The distinction of dreams: dream-life, belief and reform in seventeenth-century England

Rivière, Janine. (2002). The distinction of dreams: dream-life, belief and reform in seventeenth-century England MPhil Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Rivière, Janine.
Thesis Title The distinction of dreams: dream-life, belief and reform in seventeenth-century England
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2002-01-01
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor Ferber, Sarah
Devereaux, Simon
Total pages 183
Collection year 2002
Language eng
Subjects L
430107 History - British
780199 Other
Formatted abstract
In seventeenth-century England debate about dreams centred around the issue of the orthodoxy and significance of dreams as supernatural experiences. This was a response to widespread popular belief that dreams were personal, spiritual and collective experiences of enormous significance. Were dreams supernatural messages from God, Angels, sent to enlighten and comfort the "godly', or alternately, were they evil delusions sent to confuse and confront the pious and damned? Seventeenth-century men and women struggled to clarify these questions, many paying close attention to their dreams. Critics of dream interpretation and prophetic dreams condemned these widespread beliefs as the 'superstitious', 'enthusiastic' and 'ignorant' follies of the so-called 'vulgar'.

A study of learned attacks on dreams will be situated within historiographical debates on cultural divisions and 'popular cultures' This thesis will explore firstly the cultural implications and context of the politics of dreams and secondly examine who were the 'vulgar' and why particular beliefs in dreams were denigrated under this category. I will argue that the term 'vulgar' referred not to the 'common rabble', or to a specific class, but rather to a particular worldview which was deemed undesirable and in need of reform. Furthermore, I will argue that by attempting to demystify dreams as natural phenomena rather than as supernatural, learned writers were endeavouring to reform and educate literate audiences.

Moreover, I will also argue that the controversy surrounding dreams as supernatural phenomena was primarily instigated by reformist and elite concerns that purportedly supernatural dreams were liable to incite heresy and rebellion and the spread of superstition. This study will place debates and beliefs in dreams within the context of the Civil War, Interregnum and Restoration. For, the debate on dreams and the decline of belief that dreams could be prognostic or prophetic was a direct result of changing attitudes towards religious experiences and the swing from elite support of revealed to rational religion. 
Keyword Dreams

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (RHD) - UQ staff and students only
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Created: Sat, 25 Aug 2007, 03:54:43 EST