Final project guidelines
What does your final project entail?
Please note that no extension will be granted for any of these deadlines. If for any reason you are not able to meet them, you will have to secure your class dean’s permission for an extension.
First of all, you will have to turn in, by Thursday 10/27 at 11,30 AM, a one-page (either single or double-spaced) description of your final project (of course in progress, and just in case you forgot, will be due on 12/20 by noon). In this description, you can be as detailed or as vague as need may be, but make sure you include at least your name, possibly a title in progress, and for sure a thesis, and a goal (or a set of goals).
In either case, you can be as creative or as conservative as you wish. I will be happy to provide you with specific paper topics, if you want to write a research paper or an analytical study of a particular text or issue (see also the attached information below about research essays and creative projects respectively).
Some of you have already begun working on this project, and I have been talking to many of you about various possibilities. But I want you all to begin to focus and get to work.
In the case of collective projects, please make sure that you also think concretely about work division and about the specific tasks that each of the group members will perform and include them in your outline. You can turn in a group outline as well, but then you should each write a personal statement, explaining why this project is meaningful and relevant for each of you.
The one page write-up, on which you will receive feedback if necessary, is meant to help you. How, you will ask?
You should see this assignment as an opportunity to not only present your work, but also use your professor as a resource for refining your ideas. Consider ways in which your write-up might generate comments or suggestions that are helpful to you in completing the project. If you are running into problems in realizing your goals, think of ways in which you might use this assignment to articulate the problem or issue you are dealing with.
You are strongly encouraged to include something concrete in your outline. Even if your project is not complete or fully realized, this can be extremely useful especially in the places where you are running into problems or obstacles. I encourage all of you to come and speak to me, in any case, but especially if you have not yet done so. If you cannot come to office hours, as always, write an email and we can try to set up an appointment. We can always talk by phone or email. Please do not keep questions and doubts to yourselves!
1. Final paper guidelines
OBJECTIVES: To develop your ability to conduct independent and original research on a topic that is of interest to you; to convey the results of that research in a lively, intelligent voice in a thesis-support format.
AUDIENCE: The members of the class, who are familiar with the materials and issues covered in class, but not necessarily with the specific topic of your research.
LENGTH: 10-15 pages. The paper should be double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman or equivalent font with 1-inch margins all around. A title page is appreciated. Proofread before submitting.
PREPARATION: Coming up with a topic for a research paper is difficult, but it is part of the development of your critical skills. You can focus on a particular text, on a particular time period, on one of the abstract concepts developed in class, or even on cross-cultural and comparative issues. You should choose a topic that is sufficiently narrow and avoid a topic that is too broad or too vague. The most important thing is to pick a topic that is of great interest to you, since you will be spending many hours thinking about it. Once you have a topic, you should formulate a question that will control and drive your research. What would you like to know about a topic that you do not already know? The question provides a clear focus for your research and a clear goal for your writing. A research project always involves three processes: conducting the research, understanding the results of that research, and writing an accurately documented paper based on your research. You can use any combination of primary and secondary sources, and there is no minimum or maximum number of sources you must use; let the research topic guide you in selecting useful sources. It is perfectly acceptable to use materials covered in class, but you should either develop an original approach to those materials or treat them in more depth than we are able to do during regular classes. The final product should not only report the results of your research, but should also supply an answer to your research question, which means having a specific, argumentative thesis.
DOCUMENTATION: You can use either MLA or Chicago style, but be consistent about documentation. Include a bibliography at the end of your paper.
GRADING: See the separate Grading Criteria sheet.
DEADLINES: A preliminary thesis and working bibliography are due on Thursday, October 27 by class time, which will be held in Frost Library to help you discover the research tools at your disposal; you can send this as an email attachment. The final product is due on Tuesday December 20th by 2:00 pm. The final paper must be turned in as a hard copy. A final paper sent electronically will not be accepted.
2. Creative project guidelines:
OBJECTIVES: To develop your ability to translate your understanding of at least one facet of dream culture in China into the artistic medium and format of your choice (fiction; visual arts; fashion; and so on) in a lively, intelligent, and intelligible voice.
AUDIENCE: The members of the class, who are familiar with the materials and issues covered in class, but not necessarily with the specific approach to the subject matter.
LENGTH: This, of course, will vary widely, depending on the project you will choose to realize. In the case of collective projects, please make sure that you also think concretely about work division and about the specific tasks that each of the group members will perform and include them in your outline. You can turn in a group outline and statement as well on the respective due dates, but each participant should attach a personal statement, explaining why this project is meaningful and relevant for each of you.
Regardless of length and format of the project, you will need to include an analytical explanation of your work of at least five pages. This should be a sort of “artist’s statement,” in which you introduce your project, explain why you chose a certain format for it, and also how you think it relates to the course subject matter. The statement should be double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman or equivalent font with 1-inch margins all around. Proofread before submitting.
