A month or so ago, I read the most recent addition to the Sandman graphic novels, Sandman: Overture. I was struck by J.H. Williams’ splendid artwork, as instead of primarily using panels to tell the story (as in many other graphic novels or comic strips), each page had a motif that both related to what was going on in the story and moved the story forward. To the extent that the novel had panels, they were dictated by each page’s motif, rather than the panels constraining the artwork. To see one example of what I mean, click here. The story is about the characters exploring a house; the page itself contains a drawing of the house’s layout, with each room acting as an individual panel. (As always, Gaiman’s writing is delightful; I especially enjoyed his description of piggables.)
One of my favorite parts of the whole Sandman series—Overture included—is how it wrestles with the question of what dreams are. Since first becoming conscious of their existence, humans have wondered how to fit them into our experience. While I don’t know any scholars who still believe dreams predict the future (Aristotle himself was critical of that), there are still important questions about the function of dreams, what they indicate about truth, and whether we retain a sense of self in our dreams. Just as the artwork in Sandman doesn’t follow conventional rules of comic book storytelling, dreams don’t obey our normal understanding of reality. There is still much to learn, but the following books and papers will hopefully bring some illumination to our studies.
- Evan Thompson, Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, Columbia University Press, 2014.
- Leo Dolias, “Bad Dreams Are Made Of This,” Existential Analysis: Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis, July 2010.
- Christoph Türcke, Philosophy of Dreams, Yale University Press, 2013.
- Anik Waldow, “Activating the Mind: Descartes’ Dreams and the Awakening of the Human Animal Machine,” Philosophy & Phenomenological Research, March 2017.
- Maria João Neves, “Phenomenology of Dreams in Philosophical Practice,” Philosophical Practice: Journal of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, November 2014.
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