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Web Wednesday: Dream-work Edition [Nov. 2]

Prewriting: Tweet five words that capture the idea of Freud’s essay (I’ll also use this for attendance).

1) Writing Part:  Can we really interpret dreams like we can interpret short stories? In the comments box below, write a few sentences that argues whether or not Freud’s theory of dreams really applies to literature, or whether it’s stretching things too far. Then find one person that you disagree with and tell them why they’re wrong!

2) Hybrid Part: Think back to your earlier assignment on the rhetorical sophistication of Twitter conversations. Which of the rhetorical devices you analyzed is most like what Freud labelled “condensation”? Why is it like condensation? Tweet the name of your rhetorical device, and leave a three sentence comment to your own original blog post that begins “The rhetorical element of XXXXX is similar to Freud’s theory of condensation because XXXXXXXXXX.”

3) Literary Studies Part I:  Look at the Hemingway story “A Very Short Story.” Treating it like a dream, identify one instance of Condensation and one instance of Displacement. Make a comment below that includes the quote and why this quote represents Condensation or Displacement.

4) Literary Studies Part II: We need a method. Look at this quote from the Freud reading (pages 508-509):

“A dream-thought is unusable so long as it is expressed in an abstract form; but when once it has been transformed into pictorial language, contrasts and identifications of the kind which the dream-work requires, and which it creates if they are not already present,can be established more easily than before between the new form of expression and the remainder of the material underlying the dream. This is so because in every language concrete terms, in consequence of the history of their development, are richer in associations than conceptual ones. We may suppose that a good part of the intermediate work done during the formation of a dream, which seeks to reduce the dispersed dream-thoughts to the most succinct and unified expression possible, proceeds along the line of finding appropriate verbal transformations for the individual thoughts.”

Use this quotation to help you name 2 concrete tasks that we should perform when treating literary texts from the point of view of Freud’s Dream-work? Make a post on your own blog that offers a concrete system

5) Homework: Have good weekend! We’ll start fresh on Monday . . .

Posted in Web Wednesday.


56 Responses

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  1. mikadroz says

    I think while the two methods of interpretations are similar, in the end they’re too fundamentally different to use interchangeably. When someone writes a short story, the various methods they use (metaphor, etc.) are not meant to be so obscure that they cannot be understood. Meanwhile, a dream makes no attempt for its meaning to be immediately understood, at least according to Freud. Short stories are written with an audience in mind, while this does not apply to dreams.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “not meant to be so obscure”: so maybe it’s a matter of degree? Dreams are just a more obscure version of stories?

      • mikadroz says

        Maybe, but I do think that the lack of audience plays a huge role in the differences. You can connect almost anything by a matter of degree :)

    • Henna says

      I think authors’ do have an intended amount of obscurity in their writing. Take My Papa’s Waltz, for instance. Something I didn’t immediately recognize, though entirely important, is that, as you wrote, short stories are intended to please an audience as opposed to the privatized nature of dreams.

  2. lindsayc says

    I think in the most basic forms of interpreting literature, Freud’s theory is definitely applicable. His views on syntax in dreams in relation to their meaning can be used to interpret the meaning in text and what the author was trying to portray in his/her choice of syntax. Also his views on manifest/latent content can also be applied to literary interpretations. There is always quite observable meanings, rhetoric, etc. And there is always not so observable content in which we must discover on our own account.

    • mikadroz says

      A lot of this makes sense, but I’m not so sure about ‘There is always quite observable meanings’, at least in dreams. I’ve had dreams about the TV show I was watching before I went to bed, and in those cases it’s seemed more like a lingering thought than something my body was trying to tell me.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “And there is always not so observable content in which we must discover on our own account”: But how do we know that readers aren’t just making this up? How do we know it really exists in the story?

