

Finally, you might consider how Freud refers to literature when he discusses dream interpretation. He is especially taken with Shakespeare's Hamlet and of course with Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. He uses these works as evidence for his own theories, showing again the connection between his work and the study of literature.

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