Anthropology, Dreams and Creativity

Authored by: Katie Glaskin

The Ashgate Research Companion to Anthropology

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754677031
eBook ISBN: 9781315612744
Adobe ISBN: 9781317044116


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Although drawing on aspects of our experience, dreams often produce scenarios and ideas that seem fantastic and improbable, and hence they have frequently been associated with kinds of creativity, since they link elements that in waking life we might not consciously connect. Definitions of dreams vary from a narrow understanding of dreams as imagistic narratives having plotlines and characters, to a broader definition of dreams as being any mental activity occurring during sleep (Rock 2004:viii). In both definitions, dreaming appears as a kind of thinking. Barrett and McNamara (2007:ix) describe dreams as ‘predominantly visual, metaphoric thought often linked to mental processes outside conscious awareness’, and it is the seeming independence of dreams from conscious aspects of self that Stephen’s (1989:54, 62) description of dreams as products of the ‘autonomous imagination’ seeks to capture. It is this apparent autonomy that has contributed to the many folk theories about what is going on when we dream (see Lohmann 2007). Tylor (1871) famously postulated that the commonality of the dream experience provided the catalyst for the development of religion throughout the world (Basso 1992:102).

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