Dreams seem to spontaneously turn our mind into a landscape for actions – a spatialization of our intimate inner experiences that literature and the arts have acutely explored. For our series ‘From the Archive’, here is an article I wrote in which I propose a cross-disciplinary theory of such spatialisations of consciousness as an inner ecology. It takes dreams as a model, contemporary cognitive science as a framework, and fictional narratives as renderings of how consciousness and emotions can be transduced into enactive environments, with building blocks permeated from our waking personal geographies.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus by Terry Gilliam, 2009

The essay presents an interdisciplinary theory of what I call “innerscapes”: fictional representations of the mind as a spatially extended world. By bringing examples of innerscapes from literature (Kafka’s short story ‘The Bridge’), radio plays (Samuel Beckett’s Embers), and a creative documentary about auditory-verbal hallucinations (a voice-hearer’s short film, Adam + 1), it suggests that these spatial renditions of the mind are constructed by transforming the quasi-perceptual elements of inner experience into affording ecologies. In so doing, they enable an enactive exploration of inner worlds as navigable environments. The resulting storyworlds display features that resemble the logic and ontology of dreams. Cognitive research on dreams and cartographical studies of the personal geographies of dreamscapes will thus inform the understanding of what innerscapes are, do and can do if used, as the essay argues they should be, as enhancing devices for what Jesse Butler has called ‘extended introspection” (2013: 95).

Marco Bernini, October 2020