English 391W: Dreams

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May 16th, 2010 · No Comments

Hi everybody. Use the comments feature to let the rest of us know what you plan to bring to our celebration on Wednesday evening.

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April 21st, 2010 · No Comments

Guidelines for Annotated Bibliographies

As you read the materials you find through your research, you should be moving toward an epiphany—about exactly how you focus your research project and begin to craft an argument about your topic. Look to your sources—both primary and secondary—to help you do this. As you begin to focus, discard sources you won’t need and begin grappling with patterns, questions, tensions, and debates that emerge from the ones you keep. With all this in mind, construct an annotated bibliography that includes all or most of the following information for each of your sources:

1. The complete bibliographical citation (using MLA Style)
2. An explanation of the content of the source, including its main purpose, argument, and evidence
4. Possible audiences for the source
5. An explanation of what the source contributes to your particular project
6. An evaluation of the source (including both strengths and weaknesses: reliability, bias, clarity, methods, etc.)

Divide your bibliography into two parts and use the guidelines below:

A. Sources you already have and plan to use: List these in alphabetical order, according to MLA style for Works Cited entries. Put the bibliographic information in bold and follow it with a 3 or 4 sentence description.

B. Sources you still need: List types of sources you know you need but haven’t yet been able to find. Put these general descriptions in bold and follow each with an explanation of why you need the source and how you might find it (through the main catalog, particular databases or search engines, a particular type of scholarly journal, on the web site of an certain kind of organization, etc.).

Note: When you’ve received the bibliographies of your group members, look through them and see if you have any ideas for additional sources or for helping them find the sources that they haven’t tracked down yet. Send each of them a note with your suggestions.

Sample annotated bibliography entries:

LaBerge, Stephen. Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. New York: Ballantine Books, 1990.
LaBerge is one of the most prominent lucid dream researchers in the world and faculty at Stanford University, where he conducts his research. His book is a “how to,” written for a popular audience. Though LaBerge is a prominent and respected researcher in the field, the book’s tone is similar to that of a self-help pop psychology text. Some of his ideas verge on the mystical as well, which makes the source interesting in terms of representing the often New Age-y approach that many lucid dreamers take. But the tone, combined with a lack of detailed clinical evidence, makes the book less convincing than LaBerge’s more strictly academic publications. The book is useful for my project, because it will help me describe the “culture” that surrounds lucid dreaming, but it will need to be augmented by more detailed clinical studies, by both LaBerge and others.

Richardson, James. “The Dream of Reading.” The Yale Review 88.4 (October 2000): 80 – 108.
Richardson is a poet writing literary criticism. The essay, like Elaine Scarry’s Dreaming by the Book and much of Bert O.States’s work, makes an analogy between dreaming and reading. Richardson focuses mainly on poetry, but he incorporates quite a bit of discussion of neurobiology, citing Hobson and others. While this extremely graceful essay doesn’t focus on lucid dreaming in any explicit way, I’m interested in figuring out whether Richardson’s analogy holds true with regard to lucid dreams, which involve greater control—or agency—than ordinary dreams. I may even make a chart that lists the qualities Richardson attributes to reading and dreaming and then add my own third category, lucid dreaming, to see where this third category converges and diverges with the other two.

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Oral Presenations (April 28 & May 5)

April 21st, 2010 · No Comments

In your five-minute oral presentation, you will present—and defend—your research paper topic. Your job is to convince the rest of us that the topic chosen is both fruitful and manageable, fielding questions and objections, and receiving helpful feedback. (See assigned dates below.)

You will want to:

•    describe your interest in the topic
•    consider the challenges of making an argument about your topic
•    present your working hypothesis
•    explain how course readings address your topic
•    introduce other source materials you’ve found and explain how and what they will contribute; explain how your various sources will work in dialogue with each other
•    describe your research methodology (how you are finding your materials)
•    speculate about what kinds of source material you still need to find
•    say a little about your style of writing and how it will serve you on this project
•    ask for questions, comments, and suggestions

An oral presentation is always more successful when you are well-prepared but not over-prepared. You want to be organized and rehearsed, but you also want to be yourself. Make your audience members feel that you are speaking to them—about something that matters to both of you. It’s important to speak clearly (not too quickly) and make eye contact, and that you genuinely communicate with your audience. Your oral presentation should lay the groundwork for a productive conversation. We will be on a tight schedule, so be sure to limit your presentation to five minutes. When you’re finished, the rest of us will ask you questions about your project and make suggestions.

