The Psychological Exploration of the Dream and the Inception of Aesthetic Modernity (1850-1900).
An interdisciplinary conference
Università degli Studi di Bergamo, Italy, 24 - 25 October 2013




Dipartimento di Lingue, Letterature Straniere e Comunicazione, Universitá di Bergamo;
Network of Studies of the Cultural History of Dreams (




Prof. Dr. Elena Agazzi (Bergamo), Dr. Marie Guthmüller (Bochum), Prof. Dr. Hans-Walter Schmidt-Hannisa (Galway)


Aims of the Conference


The aim of the interdisciplinary conference is to contribute to a better understanding of one of the most significant chapters of the cultural history of the dream in Europe. Its historical focus is the time span between 1850 and 1900, which coincides on the one hand with aesthetic modernity and on the other hand with the heyday of psychology. Its starting point is the fading of the dream theories of romanticism which were based on German Idealism and Mesmerism. Around 1850 a shift towards a new psychological and psychiatric paradigm of
dream studies can be observed. In France, this shift is marked by the foundation of the Annales médico-psychologiques in 1843. The period to be explored ends with the emergence of Psychoanalysis as a new theoretical paradigm.  
During these decades there was an intense mutual exchange between theoretical and artistic approaches to understand the dream which became a powerful source of cultural inspiration, of scientific and artistic productivity. The conference will explore the development and the results of exemplary exchange processes and will address four major aspects which have informed the contemporary debates:


  • The dream as a psychophysical function: What is the role of the dream within the
    psychophysical system of man? What anthropological models are suitable to explain the origin, the purpose and the determining factors of the dream?
  • The dream as a language: Do dreams have a meaning which can be deciphered? Which hermeneutical techniques make it possible to translate the language of dreams?
  • The dream as an aesthetical phenomenon: What is the relationship between the experience of the dream and other forms of aesthetical experiences (art, literature)? Given that dreams can be understood as a form of involuntarily produced fiction, is the dream a suitable model from which to explain art and literature? In what ways can dreams be used as a source of artistic inspiration?
  • The dream as a philosophical challenge: What is the ontological status of the dream? Is it possible to distinguish the “reality“of the dream from reality perceived while awake? What are the differences between the dreaming and the awakened mind in terms of epistemology? Is the dream a locus for an exclusively individual experience or is it connected to a greater unity (a collective unconscious, a “world-soul” etc)?


This conference will inaugurate a series of three conferences with a similar format planned by the Network. The complete series will cover the time span from 1850 to 1950.


→ Conference Programme




For further information please contact
Prof. Dr. Elena Agazzi: Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!    
Dr. Marie Guthmüller: Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!
Prof. Dr. Hans-Walter Schmidt-Hannisa: Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!