postmodern dreaming: Wilkerson 1998

Postmodern Dreaming Summary:

Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory, Semiotics, Linguistics, Poststructuralism and Postmodern Thought

A summary page on postmodern writings dealing with dreams and dreaming for the grassroots cyber-dream movement and other interested parties.

Postmodern Dreaming Articles & Resources A collection of texts, practices, bibliographies and resources for those exploring dreams, dreaming and the postmodern.


o Dreams and the Postmodern:
A brief account to date

There have been a few attempts by dream theorists to move dreamwork and dreaming into the postmodern, but these are mostly scattered talks and texts. In 1989, Harry Hunt's book the Multiplicity of Dreams was published. In this close examination of the coginitive science of dreaming, Hunt revealed how bias of perspectives also bias the not only the interpretation of empirical results, but choice of the objects of study and the funding as well. Hunt also recognized the core of dreaming as "exterioriz(ing) the processes of cross-modal synesthetic translation and mutual reorganization that may constitute the core of all symbolic intelligence." (Hunt 1989 206).

Here the process of cross-modal synesthetic  translation (hearing colors, tasting sounds) and mutual reorganization refers to a post-representational presentation in which meaning is generated in the freeplay of being, becoming and re-becoming. Bert States, in his book _the Rhetoric of Dreams_ explores Dreams and the Freudian Primary Process, (the dream-work of displacement, symbolization, condensation and so on) in literary terms of Irony and other metaphoric shifts brought about by language. Lyotard doesn't seem to agree and says with Freud "the dreamwork does not think".  He feels that the unconscious batters the dream imagery around in figural ways. But perhaps language is not thinking either.  Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari often saw it as force. Paul Kugler, a Jungian (post-jungian?) and Gordon Globus have both given presentations at the Association for the Study of Dreams on the postmodern and dreams. Kugler attempts to question the limits of dream theory as we move from the modern to the postmodern. Kugler asks of any dream interpretation:

Where is the dream being literal, and where is it being figurative? To what does the dream refer, the inner world, the outer world, or is it self-referential? Who is the author of the dream, biology, a wish, a desire, a deity, or is there no author? How do we develop a dream theory that is itself self conscious? That is, capable of carrying an awareness of its own figural aspects and assumptions? ( its own unconsciousness?). Gordon Globus has been attempting to construct a connectionists theory of mind/brain and apply this to dreaming as a way to move into viewing dreaming without getting caught up in representational thought. In his Neural Net theory, the brain flows, and in this flow of interactive influences there are valleys and hills that we settle for a few moments and experience one of many possible worlds. Dreaming is simply the flow of these neural nets without the constraints of outer stimulation. James Hillman has also attempted to view dreams without importing theories from the past and his _Dreams and the Underworld_ creates a bridge between the structural projects of Jung and the Postmodern psychoanalytic theories that remove the idea of the Self as a central organizing principle to open the individual to a spectrum of archetypal influences which may play out on a larger cultural theatre than the therapist's couch.

However, the most explosive and creative venue for postmodern dreaming has been the Internet. Some ideas are more apparent than others. The ideas of the pre-commercial Net have influenced contemporary Late 90's Cyberspace, which include sharing of resources, the acceptance of multiple identities, the encouragement toward the non-familiar, the cooperative spirit of helping one another get these ideas up and out to the public, general trust of chaos and anarchy and relationships bonded by mutual interest rather than coercions. Though most of these concepts have collapsed under the proprietary territorializations of the commercial networks, they are the backdrop that have provided support to what I'm calling America's Postmodern Dreaming in Cyberspace. Here the multiple forms of trans categorical presentation erupt in ever new forms. Typically we catagorize them, dream art, dream work, dream sharing, dream science, lucid dreaming, shamanic dreaming, spiritual dreaming, journey dreaming, psychic dreaming, dream journals, dreams comments, dream inspired poetry and so on. But these dream eruptions generally defy any classification and break many boundaries. At one moment a dream is a journal entry, the next a discussion between people from around the world in a simulated virtual room. Later a picture emerges on a Web site and it is linked to the sleep research laboratories in Cincinnati. An individual following this path may be involved in the meaning of the dream, but they are also involved in the track of the dream, the medium of the text in a chat room, in an email, and on the Web, as a gif or jpeg. This, I feel, has been America's contribution to the Postmodern, a computer mediated anarchical network of discourse vibrating with the eruptions onto its virtual surface.

What seems to be missing is a reading together of the pragmatic American know-how with the Continental discourses on theory. Instead of using new ideas to explain the meaning of what we have done, the idea here is to use the ideas to further what has been done, to break through old concepts and restrictions of the real, to reach, as the surrealist call it, the Surreal.

In dreamwork online we have in many ways already achieved postmodern status. The identity of the player is always in flux and there is an emphasis on play itself as important. We often acknowledge the inability to establish the meaning of a dream for another subject, and thereby all agree from the start that all meanings are really our own. A dream might mean a life style change to one participant, while another may build a new community, another take on social injustice. We are deeply aware in the late 20th Century of all the ephemerality, fragmentation, discontinuity and chaos. To move into the postmodern is not to transcend this, nor to counteract it, nor even to find the eternal elements in it. Rather, we learn to swim in it, to wallow, to witness as if that is all there is, Samsara is Nirvana. Thus, this column plans no particular direction or schedule. At this moment it appears there is a postmodern attitude, but this may change. Deleuze suggests to 'develop actions, though and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction," and "to prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic." (Preface, Anti-Oedipus).

How like the dream.

-Richard Wilkerson, May 1997

Page design, Richard Wilkerson