  3. clo120 says

    I don’t believe the process translates perfectly. It is too much a leap to make. You’re meant to be able to understand most of what is happening in literature, not sit there deciphering a code because the message is so mind-blowing that your brain can’t process it consciously. I also take issue with Freud’s ideas because the man can’t actually prove some of them, such as the things you don’t remember aren’t important, or that you make things up and aren’t truly remembering instances.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “can’t actually prove some of them”: Would you say this is also true of literary theories? How do you “prove” any of these things?

      • clo120 says

        You can’t. But Freud is passing his theories off as scientific knowledge, not artistic theory/ideas. I’m not saying he is wrong, or right. It can be either, same as literary theory. But the difference lies in the discipline they are created in.

    • lindsayc says

      Perhaps in most literature there is an intention for it to be understood. But who is to say that you are always definitively supposed to be able to understand what the writer meant? Maybe the main intention, which we are unaware of, is to take it how we perceive it, like dreams. And of course Freud can’t really prove anything, he thought everyone was basically a sexual deviant! Haha

    • mchan says

      I think there is a bit that Freud has on interpreting literature because Freud stresses that meaning is not on the surface and needs to be uncovered through analyzing, and I think this works for literature too–but I agree that it’s never really useful or fun for anyone if uncovering the “meaning” or trying to get at it all the time without appreciation for the art is all someone wants to do in reading literature.

    • morgan92 says

      I tend to disagree with you because just as in literature we are never completely certain what the writer is trying to convey, and Freud is trying to interpret the dreams and what they mean.

  4. jtrezza says

    I think that Freud’s idea of manifest and latent content can definitely be related to literature, especially poetry. When interpreting a poem, isn’t there always that looming notion of that what’s on the page in words represents for something larger and more important? Does the manifest content not usually lead a reader to ponder and take a stab at the latent content it represents?
    Now, a major difference between the interpretation of literature and that of dreams is that for all words and writing, there is an author behind them that has the answers to our questions. With dreams, we are the author, hunting and pecking blindly at random keys. It’s a major dilemma, because we are forced to interpret metaphors that our own brain created, yet unbeknownst to us.

    • clo120 says

      I don’t believe that there is always latent content. I have read plenty of pieces that I take as simply entertainment. Just because we want some huge, hidden meaning to be present, doesn’t mean there is. To assume there is always a hidden message is a bit over the top in my opinion. After all, even Freud said sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “forced to interpret metaphors that our own brain created”–Is the flip side of this that authors have trouble understanding their own writing?

    • APMimz says

      But I think in a dream, you can remember only specifics and then you forget after a time. By the time you realize what you dreamt about, you have probably forgotten the rest of the dream and condensed the dream to forgo details in slight of understanding it. I think interpreting literature is slightly more finite in that it is the authors notes and deliberate idea to portray something a certain way opposed to fleeting thoughts.

  5. mchan says

    I think Freud’s theory for interpreting dreams is applicable to interpreting literature, but only to a certain degree. I believe that the meaning of certain works of literature need to be worked at in order to be discovered and understood and similarly, Freud believes the surface is not all there is to know. A lot of the more meaningful material is buried deeper and requires unpacking. But unlike Freud, I don’t believe the seemingly least significant information on the surface is an indication that it’s actually very pertinent or important deep down. I don’t think it’s as simple as concluding that the larger the idea is in the first level, the less important it is a level down (the level that holds meaning) and vice versa.

  6. egallone24 says

    I believe that interpreting a dream and literature can be similar and applicable. Like we learned earlier in the semester, literature is made up of words but its our job of the reader to figure out what these words mean. They connotations and denotations are what helps up interpret them. As for dreams, the objects or images in the dreams can be refereed to as denotations because the object is what it is (a lamp is a lamp) but what they really stand for and their importance can be almost like a connotation. The denotations remains the same no matter what dream or whose dream it is, however the connotation is interchangeable.