PREPARATION: regardless of the creative format you choose (video, dance, music, painting, and so on and so forth) you should view this process as an integral part of the development of your critical skills. You can focus on a particular issue (i.e., dream interpretation), on one of the abstract concepts developed in class (e.g., gender performance), or even on cross-cultural and comparative issues (for instance, dream interpretation in China and Tibet). The most important thing is to pick a topic that is of great interest to you, since you will be spending many hours thinking about it. Once you have a topic, you should formulate a question that will control and drive your work. You can use any combination of primary and secondary sources, and there is no minimum or maximum number of sources you must use; let your muses guide you in selecting useful sources. It is perfectly acceptable to use materials covered in class, but you should either develop an original approach to those materials or treat them in more depth than we are able to do during regular classes. All work for this assignment must be turned in as hard copy.
DOCUMENTATION: For the written portion of your project, you can use either MLA or Chicago style, but be consistent about documentation. Include a bibliography, if relevant, at the end of your paper.
DEADLINES: A preliminary thesis and working bibliography are due on Thursday, October 27 by class time, which will be held in Frost Library to help you discover the research tools at your disposal; you can send this as an email attachment. The final product is due on Tuesday December 20th by 2:00 pm.
For formal essays in first-year seminars
A Paper: The principle characteristic of the A paper is its rich content. The paper is imaginative and contains striking, original, and memorable ideas. It has a clear thesis supported by excellent detail and evidence. The A paper is also marked by stylistic finesse: the title and opening paragraph are engaging; the transitions are artful; the phrasing is tight, fresh, and highly specific; the sentence structure is varied; the tone enhances the purposes of the paper; and it is almost entirely free of mechanical errors. That is, the A paper exhibits consciousness of the full possibilities of the English language and, because of its careful organization, development, and clarity, leaves the reader eager to reread the piece and tell others about it.
When the essay has a research component, the A paper not only develops ideas and conclusions with ample support, but also uses primary and secondary source material artfully and engages in a significant dialogue with the opinions of others in order to advance its argument.
B Paper: It is significantly better than competent, and while not as artful as the A paper, the B paper delivers substantial information. Its specific points are logically ordered, well developed, and unified around a clear organizing principle that is apparent in the paper. The opening paragraph draws the reader in while delineating the goals of the paper; the closing paragraph is both conclusive and connected to the opening. The transitions between paragraphs are reasonably smooth and the sentence structures are pleasingly varied. The diction of the B paper is both more precise and more concise than average. On the whole, the B paper makes the reading experience a pleasurable one, for it offers substantial information with few distractions and mechanical errors.
When the essay has a research component, the B paper develops ideas and conclusions with ample support, and secondary sources are used with a clear purpose.
C Paper: The C paper is competent, fulfills the assignment, and is reasonably well organized. The actual information it delivers, however, is thin, predictable, and perhaps even fairly self-evident. Its ideas are typically cast in the form of vague generalities. Stylistically the C paper has significant shortcomings: the opening paragraph does little to draw the reader in or state the aims of the paper; the final paragraph offers only a perfunctory wrap-up; the transitions between paragraphs are often bumpy; the sentences are monotonous and choppy; and the diction is marked by repetition and imprecision. On the whole, the C paper is stylistically flat and lacking in the originality and imagination that characterizes the A and B papers.
When the essay has a research component, the C paper develops ideas and conclusions logically, but without showing very much command or critical awareness of primary and secondary sources.
D Paper: Its treatment and development of the subject are undeveloped. While organization is present, it is neither clear nor effective. Sentences are frequently awkward, ambiguous, and marred by serious mechanical errors. Evidence of careful proofreading is scanty. The D paper gives the impression of having been conceived and written in haste.
When the essay involves a research component, the D paper may refer to primary and secondary sources, but fails to use them in a meaningful and effective way.
F Paper: Its treatment of the subject is superficial; its theme lacks discernable organization; its prose is garbled and stylistically awkward. Mechanical errors are frequent. The F paper exhibits ideas, organization, and style below the acceptable level of college writing.
When the essay involves a research component, the F paper fails to meet the requirements and standards for the use of primary and secondary source material.
screening journal, a sample
Paprika Screening Journal
I admit that I approached the film “Paprika” with a slight bias. When I read the synopsis I noticed similarities to the plot of the anime film “Ghost in the Shell;” consequently I was suspicious that I might find the movie unoriginal or repetitive. Contrary to these mild expectations, I enjoyed the film and actually found it quite original in some respects. Unfortunately many of the concepts in the film I could not fully grasp or comprehend—perhaps because they were never very well explained, or perhaps because of the translation (I experienced a similar confusion while watching “Ghost in the Shell,” for example). For example, I had difficulty understanding how exactly remote DC Minis could be used to infiltrate the brains of the psychiatric hospital workers, or how the collective dream came into being and functioned. There were also concepts, including some during the climactic sequence at the end of the movie, which were never fully explained. Despite this, I did like the film and found it replete with an unconventional way of looking at the dream world.