April 28: Kathleen, Melissa, Sara, Elyse, Fotini, Hasina, Chris, Brett

May 5: Shane, Serene, Alison, Eileen, Jocelyn, Mike, Joanne, Danabelle

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Research Databases

April 7th, 2010 · No Comments

There are a few research databases that will be particularly helpful as you develop your projects. To look for literary criticism on your topic, use the MLA International Bibliography. For articles about psychological research, use PsycInfo. For articles focused particularly on dreams and dreaming, try the International Association for the Study of Dream (IASD) journal Dreaming. For general searches, try both Project Muse and JSTOR.

You should all be using at least two or three of these databases, depending on your projects. For most of you, it’s a good idea to search all of them and see what you come up with. Your sources can make or break your topic, because they determine what you can learn about it, and that determines what you can write about it.

Finally, it’s also a good idea just to look around the IASD site and see if you can find materials related to your topic.

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Research Projects

April 3rd, 2010 · No Comments

Write an essay that contributes to a conversation about the art and science of dreams underway in our course reading. This is a broad assignment, and it will be up to you to narrow it. There are two general requirements for every essay:

1.)    You must create dialogue between some form of art and some form of dream theory.
2.)    In addition to course reading, you must engage sources you find through our own research.

(The balance of course reading and outside research or art and theory will vary, depending on the project. We’ll discuss various possibilities and do a fair amount of collective brainstorming in the coming weeks.)

Getting Started
Start with our course reading. Think about ideas, questions, writers, or texts that have caught your attention. Scroll through the blogs—your own and your classmates’. Let your mind wander over this material informally. Brainstorm out loud with classmates, with me, with friends or relatives. Jot down some ideas, either on your own or on your blog. Take a look at some of the links on our Blackboard site. Spend some time on the Association for the Study of Dreams web site. Take notes and keep in mind that you are in search of a genuine question about some aspect of dreams, a question that arises in the reading you’ve done but is not exhausted by any of the texts we’ve read.

Where and How to Find Sources
Once you have an idea or two (or three), look through the works cited lists of some of our course texts, for other sources that might help you develop your ideas. Get your hands on some of these sources and see if reading them prompts you to change direction or reformulate your question. In a few weeks, we’ll spend some time working with some of the Library’s databases (for example the MLA Bibliography, PsychInfo, or EBSCO). These will help you find more sources, which will in turn help you think about your topic in new ways. The research process is seldom simple or linear. It involves brainstorming, searching, reading, writing, re-reading, revising, more brainstorming, more searching and reading, more writing, etc. It will involve exciting moments of discovery and frustrating dead ends. Let your ideas develop a step at a time.

Writing with Purpose
Be sure you develop your project, as mentioned above, around a genuine question or problem. Be sure also that you re-evaluate your question as the project evolves. Keep in touch with your motive and be aware of how your ideas and arguments fit within the ongoing conversations underway in your sources. (Kerry Walk’s handout on “Motivating Moves,” available under “Course Documents,” is useful for helping you think about motive, or purpose.)

Write an essay people want to read, and have an audience in mind. It’s safe to imagine your readers as educated and intellectually curious people who are likely to know little or nothing about dream theory but perhaps a little more about the works of art or authors you discuss. These readers will want to learn something and be engaged (or entertained). They will want to come away from your essay with new information, something they can talk about at dinner parties or at work: “Hey, did you read that article about lucid dreams? The writer made this really interesting argument.” If you can inspire readers to do that, you will have been successful. To make this work, you will need to be thorough in your research, to digest the material you find, synthesize it, and write about it in clear, engaging prose.

The finished essay should be between 3,000 – 4,000 words (approximately 12 – 16 pages) in length. Please use a 12-point font and 1” margins. Include page numbers, a title, and Works Cited list. Use MLA Style. (See link on on this site for Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab guidelines for MLA Style.)

Cover Letters
Submit a cover letter with each draft or revision of your essay. Use the cover letter to orient your readers—explaining what you set out to accomplish, what you still need to work on, and what kind of help you would like. Be specific. You might even include a list.

Writing Groups
Each of you is assigned to a writing group. In these groups, you will read and provide feedback on each other’s  essay sketches, annotated bibliographies, and drafts. (I’ll give you more detailed instructions when the time approaches.)

