English 391W: Dreams

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Reading Jung

February 21st, 2010 · No Comments

For Wednesday’s class, be sure you read Gordon Harvey’s “Elements of the Academic Essay” carefully. Then, choose two of his “elements” and find examples of them at work in Jung’s “General Aspects of Dream Psychology” or “On Dreams.” Be prepared to explain Harvey’s defiition (and why it’s importnat for writing) and to discuss how Jung uses that element to develop his argument about dreams (in response to Freud’s).

When you’re reading Jung, you should be attentive to his key terms. If you understand these, you probably understand his theory pretty well. Here’s a list of the major ones:

collective unconscious
archetypes (motifs, mythologems)
imago (projection)
“taking up the context”
exposition, development, culmination, solution

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Reading Freud: Some Advice

February 4th, 2010 · No Comments

We’re reading key passages from Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams–chosen because they are the sections that are most memorable and capture what’s influential about his theory of dreams. Here’s some advice to help you make sense of it all:

1. Read the section entitled “Freud’s Argument,” from Ritchie Robertson’s introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics edition (pp. xi – xvi). Pay particular attention to his discussion of the four elements of Freud’s “dream-work” on page xiv.

2. Enjoy the stories Freud tells about dreams; pay attention to his style of writing; think about what kind of narrator he is.

3. Read with a pencil, pen, highlighter, or set of post-its in hand. Mark anything that seems interesting or strange or confusing; mark any terms that seem important or that are new to you.

4. Pay careful attention to Freud’s argument about “wish-fulfillment” and ask yourself if his evidence for this argument is convincing.

5. Finally, pay careful attention to his discussions of “the dream-work”: 1. condensation, 2. displacement, 3. representational resources, and 4. secondary revision. Do your best to figure out what he means by each of these terms.

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Dyad: “Two individuals regarded as a pair”

February 3rd, 2010 · No Comments

We’ll begin each class meeting with a dyad, a ritual designed to focus our minds and start us thinking together. (Hopefully it won’t be too corny! Bear with me.)

For each class meeting, the two students doing presentations will decide on a topic. Each of us will pair up with another person in the room. Each person in the pair must talk about the day’s topic for a full minute, not stopping until the minute’s up. When the first speaker is done, the second will speak.

The topic for our first class–borrowed from a class of Professor Roger Sedarat’s–will be “A Memorable Stranger.”

For future weeks, the day’s two presenters must consult in advance and decide on a topic. They can announce the topic at the beginning of class. I’ll time the conversations.

Note: The last presentations take place on April 14. As that date approaches, we’ll decide who will come up with topics for future weeks.

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Oral Presentations: The Nuts and Bolts

February 3rd, 2010 · No Comments

The Assignment

Your job is to introduce your assigned reading and suggest some creative ways it might be used to help craft a research project on a dream-related topic. The idea is to help other students decide whether they might use your material in their projects. You should speak for five minutes and cover some combination of the following:

  • a summary of the text, its arguments, its methods, its tone, its evidence, etc.
  • some indication of what’s interesting about the text (or what might be challenging about it)
  • some suggestions for research topics it might inspire
  • some background about the author
  • connections to some of the reading we’re doing as a group


1. You must consult with me the week preceding your presentation, to tell me about your plans, ask questions, and get my suggestions. I strongly suggest we do this in person, during office hours or at another scheduled time, but if that doesn’t work out, we can do it by email.

2. You may want to consider distributing a handout or displaying materials on the smart board in class.

3. You will speak for five minutes and no more. Be sure you time yourself in advance. I’ll have to cut you off if you go over the alotted time.

4. You should be prepared to take questions, for five minutes after the formal presentation.

5. You must post a written version of your presentation on your blog within two days of delivering it. I will assign your grade and send you my comments after you post the written version. (The idea is to give everybody in our class access to the materials as they think about their research projects.)

Some Questions to Consider as Your Prepare

  • What are the motivating questions at the heart of your theorist’s work? (See Gordon Harvey.)
  • What is your theorist’s primary argument (in a nutshell)?
  • How would you describe your theorist’s style? What’s it like to read his or her writing? Does the style of the text relate to or reflect its arguments in any way? (Give examples.)
  • What are the most convincing (or interesting) pieces of evidence your theorist offers? What techniques does s/he use to analyze this evidence?
  • What ideas or evidence fail to convince you? Or what ideas do you have more questions about?
  • How might  theoretical texts “speak to” or illuminate literary texts that represent dreams?

Performance and Style
You’ll want to be prepared, but not over-rehearsed. The best public speakers make their audiences feel they are speaking directly to them, about something that matters to them both. Be yourself. Be as clear as you can be. You might choose to be funny or very serious. Your goal is to get people’s attention and then teach them something. Divide up the work of the group fairly. After you finish with the presentation, you will take questions. Be prepared for anything.

You don’t need to address by questions above one-by-one. Just use them to help you think about your texts and to help you structure the presentation. The structure should feel logical, or organic.

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