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Dreams that have Never been Dreamt at all: Interpreting Dreams in Medieval Literature

Dreams that have Never been Dreamt at all: Interpreting Dreams in Medieval Literature

By Hans-Jürgen Bachorski

History Workshop Journal, Vol.49 (2000)

Synopsis: In this essay I will approach the problem of dreams and what they mean in literature by considering three contrasting uses of dreams in medieval German literature, in the Nibelungenlied (about 1200), the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach (about 1220), and Gabriotto und Reinhart by Jorg Wickram (1551). In each text, the connection between the speaking subject of the text and the dream is different, and the extent to which psycho-analytic ideas might illumine the text is different too. Who is dreaming here of falcons, thunderstorms and dragons, of bloody faces and skewered maidens? And, if the dream text contains something that the dreamer does not quite know, but which nobody else can know either, who in a literary text knows the origins of the picture-puzzle that emerges in dream-work? Where does the dream text get its material, the individual pictures for the puzzle? Finally: if the dream represents a ‘little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses part of the soul’, into whose soul are we looking in the dreams recounted in medieval romances?

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