Dreams are explored and evoked throughout various levels of the film. First, the very structure of the film resembles that of a dream. As I was watching “Paprika,” I found it rather strange how long, continuous sequences of action would alternate with shorter scenes which felt disconnected, even insular, perhaps. An example is the scene in which Chiba is walking down a glass hallway and Paprika appears as a reflection, asking Chiba about her own dreams. These scenes were not irrelevant, but presented in a way that separated them from the main narrative. This fragmentation compares with the incoherence which characterizes many of my own dreams.
Next, I found that dreams were visually represented in an unusual way. While in many visual art forms dreams are denoted by the use of mist or fog, soft light and colors, muffled sounds, etc., it seemed that in this film the opposite was done. The dreams of the characters did not differ visually from their waking lives (or perhaps the dreams were even brighter and more vivid than the real world). Color, clarity, and light/dark ratios were for the most part uniform between dreams and reality, although the dreams could still be visually distinguished from reality due to their subject matter. But this method of differentiating the two is challenged as well, as many of the dreams bear no difference from reality (for example, the theme park that Chiba explores looks realistic and ordinary during her dream) and the two worlds finally blend together towards the end of the film. In my opinion, the film producers aimed to accurately depict the dreams rather than convey the fact that they were dreams. Personally, my dreams are never misty or light or have muted colors, but instead can be extremely vibrant like the dream sequences in this film. Thinking about this has made me wonder how the convention of depicting dreams in a soft, misty way originated. Were soft visual qualities chosen as a way to represent the insubstantiality of dreams? In any case, the absence of a visual difference between the dream world and the waking world aided the filmmakers in their exploration of the boundary between the worlds, as it became difficult to distinguish the two.
Instead of relying on visual cues to indicate when characters were dreaming, it seems to me that the filmmakers heavily relied on verbal nonsense to indicate when dreams were affecting characters. Beginning with the first dream, character dialogue has a rather disorienting nature and once the DC Mini begins to interfere with the workers at the psychiatric hospital it deteriorates into nonsense. Could this choice on the part of the filmmakers be a cultural one? Although I myself have dreamt of nonsensical things, nonsense and absurdity is not something that I immediately associate with dreams. Could that association exist in the Japanese culture, or was it merely the individual choice of the filmmakers?
One concept that bothered me as presented in the film was the idea of continuity of the characters between reality and the dreams. For example, the police investigator remains identical not only in appearance but also in character in both the real world and his dreams. When Paprika enters the collective dream and is captured by Osanai, she immediately assumes that he is evil in reality as well as in the dream, as if his identity in the dream is the same as his identity in reality. It is as if dreams were an extension of the conscious, merely with random subconscious additions, rather than a subconscious affair with some elements from consciousness thrown in. Nevertheless, I do admit that while working in a primarily visual format, it might be difficult to change a character’s behavior and appearance in a dream sequence and ensure that the audience understands that it continues to be the same character.
My impression of the film’s ulterior message concerning the effects of technology and science on human life is that the film is meant as a warning. From the beginning of the film, power issues and the concept of competitive jealousy become manifest between the scientists and eventually culminate in the Chairman’s autocratic scheme. Perhaps the message is that humans desire too much power over the world as well as over themselves? To take control of one’s dreams is to have power over them. Even if the primary purpose was to use this power to treat patients, in one scene Tokita mentions the selfish motive of sharing dreams. That such selfish motives could lead to disaster may be the suggestion of this film. Also I might argue that the film highlights irresponsibility among scientists, who consider only the beneficial effects of the technology they create and use rather than both positive and negative sides. Technology is becoming more and more infiltrative, and if scientists do not pay more attention to the potential repercussions or misuses of their work, human lives could be scrambled.
Concerning dreams, one of the questions I came to after watching this film was the question of whether something should be tampered or probed if it is naturally inaccessible. Dreams are difficult to remember, difficult to understand, they confuse us and it is impossible for us to summon them at will. One might wonder whether such inscrutable dreams evolved for a reason—if so, should humans make efforts to understand dream mechanisms (at any cost)?
I was amazed at how similar Paprika’s dreamworld was to my own. It was far more recognizable as dream than the stereotypical fog-covered dreamland that was represented in the Chinese soap opera. Though dreams may seem vague upon recollection, within the context of the dream they are clear. Dreams are a creation of the mind, so the dreamer sees only what the mind knows, and not that of which one is unconscious. The result is a parade-like collection of seemingly random thoughts that are related by their singular origin within the mind, all of which make sense within the dreamworld but seem bizarre when taken from the single viewpoint afforded by conscious life. The dream allows the whole self to emerge, while in waking life one is often constrained by the single track of history and habit that is embedded in what we recognize as our individual identity. This is certainly not unique to the Eastern culture, though many recognizable traits of the Eastern tradition were referenced within the movie. Since dreams represents the part of the self that is least constrained by society, the movie's subject felt applicable to any culture.
