Monday, February 11, 2008

On Dreams

I found Clarissa's dream (as she relates it to Anna) a really bizarre rupture in the delicate, mannered tone of the novel. Not only is Clarissa violently stabbed to death and left to rot among the corpses, but the act of murder is done in a churchyard, an interesting choice on behalf of Richardson (or Clarissa's subconscious). Perhaps this reveals something about how Clarissa perceives herself--as a martyr? as rightfully punished?--or perhaps it says something about how we are to perceive Clarissa. Either way, I find her dream foreboding, and maybe worth a second look.

'Methought my brother, my uncle Antony, and Mr Solmes had formed a plot to destroy Mr Lovelace; who discovering it turned all his rage against me, believing I had a hand in it. I thought he made them all fly into foreign parts upon it; and afterwards seizing upon me, carried me into a churchyard; and there, notwithstanding all my prayers and tears, and protestations of innocence, stabbed me to the heart, and then tumbled me into a deep grave ready dug, among two or three half-dissolved carcases; throwing in the dirt and earth upon me with his hands, and trampling it down with his feet.'
I awoke with the terror, all in a cold sweat, trembling, and in agonies; and still the frightful images raised by it remain upon my memory. (L84, 343)

There's relatively little written in the 18th century on the interpretation of dreams. Most of the material is more novelty than academic scholarship; I found quite a few dream journals, and translations of others' dreams. What I did find pretty neat was the preface to Reverend Saalfield's A Philosophical Discourse on the Nature of Dreams. Saalfield is interested in the taxonomy of dreams--separating the rational ones from the supernatural ones. He also suggests that dreams might even be God revealing himself to the dreamer. I've added the preface if you'd like to take a look.

1 comment:

Jenny Davidson said...

Let's talk more about this in class--Clarissa at any rate seems to have a theory of the imagination that is related to dreaming and how it works...