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Dreaming in Dark Times

Six Exercises in Political Thought

2017
Author:

Sharon Sliwinski

Dreaming in Dark Times

A political theory of dream-life

Sharon Sliwinski explores how the disclosure of dream-life represents a form of unconscious thinking that can serve as a potent brand of political intervention and a means for resisting sovereign power. She defends the idea that dream-life matters—that attending to this thought-landscape is vital to the life of the individual but also vital to our shared social and political worlds.

Addressing the political by the unusual means of the textual analysis of dreams, Dreaming in Dark Times is an innovative and productive entanglement of literary and historical-political analysis that enables us to approach the currently important question of political subjectivity, a seeming oxymoron. Not a psychoanalysis of the dreamer, the book offers a subtle deployment of the insights of psychoanalysis and dream theory for our current and worsening crises. A vitally important book.

Griselda Pollock, University of Leeds

What do dreams manage to say—or indeed, show—about human experience that is not legible otherwise? Can the disclosure of our dream-life be understood as a form of political avowal? To what does a dream attest? And to whom?

Blending psychoanalytic theory with the work of such political thinkers as Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault, Sharon Sliwinski explores how the disclosure of dream-life represents a special kind of communicative gesture—a form of unconscious thinking that can serve as a potent brand of political intervention and a means for resisting sovereign power. Each chapter centers on a specific dream plucked from the historical record, slowly unwinding the significance of this extraordinary disclosure. From Wilfred Owen and Lee Miller to Frantz Fanon and Nelson Mandela, Sliwinski shows how each of these figures grappled with dream-life as a means to conjure up the courage to speak about dark times. Here dreaming is defined as an integral political exercise—a vehicle for otherwise unthinkable thoughts and a wellspring for the freedom of expression.

Dreaming in Dark Times defends the idea that dream-life matters—that attending to this thought-landscape is vital to the life of the individual but also vital to our shared social and political worlds.

Dreaming in Dark Times

Sharon Sliwinski is associate professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies and a core member of the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. She is the author of Human Rights In Camera.

Dreaming in Dark Times

Addressing the political by the unusual means of the textual analysis of dreams, Dreaming in Dark Times is an innovative and productive entanglement of literary and historical-political analysis that enables us to approach the currently important question of political subjectivity, a seeming oxymoron. Not a psychoanalysis of the dreamer, the book offers a subtle deployment of the insights of psychoanalysis and dream theory for our current and worsening crises. A vitally important book.

Griselda Pollock, University of Leeds

Sharon Sliwinski’s dreamers are damaged, brave people—poets, patients, soldiers, resisters, rape survivors—many accused of cowardice. Their dreams not only symptomatize the terrible violence of colonization, fascism, torture, or war; they also express ‘the human being’s radical freedom to assign meaning to experience.’ This mind-blowing, humane, and timely book is quite simply a must-read.

Bonnie Honig, Brown University*

Dreaming in Dark Times

Contents
A Fairy for an Introduction
1. The Prisoner’s Defense: The Ghost House Dream
2. The Mother’s Defense: The Dead Daughter in a Box Dream
3. The Soldier’s Defense: The Gassed Man Dream
4. The Artist’s Defense: The City in Ruins Dream
5. The Colonial Defense: The Little Rotting Cat Dream
6. On Folding Force
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index