1. Sara, Shane, Serene

2. Kathleen, Eileen, Elyse

3. Jocelyn, Danabelle, Chris, Brett

4. Fotini, Michael, Hasina

5. Melissa, Joanne, Alison

Due dates

4-25: Annotated Bibliography (to me and your writing group, by email)

4-28 & 5-5: Proposal Presentations (in class)

5-12: Essay Sketch (to me and your writing group, by email)

5-16: Draft (to me and your writing group, by email)

5-19: Draft workshop

5-25: Revised Essay

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March 31st, 2010 · No Comments

I had an interesting “dream” experience last night–different from any I remember having in the past.

First, I had a dream, about vampires. Some actor whose name I don’t know was “playing” the head vampire, and he was evil, though mild-mannered. My friend Cheri was playing a regular vampire, not evil. She was preparing for battle with him. To prepare, she confessed to a bunch of us that she was a vampire. We were shocked, of course, but we agreed to join in the battle. This involved sneaking into the attic full of antiques where the vampire lived, and working with the police to spike some food with a drug, hoping we could trick him into eating it. We did this inside a labyrinth of huge hedges, like the one in The Shining.

I don’t remember much else, but I remember subsequent “dreams” that were basically attempts to remember this dream. In these dreams, I was rehearsing details from the vampire dream and telling myself to remember them. In one of these, somebody told me the name of the actor was George Gerskind. As far as I can tell, there is no actor with this name, but I remember the person telling me this like it was a revelation. And I believed it, in the dream.

These “after-dreams” are new to me, and they do seem meta-cognitive. But the metacognition in them wasn’t accurate!

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“Why We Need to Dream” in the New York Times.

March 20th, 2010 · No Comments

Jonah Lehrer on “Why We Need to Dream” in the New York Times. Lehrer is a great writer–and has a lot of great ideas about the science of the mind. You might also want to check out his blog, The Frontal Cortex.

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Jane Eyre’s Dreams: An Index

March 16th, 2010 · No Comments

Some of my former students complied this index of dreams and dreamlike states in Jane Eyre. It’s long (!)–and divided into three sections: “Direct References to Literal Dreams,” “Daydreaming, Reverie, and Waking Dreams,” and “Visions and Other Intimations of the Supernatural.” Take a look. If you find a reference that’s not listed here, let me know and we can add it.


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Siri Hustvedt on Insomnia in the New York Times

March 7th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Novelist and memoirist Siri Hustvedt published a fascinating article about insomnia in Today’s New York Times. Check it out.

All-Nighters: Failing to Fall – Opinionator Blog – NYTimes.com
Exploring the elusive borderland between waking and sleep.

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Woodpecker Treat

March 1st, 2010 · 2 Comments

In the dream, I was going about my business–cleaning the house, stoking the fire, etc. I looked out the window and saw that the birds had eaten the entire suet cake I’d put out for them a few hours earlier. The metal cage it sits in, next to the bird feeder, was empty. Somehow I knew the birds had eaten it and that a bear hadn’t gotten to it. This was part of a larger dream, but this is all I remember.


I’m at our place upstate, and I did put out a new suet cake (flavor: “Woodpecker Treat”) yesterday. To do it, I had to trudge through very deep snow and balance a ladder carefully so it wouldn’t tumble into the snow when I climbed it. I love watching the birds go crazy at the bird feeder when it’s snowing (as it was much of yesterday). When I awoke, I was pleased to see the birds had hardly made a dent in the suet.


The fact that I can only remember this single image reminds of of Ernest Hartmann’s point that dreams are not clearly “delimited.” It’s nearly impossible to trace their beginnings and endings. We talk about individual dreams as though they are texts, but in fact our dreams stream in and out of each other, and we only know about the details we happen to remember–or take pains to remember.

There’s something interesting about the image itself: the empty little cage. It wouldn’t be hard to turn it into a symbol, but is it? I’m tending to think it’s not.

But, it does represent an emotion. I was pleased with myself for trudging through the snow to put that suet out. It was a minor accomplishment. That empty basket–or little cage–represents hard work that seems to be wasted. This is how Hartmann would see it, I think.

But when I woke up, I was reassured. Indirectly, my dream gave me that reassurance. Is this Jungian compensation?

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