One of the Eastern ideas that was central to the movie (and an idea central to humanity's existence) was the idea of the balance of yin and yang, day and night, male and female, and what happens when one oversteps the bounds. It is interesting that the resolution of the movie is brought about by the reestablishment of balance between male and female, by an almost sexual envelopment of the male by the female. It is also interesting that Paprika and Chiba, as alternate sides of one self, at one point question who is really a part of whom. They can coexist because one does not predominate; from the equal partnership of opposites, life emerges. But as in the case of the chairman, if one side dominates the other, both are destroyed, causing the very fabric of the world to tear and fall into nothingness.
It is also interesting that the dreams are played back within the movie as videos, and that the Internet is represented as a portal to the dreamworld. In a sense, both movies and Internet have much in common with dreams as alternate realities that can become and even consume reality (for instance, Dungeons and Dragons). It is interesting that the movie medium most closely resembles the DC-Mini as it was intended to be used, i.e., to enter another person's dream, while the Internet more nearly resembles the bizarre merging of the world's collective dreams enacted by the runaway "breeding" of the stolen DC-Minis. At the heart of this proposition is the simultaneous fear of, and desire for, loss of control due to outside stimulation. This is another instance of yin and yang, where the tremendous outside technological capabilities to influence the self must be balanced by an equally deep knowledge of oneself. Perhaps this knowledge can be obtained only through the dreamworld.
I could definitely recognize the images in Paprika as dreams because many of them are similar to dreams that I have had. The constant switching of location and fast paced events are common in my own dreams.
The film showed how technology can be used for both good and evil; even if something was created with good intentions it can be used to do harm. For instance, the DC-Mini was created with the intention of helping people to cope with their fears but it could also be used to make those fears a reality.
Also, within the dream world of the characters, one’s obsessions could be made clear. For example, the parading refrigerators may show how the availability of food, made possible by technology, has taken over one’s life. The dolls, too, emphasize this aspect of one’s obsessions becoming prominent within dreams, as Himaru’s fascination is shown, as well as Tokita’s becoming the robot he was fascinated with as a child.
Ironically, the terrorist, the chairman of the company that created the DC-mini, was the one who believed that the DC-mini was unnatural. He is shown to have growing limbs, like roots, which parallel his idea, however, the growth of these roots are unnatural in themselves just as his use of the DC-mini to terrorize people was unnatural.
This film presents common fears and anxieties such as that of privacy and boundaries. As technology progresses, we must seek to find a way to keep technology from being used for evil or to invade the privacy of others, essentially, the fear of “Big Brother.” Also, as Tokita hoped to have a happy paradise, sharing his dreams with his friends, the impossibility of a happy utopia is explored. The chairman’s lust for power is a common aspect of the human condition. The role of Tokita as an innocent, child like character, juxtaposed to the evil, power hungry chairman, reminds me of the roles of Billy Budd and Claggart of Herman Melville’s Billy Budd; the novel puts forth the proposition that power is a contaminating agent, those in power will be prone to abusing their power.
Furthermore, I believe that this idea of the human condition is the root of our fears and distrust of each other which causes us to be concerned of our privacy. Our dreams and our thoughts our an intimate part of who we are, to have somebody divulge in these private aspects of ourselves is worse than being naked before a crowd of strangers.
Princess Tutu Screening Journal
Princess Tutu had less of a focus on dreaming as did Paprika. Still, it does give dreams a unique role in the development of plot. Duck’s dreams reveal much about the context of the events that occur in these two episodes. Notably, each of the first two episodes begins with a dream and ends with Drosselmeyer (the man from Duck’s dreams) speaking. Dreams frame the first two episodes by linking the events are advancing the plot, but Duck’s dreams also reveals her goals and wishes and gives her power.
From the beginning of this series, we know that dreams will frame the plot. The first scene of this anime features Duck’s dream. She is a duck who is troubled by her impossible love for Senior (Prince) Mytho. This dream introduces motifs that resurface not only in the first episode but in subsequent episodes as well. At first, I thought that her dream about being a duck would be a nightmare, but it later turns out that her duck form in her dream becomes her form in reality. As mentioned in the title sequence of each episode, “stories and reality are intermingled.” Story is a broad term. To say, even, that Duck’s dreams are blended with her reality should be reasonable. Drosselmeyer is first introduced in this same dream, but his subsequent actions and influences aren’t limited to the dream world. Considering that Duck does not seem to enter a dream state when becoming Princess Tutu, Drosselmeyer has real presence in both the dream and real worlds. He consistently reappears when Princess Tutu takes Duck’s place or when a significant plot development occurs, such as when he explains to Duck why Mytho seems lonely. Drosselmeyer, in a sense, can play a role similar to those demons featured in Taoist beliefs. He creates dreams in Duck’s mind that, reminiscent of nightmares, provoke conflict in both her dreams and in real life. Perhaps by confronting and vanquishing Drosselmeyer in later episodes, Duck can cease being a duck.
