On Sigmund Freud and the “Dream Space” of the Hebrew Bible
From Season 3 of The Cosmic Library Podcast
The Cosmic Library explores massive books in order to explore everything else. Here, books that can seem overwhelming—books of dreams, infinity, mysteries—turn out to be intensely accessible, offering so many different ways to read them and think with them. Season one considered Finnegans Wake; in season two, it was 1,001 Nights. Season three, titled Mosaic Mosaic and premiering on April 11, journeys through and beyond the Hebrew Bible.
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Stuck in a lonely motel room, you have a good chance of finding a Bible, left for anyone similarly stuck in a strange interval between days. In this way, it’s yet another night book. The Bible also has famous night scenes, and dream scenes, too: Jacob’s dream of angels, Joseph’s dream of sheaves of wheat. This chapter of Mosaic Mosaic explores dream interpretation and that foundational dream-interpreter Sigmund Freud, himself a close reader of the Hebrew Bible.
“Literature guides Freud’s thinking all the way through,” says Tom DeRose of the Freud Museum in London. And one effect of reading such a literary doctor is a literary, tragic awareness—what DeRose describes as awareness that every effort to “bring things to a better place will inherently contain its own destructiveness within it.”
Other tensions between contraries exist within the dreams and dream-like passages of the Hebrew Bible. The novelist Joshua Cohen calls the dreams in the Bible “highly demonstrative and overly obvious.” He says that “the dreams that are presented are so clear,” which seems to him “a way of taming dream space, denying dream space its wildness.” On the other hand, the poet Peter Cole finds something like that wildness in the Bible, finds “that porousness of consciousness where the boundary of self is blurred.” And so, encountering both blurred boundaries and demonstrative clarity, we’re thinking in this episode of what interpretation can make of it all.
Peter Cole is a poet and MacArthur genius whose new book, Draw Me After, will be out this fall.
Elisa Gabbert is a poet and poetry columnist with the New York Times. Her latest book, Normal Distance, will be out this fall.
Lisa Feldman Barrett is a psychologist, neuroscientist, and author of books including How Emotions Are Made.
Tom DeRose is a curator at the Freud Museum in London.
Joshua Cohen is a novelist whose books include Book of Numbers.