Psychology & Psychotherapy

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The Nightly Act of Dreaming

Cognitive Narratology and the Shared Identity of Myth

Ryan Friesen is a Senior Lecturer in the English department at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, where he has taught courses in medieval, early modern, and contemporary literature as well as composition since 2005. His previous book Supernatural Fiction in Early Modern Drama and Culture was published by Sussex Academic Press in 2010. It grew from research completed at the University of Leeds.

The search for a shared practice of storytelling around which a popular study of cognitive narratology might form need look no further than our nightly experience of dreams. Dreams and memories are inseparable, complicating and building upon one another, reminding us that knowledge of ourselves based on our memories relies upon fictionalized narratives we create for ourselves. Psychologists refer to confabulation, the creation of false or distorted memories about oneself and the world we inhabit, albeit without any conscious intention to deceive. This process and narrative, inherent in the dreamlife of all people, is at odds with the daily menu of cultural myths and politicized fictions fed to the Western world through print and social media, and for which there is constant divisiveness and disagreement.

Cognitive Narratology and the Shared Identity of Myth uses insights gained from the scientific study of dreaming to explain how the shared experience of dreamlife can work in service to the common good. Primary texts and literary works, chosen for their influence on contemporary thinking, provide a rationale and historical background: From Artemidorus (a professional diviner) and Aristotle; to the Church fathers – Tertullian, St. Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, Sinesius of Cyrene; to The Wanderer (Old English poem) and Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess; to Coleridge’s writings and R. L. Stevenson’s “A Chapter on Dreams”; and to twentieth-century dream theory, and dream use in film. The purpose is to enable readers through subjective self-analysis to recognize what they share with their fellow dreamers; shared identity in formation of a shared act of dreaming creation is a universal across centuries and throughout Western culture, albeit currently misrepresented and rarely acted upon.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-78976-016-3
Hardback Price: £75.00 / $89.95
Release Date: July 2019
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78976-017-0
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: July 2019
Page Extent / Format: 296 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No




Introduction: Driven Apart, Dreaming Together 

Chapter One: Ancient Origins of the Isolated Dreamer
Chapter Two: Dreaming at the Intersections of Body and Soul, Heaven and Hell
Chapter Three: Our Dreaming Selves in the Modern Mind
Chapter Four: Observations of the Sleeping Brain
Chapter Six: Dreaming Memories and the Unreal
Chapter Seven: Nightmares, Erotic Threats, and Recurring Dreams
Chapter Eight: The Dream Narrative
Chapter Nine: The Way Forward for Dream Studies

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