Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Interpretation Of Dreams 4

Once again I find myself over-awed almost by the sheer breadth of Freud's reading.  he quotes with ease from such diverse sources as Sophocles, Shakespeare, Goethe and Heine, Mozart and Offenbach and even from contemporary popular songs.  I have already alluded to the fact that he even referred to our own Jonathan Swift's major work, Gulliver's Travels.  Added to all this widely cultural background, he also had read almost all the then available historical, anthropological, philosophical, sociological and psychological writings on dreams to give his book a solid scientific base.  All of this is, indeed, very impressive, to say the least.

To describe The Interpretation of Dreams with respect to literary genre is very difficult as it does not fit into any obvious literary category.  It is a rather sprawling work.  To use an image from architecture or town planning I might advance the contention that it is like an old town which has grown up organically with bits and pieces being added on as the years advance.  Indeed Peter Gay adverts to the fact that this work was "distended by material he added as edition followed edition." (Freud: A Life For Our Time, 105)

I am again indebted to Peter Gay for his wonderful insight into this great and pioneering book, namely that it's structure is not that of a huge building but rather that of a "guided tour" in which Freud is our very own guide.  It's rather akin, then, to a Victorian guided tour of the modern psyche.  In fact, Gay points out that Freud used this very image of "guided tour" himself. (Opus citatum 106ff.)

In what follows in these posts I shall try to summarise the findings of Freud chapter by chapter.

The contents of The Interpretation of Dreams are as follows:

Chapter 1 - Basically a Literature Review, called by Freud: "The Scientific Literature on the Problems of Dreams."

Chapter 2 - The Method of Interpreting Dreams

Chapter 3 - The dream is a Wish- Fulfilment

Chapter 4 - Dream Distortion

Chapter 5 - The Material and Sources of Dreams

Chapter 6 - The Dream Work

Chapter 7 - The Psychology of The Dream Processes.

One note the very assurance and self-confidence of Freud in his own scientific research in his use of the "definite article" as opposed to a less self-assured and tentative use of the "indefinite article" in all of the above chapter titles. One notes also that his sixth chapter on the work done by dreams was expanded to such an extent in later editions  as to become almost as long as the first five chapters taken together.

I will deal with this foundational text of Freud on a chapter by chapter basis in forthcoming posts.

Dried seaweed on Donabate Strand quite recently

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