Fall 2007

Dreamlands: The Universe of Dreams in Chinese Literature

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-25


Paola Zamperini (Section 01)


The course will explore the world of dreams in pre-modern, modern and contemporary Chinese literature and culture. Beginning with Daoist and Buddhist sources, and proceeding in a chronological fashion, we will navigate the dreamscapes mapped by traditional oneiromancy, philosophy, poetry, drama, fiction, all the way to contemporary theatrical and cinematic discourse. What do dreams mean? How does their language intersect with the language of faith, desire, gender, politics, power and fear? How similar and how different are our dreaming brains today from those of Chinese philosophers that lived three thousand years ago? Do cultural differences make us dream different dreams? These are just some of the questions that we will try to answer together during the semester. In order to do so, we will look at the semantic, religious and aesthetic function of dreams in the changing world of Chinese culture, connecting our findings to recent discoveries in the fields of contemporary psychology, psychoanalysis and neuroscience. Where possible, we will also engage in comparison with dream-related practices and traditions in other South and East Asian contexts, such as those of India and Tibet. First semester. Professor Zamperini.