Dreams also supply viewers with Duck’s true thoughts and feelings and dreams are also a vehicle for her knowledge and power. Dreams become a tool for the author of this story to give background on the characters and their motivations. The mixed worlds of stories and reality give Duck’s dreams “real” significance in that what she learns in her dream reflects the actual circumstance in real life. Further, Duck is, in the real world, a very shy and embarrassingly awkward girl. It is through her dreams that she honestly communicates her feelings, her love for Mytho and her desire to repair his heart, for example. Also, through her dreams, she is given her power to become Princess Tutu, who is an altogether different person, as Duck is more confident and focused (and thus able to act) as Princess Tutu. This is a significant indicator of the role of dreams in this story. Dream give this story life in its starting point, but also provides our protagonist with the tools to reach her preferred ends and solve the conflict of the plot.
As far as the dream’s use as a narrative device, I have not seen or read a work that used dreams in exactly the same way, but I have come into contact with works that similarly used dreams to advance plot or new story elements. I found that Princess Tutu shared with Paprika the idea of mixed worlds. Though not exactly the same (Princess Tutu mixes “stories” with reality, even though those “stories” seem to encompass dreams), the two serve similar functions with significant plot action taking place when and where the two worlds meet. Dreaming as a plot device is something that I have never paid particular attention to beyond their use as a narrative device. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example, uses the idea of dreaming as a tool to resolve the conflict of the story. Also, in the film American Beauty, the dreams of the main character prompt him to change everything he is unhappy with, and this change becomes the driving force of the movie. Another movie that gives dreams an integral role is The Matrix, where the protagonists attempt a rebellion against a dream world that is created artificially to subdue humans. Considering the above three works, each uses dreams as a narrative device in a different way than it is used in Princess Tutu, whose use of dreams is fantastical and reminiscent of fairy tales.
Based on the first two episodes, I did not enjoy Princess Tutu as much as I did Paprika because it was much more concrete in the way it used dreams as a plot element. This prompted a lot less of an emotional and intellectual reaction. I think the use of a dream in a much more absurd or abstract sense gives much more room for response and incorporation with what we discuss in class.
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dream interpretations, a sample
As I sat in my office waiting for the only client that I had booked for the day to show up, the only thoughts that ran through my mind were of the good old days, the days when the neighborhood witch doctor was still considered a force to be reckoned with. I remember back in the 1880’s, during my prime, I was considered the authority of any and all supernatural activity that occurred in Bolivia, but times had changed and nowadays, I spent my time in my office listening to the broadcasts for soccer games on the radio. However today was going to be different, for today I had an actual appointment. A well-known business man who lived nowhere close to my office was making a trip down to my home to receive a consultation from yours truly and I was eagerly awaiting his arrival. Finally, the moment came when I heard the knock on my door. I rose from my chair, turned off the radio, gave the room a final look over and opened the door. From my initial glance at the business man, who I will call Y for the sake of anonymity, I saw that he seemed to be quite anxious and troubled. He had the look of a man who had not had a good night’s sleep for many days. As soon as he sat down, he troubles started to spill from his lips. Apparently, the cause of his haggard appearance was a recurring dream that he had started having almost two months earlier. He revealed that he had visited many to consult them about the meaning of his dream, but he had been shunted from place to place until someone eventually referred him to me.
As he began to tell me his dream, I could feel myself slipping into the trance like state that allows me to access the wisdom of gods and, for the first time in many months, I had a vision, but it was a vision of death, damnation, and misery. As I came out of my trance, I was initially befuddled, but then I understood. In Y’s dream, there had been a yellow dragon surrounding his house. The skin of the dragon reflected a yellow light over Y’s entire household. To the untrained eye, the dream would have appeared to be nothing more than the delusion of a sleep-deprived businessman, however due to my experience in the field of the supernatural; I was able to see the deeper meaning of the images. In actuality, the dream was truly a warning about the yellow fever epidemic that had been spreading over the country due to the contaminated water supplies and the massive quantity of mosquitoes during the year-long summer that Bolivia possesses. I discerned that the yellow dragon stood for the yellow fever since, like dragons, yellow fever is difficult to defeat if it enters a household. The yellow color of the dragon stood for the jaundice that was often a symptom of yellow fever. The light that was reflected over his house stood for the disease eventually enveloping the house and all of its occupants. The dream was nothing more than a warning sign for Y to vacate his property and move away until the disease had run its trail. As I revealed the meaning of his dream to Y, I could see the skepticism dancing in his eyes, but my sole duty was to reveal the meaning of his dream and to leave him to make his own decision and so I did. As he left my home, I leaned back in my chair and, when I heard the sound of his carriage leaving, I turned the radio back on to catch the final score for the soccer game.