  7. APMimz says

    An interpretation of a dream can also be used as a form of interpreting literature, but the methods and ideas would be slightly more difficult to interpret. The latent and manifest of a dream has a different meaning to each person as individuals, since dreams are an outcome of an individuals mind and experiences. While that can also be said about an interpretation of literature, there is a form and a specific way in which language is interpreted with denotations and connotations (also varies when time and era is taken into account) that is not viable as an option in dreams. A dream has a more whimsical nature in that it changes and uses forms the mind recognizes whereas literature is more demanding and has a set idea that was already in place at the time of its conception. Therefore while the interpretation of dreams could be used towards interpreting literature, it is improbable that you will be able to use the same methods directly.

  8. P O says

    latent, condense, mislead/protect, relationships, recurrence.

  9. andycrazn says

    interpreting a dream is kind of similar to interpreting literature. In a dream we have signs and symbols just like a piece of literature have words. they both have a face value ( like denotation) and a hidden meaning (like connotations). the difference between the interpretations is that in a dream we would not remember all of what we saw while the piece of literature will be there.

    • jtrezza says

      I feel that like in literature as well we seem to only remember the “important” parts. Lets say we read as much as we dreamed – if you read a book everyday and dreamed every night, we would probably remember the same amount about both. I think this is an example of how the two are similar, not different.

  10. jkauffman says

    I think that dreams can be interpreted to an extent. If someone were to have a bad or restless dream, it could be interpreted to mean that something is bothering them. We may not always be aware of what we are feeling and sometimes our subconscious can alert us to that.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      But how does this relate to literary studies? Is having a bad dream like having a bad feeling after reading a story?

  11. sasha says

    Freud’s theories definitely apply to the study of literature. I saw the connections to literary theories we’ve been studying throughout the excerpt. For example, Freud says, “It is in fact never possible to be sure a dream has been completely interpreted…the dream may have yet another meaning,” just as a conceit or the literary work as a whole probably can’t be completely interpreted without using various literary theories. Freud also says, “what is clearly the essence of the dream-thoughts need not be represented in the dream at all. The dream is, as it were, differently centered from dream thoughts.” Connecting once again to literary elements, this could show that, just as a dream about teeth could be about death, a story about curtains could be about rebirth. Freud’s commentary of analyzing dreams can be related to how we analyze literary works.

  12. seslami says

    Dreams are as vast and messy as some works of literature I have personally read. There can never really be a right or wrong, it’s all just forms of different opinions. However, because dreams are abstract, it’s harder to decipher. Whereas literature, is somewhat more concrete- to a certain degree. One can tear apart literature and put it back together by analyzing, and researching the different vocabulary, etc. However with dreams, it’s harder because it’s only applicable to that one individual, and the story can change at any given moment, depending on their train of memory. I’d have to conclude that although dreams and literature do overlap consistently, one major flaw would have to be the concreteness of literature compared to ones’ dreams and its meanings.

    • femi says

      i disagree with the statement that dreams differ from literature because literature is more concrete. in class we learned that the connotation of words change depending on the cultural practices of the audience. What may be a definite connotation for one person, may not be necessarily true for another. Both the meaning of dreams and literature, especially poems, are subjective to the references of each person.

    • Henna says

      There may not be able to be a right, but there certainly can be a wrong. If you were to look at a piece of literature as only accessible to a single person, then you might see more of a similarity between the analysis of a dream and that of a short story. There is a mass of ambiguity in dreams, though in the right literary piece you would find that to a similar degree as well. Your argument works well for straight-forward stories (though, one might question as to whether any of that sort exist), but I would hesitate to apply that blanket statement to literature at large. Also, doesn’t the ability for a story to change at any given moment kind of excite you! Good point you make.

    • valinirohit says

      Not all literature is concrete. Some are very obscure with no sure meaning. The true meaning of a story varies from individual to individual just like the true interpretation of a dream. However, in the case of a story a writer could come along and tell us what they really meant when they wrote a particular piece but their success as a writer depends on whether or not their meaning could be successfully deciphered. Freud also did state some dreams could be interpreted literally just like stories. All in all, there are different ways to interpret one story or one dream and each interpretation adds another layer to their meaning.

  13. Breana says

    Yes, we can interpret dreams like we interpret short stories. Dreams are like short stories in the back of our mind, that come to life in our unconscious. Therefore, Freud’s theory can be used in literature because dreams and stories are very similar.

  14. morgan92 says

    Freud’s theory of interpreting dreams does apply somewhat to literature because when you interpret literature the ideas are formulated by the writer and when interpreting dreams, the dreamer formulates the ideas. Also both latent and manifest thoughts are apparent in both dreams and literature and many of the ideas are subliminal. Additionally, in both dreams and literature there are symbols that have to be deciphered to completely understand the contents. Omission also is used in both dreams and literature for interpretation.

    • P O says

      The least important thing, in my opinion, that relates how you interpret a dream and how you interpret a story is that they both have creators. This would actually be a difference because literature is formulated consciously by an author who is, for the most part, choosing what they want to add to the story. In a dream, your unconscious takes over and throws random things into a dream that you can’t control.

  15. femi says

    i think that Freud’s idea of interpreting dreams can be applied to interpreting short stories. The idea that the literal events in a dream are a distraction from the true meaning, which is obscure, can also be applied to literature. When reading “My Papa’s Waltz”, the class argued whether the poem was about a boy dancing with his drunken father, which was explicitly stated, or the idea that the boy was suffering physical abuse from the hand of his alcoholic father, which was stated implicitly. The idea that he was abused was hinted at throughout the poem in an ambiguous nature rather than a literal meaning of the words.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      Your example makes me think that in some things (like child abuse) there is a “real” answer that is important, which would be different than in the case of literature.

  16. Henna says

    Short stories would be difficult to understand using Freud’s theory of dream interpretation, partially because I have my concerns as to how practical Freud’s methods work for the interpreting of even dreams, however, there are a handful of similarities. Manifest content and latent content are understood as the connotations and denotations of words in literature. Though interpreted all-together more ambiguously in dreams (because they can be), hidden rhetoric can be interpreted using Freud’s method of condensation — the meaning lies within the apparent. Much content can be gleaned from a single word in a text, just as can be from a slight image in a dream. Literary analysts throughout history have looked at the same poem and defined it in entirely contradicting ways (see: My Papa’s Waltz). Similarly, if two people were to have the same dream (I wonder if that happens?), one might recognize one image as its “central-point”, and thus, using displacement for interpretation, peruse the borders for lurking, obscure images. The next dreamer of said dream might distinguish between the obvious and concealed entirely differently, and therefore understand his dream to mean something else. The subjective nature of interpretation is common to both dreams and literature, though the number of critics able to define a single piece of literature is far greater than would be able to analyze that which exists ‘in there.’

  17. khiralal says

    I believe that Freud’s theory of interpreting literature can be applied to analyzing literature because his ideas of condensation and displacement show many similarities to figuring out a work of writing. His idea of condensation shows that only the important part is what should be focused on and similarly in a novel you can analyze the difference between what is the main goal and what is a sub-plot. Also Freud’s theory of displacement could be shown that even though you may see something important in a work of literature, you can totally miss the complete meaning of what he’s trying to tell you.

  18. xiomara capera says

    I don’t really think we can interpret literature the way we interpret dreams. Literature has so much more components to consider. A dream, unless recurrent, lasts for one day, if not hours, while a piece of literature is produced over a period of months or years. I hardly think an author’s “unconscious” will manifest itself into a piece of literature, remain sensible and in line with plot. Furthermore, if argueing as a New Critic, I would say that the author’s thoughts and intentions, whether unconscious or incidental, would have no part in analyzing their work.

  19. sasha says

    “The major did not marry her in the spring, or any other time. Luz never got an answer to the letter to Chicago about it. A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.”

    I think the end of the story is both condensation and displacement. In Freud’s theory, things that matter are displaced. The emotional consequences of Luz not marrying the major is downplayed, as it is only one sentence of the story that doesn’t say much. The whole story is condensed, since it is “A Very Short Story.” But this quote condenses the time period of Luz waiting to get married, and condenses what the main character was doing in the mean time. Displacement and condensation go hand in hand in this example.

  20. P O says

    Just looking at the five words that I chose to summarize “The Dream Work,” I definitely think that you can interpret dreams like you can interpret stories. In order for me to stick to a certain idea that I think is one of the overall themes and main ideas of a story, I look at recurring ideas, words, and feelings. Many main ideas are typically hidden in literature, but I think that this is mainly because people add their own opinion to the story and miss clues that could lead you in another direction. This is misleading in a way that is similar to how Freud says dreams are misleading. Another great technique to use when reading is to look at relationships, whether they be similarities or differences. The story is very condensed (like dreams) so every word (or symbol in a dream) is chosen for a specific reason.

  21. mikadroz says

    Imagining ‘A Very Short Story’ as if it were a dream:

    “Luz stayed on night duty for three months.”
    This is an example of condensation because although she was on night duty for three months the story/’dream’ only focuses on the portion that is important to the plot.

    “A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.”
    If this were a dream, this might be an example of displacement because it represents the complete and utter severing of the protagonist and Luz’s relationship as well as the turmoil from the immediate ‘rebound’ in a physical fashion as opposed to mental/emotional.

  22. lindsayc says

    “A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.”
    I think this statement is an example of displacement. Contracting gonorrhea is definitely a physical force manifesting itself, if it were a dream. It could be a displacement and reflection of his failed relationship with Luz.

  23. clo120 says

    Luz would not come home until he had a good job and could come to New York to meet her.: This is displacement, because I believe the reason she wouldn’t come home was not related to him having a job. It seems as though she never really wanted to leave Italy.

    Only to get a job and be married: This is condensation which shows that his only thought was to marry and support Luz. This is boiled down to eight words, but conveys the depth of his devotion to her, which is quite a feat.

  24. xiomara capera says

    Condensation – “Living in the muddy, rainy town in the winter, the major of the battalion made love to Luz, and she had never known Italians before” The narrator leaves out information that seems like it should be relevant such as, the cause of the affair, and the emotions derived from it.

    Displacement – “A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop
    department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.” The narrator seems to put much emphasis on the occupation of the girl but little mention of the fact that “he” contracted a disease from the sales girl

  25. Henna says

    a) “The others went down and took the bottles with them.” This is a condensed way of alluding to that there might have been some sort of party in the place they “went down” to. One might assume that these are beer bottles or some other alcoholic incarnation supplied at parties. Were these “others” drunk? Slightly woozy? The single word “bottles” acts as a condensing of rhetoric.

    b) “There were only a few patients, and they all knew about it.” Instead of explicitly feeding the image to readers, Hemingway condensed the, apparently, obvious feelings he had for Luz into a single word: “it.”

  26. egallone24 says

    “He went to America on a boat from Genoa”
    This is condensation because this is an important idea but its a really short portion of the dream and story in itself. It got straight to the point without “beating around the bush” with other details.

    “A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop
    department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.”
    This is displacement because in reality, gonorrhea is a physical disease that affects the body, but its position in the poem is to express how the relationship went downhill and changed.

  27. Breana says

    “Only to get a job and be married” is a good example of condensation. That sentence shows everything the story was saying in a few words.

  28. jtrezza says

    “She was sorry, and she knew he would probably not be able to understand, but might some day forgive her, and be grateful to her, and she expected, absolutely unexpectedly, to be married in the spring. She loved him as always, but she realized now it was only a boy and girl love. She hoped he would have a great career, and believed in him absolutely. She knew it was for the best.” – Displacement.

    Like in displacement, by definition, Luz is separated from the man by enough distance and time that she loses her emotional attachment to him. Instead she becomes attached to a new object entirely.

    Luz wrote him many letters that he never got until after the armistice. Fifteen came in a bunch to the front and he sorted them by the dates and read them all straight through. They were all about the hospital, and how much she loved him and how it was impossible to get along without him and how terrible it was missing him at night. – Condensation

    The letters themselves represent all the ideas that are expressed in them. Also, the inability of the man to receive the letters is a premonition to their soon-to-evaporate relationship.

  29. Kevin L. Ferguson says

    ““A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop . . .”: this seems to be a pretty interesting line to us. It’s a really unexpected conclusion…

  30. andycrazn says

    “Luz went back to Pordonone to open a hospital.” There was no mentioning of Pordonone anywhere in the text. Hemingway condensed the story.

    “The others went down and took the bottles with them.” the bottles could have been alcoholic drinks.

  31. khiralal says

    “She loved him as always, but she realized now it was only a boy and girl love.” This shows condensation because even though majority of the story explained their love to each other, it is shown that it really meant nothing to her.

    “A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.” This is displacement because even though it is the closing statement of the story it does not represent the main idea of the love that never was between Luz and the man.

  32. mchan says

    This could be an instance of condensation: There were only a few patients, and they all knew about it. —> WIthout reading further into the story, it seems that Luz and the “he” are in a relationship in the story because Luz is in “his” bed and all the patients of this place know about them.

    I believe this is an example of displacement: They felt as though they were married, but they wanted everyone to know about it, and to make it so they could not lose it.

    In describing why the people wanted a marriage, it was an allusion to why a marriage would have been important for our main couple. They were separated and eventually broke up because of extra-relationship affairs and that one small mention about marriage and what it means seems to foreshadow what happens to our couple as a result of them not getting married.

  33. morgan92 says

    “One hot evening in Padua they carried him up onto the roof and he could look out over the top of the town.” This represents condensation because there are omissions in this sentences such as why did they carry him to the roof.

    “A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop
    department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.” This is a good example of displacement because it represents the physical transference of a sexual disease.

  34. valinirohit says

    I believe Freud’s theory of interpreting dreams can apply to interpreting literature because sometimes writer’s use symbols and ambiguity to disguise true meaning’s or represent an idea not literally stated in their writing. Sometimes in stories and in dreams we have to read between the lines in in order to find their meaning. Freud also states that in some cases dreams could be interpreted literally just as stories can be interpreted literally but there is always an undercurrent of meaning in a dream or story contributing to their meaning as a whole. The only difference is that a story is written consciously while a dream is created subconsciously. However, some dreams are created consciously and while an author is creating a story their consciousness and subconscious are at work. As a result, I believe interpreting dreams and interpreting literature go hand in hand because a writer’s brain whether it is asleep or awake is using it’s literal and symbolic knowledge attained from it’s experience overtime to create and represent ideas as well as assign meaning. Whether it is consciously or subconsciously a story on paper or a story in a dream is still coming from the same brain that assigns meaning from it’s experience.

  35. P O says

    “Only to get a job and be married.” Condensation. When they each went to separate places, all he thought of doing was getting a job so he could marry Luz. He didn’t do the other things he liked, like drink or see his friends.

    “As he walked back along the halls he thought of Luz in his bed.
    Before he went back to the front they went into the Duomo and prayed. It was dim and quiet, and there were other people praying.” This is displacement because he starts thinking of Luz in his bed, then changes his thoughts to something safe, which is praying.

  36. femi says

    Displacement: “A short time after he contracted gonorrhea from a sales girl in a loop department store while riding in a taxicab through Lincoln Park.” This quote is an example of displacement because it is a “red herring”, it distracts from the main idea of the passage. This quote strongly engages the reader because of its sexual and vulgar nature. It also disengages the reader from the message of the story.

    Condensation:”The major did not marry her in the spring, or any other time.” This quote is an example of condensation because it symbolizes how much Luz over estimated her standing with the major. Not only did she relinguish her love for the soldier, she was let down by the major which she hoped would be her husband.

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