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Title: Reading poetry and dreams in the wake of Freud
Author(s): Brewster, Scott
Issue Date: 1995
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Adapting the question at the end of Keats's 'Ode to a Nightingale', this thesis argues that reading poetic texts involves a form of suspension between waking and sleeping. Poems are not the product of an empirical dreamer, but psychoanalytic understandings of dream-work help to provide an account of certain poetic effects. Poetic texts resemble dreams in that both induce identificatory desires within, while simultaneously estranging, the reading process. In establishing a theoretical connection between poetic texts and drearit-work, the discussion raises issues concerning death, memory and the body. The introduction relates Freudian and post-Freudian articulations of dream-work to the language of poetry, and addresses the problem of attributing desire "in" a literary text. Interweaving the work of Borch-Jacobsen, Derrida and Blanchot, the discussion proposes a different space of poetry. By reconfiguring the subject-of-desire and the structure of poetic address, the thesis argues that poetic "dreams" characterize points in texts which radically question the identity and position of the reader. Several main chapters focus on texts - poems by Frost and Keats, and Freud's reading of literary dreams - in which distinctions between waking and sleeping, familiarity and strangeness, order and confusion are profoundly disturbed. The latter part of the thesis concentrates on a textual "unconscious" that insists undecidably between the cultural and the individual. Poems by Eliot, Tennyson, Arnold and Walcott are shown to figure strange dreams and enact displacements that blur the categories of public and private. Throughout, the study confronts the recurrent interpretive problem of reading "inside" and "outside" textual dreams. This thesis offers an original perspective on reading poetry in conjunction with psychoanalysis, in that it challenges traditional assumptions about phantasy and poetry dependent upon a subject constituted in advance of a poetic event or scene of phantasy. It brings poetry into systematic relation with Freud's work on dreams and consistently identifies conceptual and performative links between psychoanalysis and literature in later modernity.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Arts and Humanities
Literature and Languages

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