Historical attitudes towards dreams?
January 5, 2010 12:18 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to learn about the history of what people have thought about dreams and dreaming, particularly in Western culture in the broad period between medieval times and Freud. What books or other resources discuss this in a serious, thorough fashion?

This is research for a game backstory. I'd like to know how seriously people viewed their dreams, whether they believed their dreams had an internal or external source, how much dreaming was romanticized in literature/poetry/song, how much people discussed and wrote about dreams, whether dreams were seen as within the domain of science, etc--and how all those things changed over time. Surely someone's written a book on this? I'm having a hard time googling on the topic since the word "dream" is used in so many contexts. No woo-woo links, please!
posted by rivenwanderer to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here's some info on pre-Freud dream theorists. (I hope this isn't a "woo-woo link," whatever that means.) Maybe not the most authoritative source, but you can at least use it to come up with more targeted searches (e.g. Aristotle dream theory).
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:06 PM on January 5, 2010

Best answer: I really recommend Steven Kruger's Dreaming In The Middle Ages. I'm not quite sure if it falls within the remit of your question, but there's a lot of excellent scholarly literature on medieval dream poetry and medieval dream visions- think Chaucer, Piers Plowman, etc.
posted by somergames at 1:41 PM on January 5, 2010

Best answer: Reading Dreams: The Interpretation of Dreams from Chaucer to Shakespeare, edited by Peter Brown, is a good collection of scholarly work.

This looks fascinating--there's also a bibliography that may help.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:12 PM on January 5, 2010

Response by poster: Oo, those are all great pointers, thanks! (I'd of course still welcome more links, other readers of this post :) )
posted by rivenwanderer at 2:19 PM on January 5, 2010

If you read Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams it begins with a short history of theories of dreams in prvious times.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:55 PM on January 5, 2010

Of course, check out Jung:


Man and His Symbols

and many others

Each volume of the complete Princeton series of Jung's writings has an index at the beginning listing which volumes cover which topics
posted by cotesdurhone at 7:26 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Daniel Pick and Lyndal Roper (eds), Dreams and History: The Interpretation of Dreams from Ancient Greece to Modern Psychoanalysis (2004) would be a good place to start. Much of it is available on 'limited preview' in Google Books.

Recent studies of dreams in the early modern period include Sue Wiseman et al (eds), Reading the Early Modern Dream (2007) and Carole Levin, Dreaming the English Renaissance (2008). I haven't read Levin's book, but it looks excellent (I read her earlier book on Queen Elizabeth I and liked it a lot); you can also read an interview with her in which she discusses her work on dreams. She also curated an exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library last year, To Sleep, Perchance to Dream, and there's some great dream-related stuff on the Folger website, including the Renaissance Dream Machine.
posted by verstegan at 10:21 PM on January 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

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