As a new intern here at the Centre for Freudian analysis, I’ve been given a series of dreams to analyze as part of my interviewing process. In the final dream I was asked to analyze, the disclosed information regarding the background of the dreamer was extremely limited. The following were the only known facts I had to work with: She, the dreamer, was a mother; she fell asleep in a field and dreamed that a puppy with horns was licking her.
I begin my analysis by attempting to place the reader within a particular historical context. She is a woman, and for a woman to have both the social and political ability to escape her daily “duties”, and openly lay in a field suggests that she may be living in a modern era, perhaps sometime after the 1960s, when women began to make significant advancements on the political spectrum. She may or may not be from a Western society, for the raw material of the dream (the horns, the field, and the puppy) are things found in cultures all over the world. On my initial reading however, and keeping the historical context in mind, I placed her in a Western culture.
The dreamer sought some sort of refuge in the field, an action potentially stemming from the need for an internal, spiritual peace, which leads me to believe that she may be part of the lower to upper middle class. Although the struggle for an inner equilibrium is universal and not specific to the lower to upper middle classes alone, a mother who is balancing a life at home with making a living outside the home to provide for herself and her child, may feel a more compelling need to settle and find peace within herself; more so than say an upper class woman who could pay for a nanny to take care of her child, and feel no stress in that area of her life. The location of the dreamer and her status as mother imply that she is balancing necessary obligation to others with the need to maintain a personal sanctity. Now, onto the dream itself.
As I approached the dream material, I found the manifest content, being the physical symbols within the dream, to offer a viable abstract interpretation as to the latent content, the subconscious meaning of the dream (Mendam 2). A puppy is representative of a new and engaging commitment; they are cute yet require a tremendous amount of time and patience. Could this puppy then represent the dreamer’s desire to have another child? If so, the horns, the second most obvious symbol found within the dream, may potentially serve as a “warning” symbol, or the dreamer’s subconscious thoughts telling her that another child may in fact harm her. Horns viewed from a distance are a passive form of defense, used primarily for intimidation, more than an actual weapon. Yet when the threat approaches, the horns take on a new vitality and become a very much active part of both their possessor and the defense. In the dream, the puppy’s action of licking implies that the prospect of having a new child is enticing, that the appealing or desirable results of having a baby (the adoration, the cuteness, and the positive feelings that are associated with the miracle of childbirth) are struggling to overpower the realistic constraints that come along as well. The time commitment a new child requires, on top of her own personal life, may be too much to handle, and the horns are her subconscious mind’s attempt to steer her away from the seemingly easy decision.
Overall, the interpretation was a success for all parties involved; the senior analysts at the Centre found my interpretation insightful, and suggested that I share my interpretation with the woman. After discussing the layers of her subconscious with her, she confessed she felt “enlightened”, and simultaneously shocked to hear her personal situation be repeated by a complete stranger, who had discovered it through the medium of analyzing a dream. She has decided not to have another child, at least not at this point in time. She was extremely grateful for the process, and the clarity it provided.
Memphis, Egypt; Third Dynasty
I was the first person Akana ever saw and the last her mother, Amisi, beheld before her untimely death. Soon after her birth, her father fled Memphis with the newborn, seeking refuge from the painful memories of Akana's birthplace in a small village nearby. I was not to see her for the 17 years between when I served as her mother's midwife and her own.
Nine months ago, I received a young woman into my home. There was an odd mixture of challenge and curiosity in her eyes as she asked if I was the healer Shepsit. I told her I was she, and asked what she desired. She spoke of how her father had often cursed the name of the midwife Shepsit for having allowed his favorite wife to die, and how implicit within that curse she had always felt an unspoken blame for being the instrument of her mother's death. This feeling of guilt had followed her even into her recent marriage.
After moving from her father's house into her husband's, she had begun to have a recurring dream in which she was in Memphis and the great walls that held back the Nile broke. She was swept into the city with the flood, and heard the great tongue of Ptah, the god of rebirth to whom the great temple in Memphis is dedicated, tell her that her mother was drowning. She swam desperately toward her mother, fearing she would be too late. Indeed, her mother had succumbed to the waters by the time she reached her, but Akana took the body to the Temple of Ptah, where her mother was instantly brought back to life.
Akana asked me, as one who had known her mother and seen her make the journey into the afterlife, whether her dream did not portend that the journey was reversible. I told her, "Once a spirit has made the journey into death, she cannot return. But a part of your mother's spirit did not ever leave, and is now growing within you. Your dream tells of how the tide that swept you into this world also swept your mother out. Yet your deliverance, and delivery, saved the body of your mother in your self. When you were brought in marriage to the altar of Ptah, he blessed your body with the breath of new life. You will bear a daughter, and in your daughter your mother will live again."
