Studies in honor of Eddo Rigotti
Edited By Giovanni Gobber and Andrea Rocci
Carlo Cipolli: The narrative structure of dreams
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The narrative structure of dreams
CARLO CIPOLLI, University of Bologna
In everyday life people usually realise that their dreams (as recalled in the morning) have “created” new stories out of nothing. Indeed, within the storylines of their dreams, individuals can recognize that concerns, characters and objects of recent or remote waking-life events (so-called “mnestic sources” of dream contents) are combined in a much more novel manner than simple collages. Moreover, dreams usually show life-like temporal and causal (albeit non-volitional: Rechstchaffen 1978) features, which are common to waking narratives (i.e., oral, written, or imaged descriptions of events communicated to listeners or readers).
Although the similarities between dreams and waking narratives had long been pointed out by many psychoanalysts (e.g., S. Freud, C. G. Jung, J. Lacan,), linguists (e.g., E. Benveniste and L. Polany) and semiologists (e.g., R. Barthes, T. Todorov), the first systematic attempts to describe dreams as narratives were made only recently in the context of the experimental studies of dreaming. The psychophysiological approach to dreaming, made possible after the discovery of the cyclic organization of sleep architecture, allowed to establish that a more or less “dreamlike” (i.e., with perceptually vivid and bizarre contents) mental experience is reported after more than 80% of the awakenings provoked in REM sleep and about 50% of the awakenings in NREM sleep (for a review, see Nielsen 2000). This means that people usually remember only a small proportion of the even...
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