Dreaming as Experience and as Narrative (Richard Walsh – Team Meeting 5)

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There’s a straightforward sense in which a dream report is a narrative – I tell the story of the experience of my dream. Many dream researchers also see merit in the idea that the dream itself is a narrative; this is more contentious, and it involves views of both dreams and narrative that need closer scrutiny. I’m interested in how a more careful examination of the concept of narrative can shed light upon dreaming; and, reciprocally, how the case of dreaming can clarify our understanding of narrative itself.

I have already made a key preliminary move in shifting from “dreams” to “dreaming,” and from “a narrative” (as a representation) to “narrative” (as a mode of sensemaking). This reorientation from product to process helps to address some obvious objections, but it also has ramifications that give the relation between dreaming and narrative much greater significance. To elaborate this perspective, I want to situate dreaming between, on the one side, two basic assumptions from narrative theory; and, on the other, some key ideas involved in the concept of predictive processing (PP) as a framework for perception, action and cognition. The narratological assumptions are 1) that there is a crucial difference between experience (of stuff happening) and narrative; and 2) that within the concept of narrative there is a necessary distinction between “story” (representational content, or what happens) and “discourse” (the expression of that content, or the form it takes in the telling). The crucial issues at stake in predictive processing are the relations between enactivism and representationalism, and between bottom-up and top-down processing.

Dreaming offers the potential for insight into important connections between philosophy of mind and narrative theory; I pursue these connections in the context of recent dream research, in order to illuminate the threshold between embodied perceptual presence and narrative cognition.

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19-11-20 @ 16:00 to


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