I was the first person Akana's daughter ever saw, and in her daughter's eyes I beheld Amisi once again.
Descartes' First Meditation
OF THE THINGS OF WHICH WE MAY DOUBT
1. SEVERAL years have now elapsed since I first became aware that I had accepted, even from my youth, many false opinions for true, and that consequently what I afterward based on such principles was highly doubtful; and from that time I was convinced of the necessity of undertaking once in my life to rid myself of all the opinions I had adopted, and of commencing anew the work of building from the foundation, if I desired to establish a firm and abiding superstructure in the sciences. But as this enterprise appeared to me to be one of great magnitude, I waited until I had attained an age so mature as to leave me no hope that at any stage of life more advanced I should be better able to execute my design. On this account, I have delayed so long that I should henceforth consider I was doing wrong were I still to consume in deliberation any of the time that now remains for action. To-day, then, since I have opportunely freed my mind from all cares and am happily disturbed by no passions, and since I am in the secure possession of leisure in a peaceable retirement, I will at length apply myself earnestly and freely to the general overthrow of all my former opinions.
2. But, to this end, it will not be necessary for me to show that the whole of these are false--a point, perhaps, which I shall never reach; but as even now my reason convinces me that I ought not the less carefully to withhold belief from what is not entirely certain and indubitable, than from what is manifestly false, it will be sufficient to justify the rejection of the whole if I shall find in each some ground for doubt. Nor for this purpose will it be necessary even to deal with each belief individually, which would be truly an endless labor; but, as the removal from below of the foundation necessarily involves the downfall of the whole edifice, I will at once approach the criticism of the principles on which all my former beliefs rested.
3. All that I have, up to this moment, accepted as possessed of the highest truth and certainty, I received either from or through the senses. I observed, however, that these sometimes misled us; and it is the part of prudence not to place absolute confidence in that by which we have even once been deceived.
4. But it may be said, perhaps, that, although the senses occasionally mislead us respecting minute objects, and such as are so far removed from us as to be beyond the reach of close observation, there are yet many other of their informations (presentations), of the truth of which it is manifestly impossible to doubt; as for example, that I am in this place, seated by the fire, clothed in a winter dressing gown, that I hold in my hands this piece of paper, with other intimations of the same nature. But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors as to cause them pertinaciously to assert that they are monarchs when they are in the greatest poverty; or clothed in gold and purple when destitute of any covering; or that their head is made of clay, their body of glass, or that they are gourds? I should certainly be not less insane than they, were I to regulate my procedure according to examples so extravagant.
5. Though this be true, I must nevertheless here consider that I am a man, and that, consequently, I am in the habit of sleeping, and representing to myself in dreams those same things, or even sometimes others less probable, which the insane think are presented to them in their waking moments. How often have I dreamt that I was in these familiar circumstances, that I was dressed, and occupied this place by the fire, when I was lying undressed in bed? At the present moment, however, I certainly look upon this paper with eyes wide awake; the head which I now move is not asleep; I extend this hand consciously and with express purpose, and I perceive it; the occurrences in sleep are not so distinct as all this. But I cannot forget that, at other times I have been deceived in sleep by similar illusions; and, attentively considering those cases, I perceive so clearly that there exist no certain marks by which the state of waking can ever be distinguished from sleep, that I feel greatly astonished; and in amazement I almost persuade myself that I am now dreaming.
6. Let us suppose, then, that we are dreaming, and that all these particulars--namely, the opening of the eyes, the motion of the head, the forth- putting of the hands--are merely illusions; and even that we really possess neither an entire body nor hands such as we see. Nevertheless it must be admitted at least that the objects which appear to us in sleep are, as it were, painted representations which could not have been formed unless in the likeness of realities; and, therefore, that those general objects, at all events, namely, eyes, a head, hands, and an entire body, are not simply imaginary, but really existent. For, in truth, painters themselves, even when they study to represent sirens and satyrs by forms the most fantastic and extraordinary, cannot bestow upon them natures absolutely new, but can only make a certain medley of the members of different animals; or if they chance to imagine something so novel that nothing at all similar has ever been seen before, and such as is, therefore, purely fictitious and absolutely false, it is at least certain that the colors of which this is composed are real. And on the same principle, although these general objects, viz. a body, eyes, a head, hands, and the like, be imaginary, we are nevertheless absolutely necessitated to admit the reality at least of some other objects still more simple and universal than these, of which, just as of certain real colors, all those images of things, whether true and real, or false and fantastic, that are found in our consciousness (cogitatio), are formed.
7. To this class of objects seem to belong corporeal nature in general and its extension; the figure of extended things, their quantity or magnitude, and their number, as also the place in, and the time during, which they exist, and other things of the same sort.
8. We will not, therefore, perhaps reason illegitimately if we conclude from this that Physics, Astronomy, Medicine, and all the other sciences that have for their end the consideration of composite objects, are indeed of a doubtful character; but that Arithmetic, Geometry, and the other sciences of the same class, which regard merely the simplest and most general objects, and scarcely inquire whether or not these are really existent, contain somewhat that is certain and indubitable: for whether I am awake or dreaming, it remains true that two and three make five, and that a square has but four sides; nor does it seem possible that truths so apparent can ever fall under a suspicion of falsity or incertitude.
9. Nevertheless, the belief that there is a God who is all powerful, and who created me, such as I am, has, for a long time, obtained steady possession of my mind. How, then, do I know that he has not arranged that there should be neither earth, nor sky, nor any extended thing, nor figure, nor magnitude, nor place, providing at the same time, however, for the rise in me of the perceptions of all these objects, and the persuasion that these do not exist otherwise than as I perceive them ? And further, as I sometimes think that others are in error respecting matters of which they believe themselves to possess a perfect knowledge, how do I know that I am not also deceived each time I add together two and three, or number the sides of a square, or form some judgment still more simple, if more simple indeed can be imagined? But perhaps Deity has not been willing that I should be thus deceived, for he is said to be supremely good. If, however, it were repugnant to the goodness of Deity to have created me subject to constant deception, it would seem likewise to be contrary to his goodness to allow me to be occasionally deceived; and yet it is clear that this is permitted.
10. Some, indeed, might perhaps be found who would be disposed rather to deny the existence of a Being so powerful than to believe that there is nothing certain. But let us for the present refrain from opposing this opinion, and grant that all which is here said of a Deity is fabulous: nevertheless, in whatever way it be supposed that I reach the state in which I exist, whether by fate, or chance, or by an endless series of antecedents and consequents, or by any other means, it is clear (since to be deceived and to err is a certain defect ) that the probability of my being so imperfect as to be the constant victim of deception, will be increased exactly in proportion as the power possessed by the cause, to which they assign my origin, is lessened. To these reasonings I have assuredly nothing to reply, but am constrained at last to avow that there is nothing of all that I formerly believed to be true of which it is impossible to doubt, and that not through thoughtlessness or levity, but from cogent and maturely considered reasons; so that henceforward, if I desire to discover anything certain, I ought not the less carefully to refrain from assenting to those same opinions than to what might be shown to be manifestly false.
11. But it is not sufficient to have made these observations; care must be taken likewise to keep them in remembrance. For those old and customary opinions perpetually recur-- long and familiar usage giving them the right of occupying my mind, even almost against my will, and subduing my belief; nor will I lose the habit of deferring to them and confiding in them so long as I shall consider them to be what in truth they are, viz, opinions to some extent doubtful, as I have already shown, but still highly probable, and such as it is much more reasonable to believe than deny. It is for this reason I am persuaded that I shall not be doing wrong, if, taking an opposite judgment of deliberate design, I become my own deceiver, by supposing, for a time, that all those opinions are entirely false and imaginary, until at length, having thus balanced my old by my new prejudices, my judgment shall no longer be turned aside by perverted usage from the path that may conduct to the perception of truth. For I am assured that, meanwhile, there will arise neither peril nor error from this course, and that I cannot for the present yield too much to distrust, since the end I now seek is not action but knowledge.
12. I will suppose, then, not that Deity, who is sovereignly good and the fountain of truth, but that some malignant demon, who is at once exceedingly potent and deceitful, has employed all his artifice to deceive me; I will suppose that the sky, the air, the earth, colors, figures, sounds, and all external things, are nothing better than the illusions of dreams, by means of which this being has laid snares for my credulity; I will consider myself as without hands, eyes, flesh, blood, or any of the senses, and as falsely believing that I am possessed of these; I will continue resolutely fixed in this belief, and if indeed by this means it be not in my power to arrive at the knowledge of truth, I shall at least do what is in my power, viz, suspend my judgment , and guard with settled purpose against giving my assent to what is false, and being imposed upon by this deceiver, whatever be his power and artifice. But this undertaking is arduous, and a certain indolence insensibly leads me back to my ordinary course of life; and just as the captive, who, perchance, was enjoying in his dreams an imaginary liberty, when he begins to suspect that it is but a vision, dreads awakening, and conspires with the agreeable illusions that the deception may be prolonged; so I, of my own accord, fall back into the train of my former beliefs, and fear to arouse myself from my slumber, lest the time of laborious wakefulness that would succeed this quiet rest, in place of bringing any light of day, should prove inadequate to dispel the darkness that will arise from the difficulties that have now been raised.
René Descartes (1596-1650) is one of the most important Western philosophers of the past few centuries. During his lifetime, Descartes was just as famous as an original physicist, physiologist and mathematician. But it is as a highly original philosopher that he is most frequently read today.
His Meditations offer a striking contrast and parallel to many of our conversations about dreams, subjectivity, Self and ultimate nature of reality.
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