Tuesday, May 21, 2019

On Dreams

Our knowledge of dreams and of dreaming, the material which constitutes the history of human dreams, are wholly inseparable from the linguistic medium. (I leave to one side the epistemologically teasing possibility that a mute or deaf-mute dreamer can somehow provide a pictorial or gestural mimesis of his dreams.) Dreams are told, recorded, interpreted in language. The phenomenology of dreaming is imbedded in the evolution and structures of language. A theory of dreams is also a linguistics or, at the very least, a poetics. No account of any human dream, whether provided by the dreamer himself, by a secondary source or by the dream-interpreter, is linguistically innocent or value-free. The account of the dream, which is the sum total of our evidence, will be subject to exactly the same constraints and historical determinants in respect of style, narrative convention, idiom, syntax, connotation, as any other speech act in the relevant language, historical epoch and milieu. Dreams were no less splintered at Babel than were the tongues of men.—George Steiner, No Passion Spent, page 217

No comments: