English 172

Literature and Psychology: Dreaming on Paper: Exceptional Mental States and the Written Word

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
1 Summer 2022 Furcall, Dylan
TWTh 5:30-8 108 Wheeler D


In this course, we will consider what the American psychologist and philosopher William James broadly termed “exceptional mental states,” a category comprising such out-of-the-ordinary experiences as dreams, religious exultation, hallucination, trance, and meditation. Our aim will be to explore how and to what ends (whether political, psychological, or aesthetic) writers and artists have sought to emulate and even produce such states of experiential exception. We will even try our hands at composing dream journals!

[Course materials will include clinical and theoretical writings in psychology and psychoanalysis (e.g., Sigmund Freud and William James), medieval dreams visons (Geoffrey Chaucer’s “House of Fame”), biographies of saints (The Book of Margery Kempe), philosophical meditations of the enlightenment (Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Reveries of the Solitary Walker), surrealist writings and paintings (by André Breton, Mina Loy, and Leonora Carrington), as well films (Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams and Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon).]

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