Workshops, seminars

Eyes Wide Shut: Dreams, Visions, and Somnambulism in German Literature, Art, Medicine and Philosophy 1750-1835

Registration deadline


Prof. Dr. Ricarda Schmidt (University of Exeter):

Dr. Sheila Dickson (University of Glasgow):

Prof. Dr. Hans-Walter Schmidt-Hannisa (NUI Galway):

The project
Taking dreams as our focal point, we intend to explore how altered states of consciousness (ASC) have been conceptualized in German culture from the 18th to the 21st century in a network project to be developed in three stages: 1) a workshop in Exeter, 2-3 April 2020, focusing on the period 1750-1835; 2) a workshop in Galway, April 2021, focusing on the period 1835-1900; 3) a workshop in Glasgow, April 2022, focusing on the 20th century.

Our aim is to concentrate on German culture in order to facilitate a micro-analysis which can discover previously unnoticed continuities, transformations and ruptures between the dream discourses in specific historical periods.

Workshop 1
(2-3 April 2020, Exeter, Devon and Exeter Institution (DEI), 7 Cathedral Close, Exeter EX1 1EZ)

From 1750 onwards, the dream was considered increasingly as a product of the imagination rather than as a supernatural entity; it was now being discussed as both an anthropological and aesthetic phenomenon. With this paradigm shift a number of key questions emerged which will guide our own interdisciplinary approach to exploring historical dream discourses: Such questions are anthropological (how do dreams come into existence and what is their function within the human psycho-physiological system?), ontological (what is the  status of the "reality" perceived in dreams?), psychological (what is the relationship between dreams and the dreamer's biography/ identity), semiotic (are dreams meaningful and if so, how can they be deciphered?), aesthetic (what do literature and art have in common with dreams?), and methodological (which methods are appropriate to explore dreams?).

In the period from 1750 to 1835 ASCs have been perceived both as a danger to the sovereignty of the individual, and as a force to challenge an ossified regime of reason, as a source of creativity, a gateway to new insights and even higher metaphysical realms. An analogy of literature and dream was posited, and new anthropological paradigms such as magnetism and empirical psychology emerged, which, in turn, became the object of critical investigation in literature and art. Contributors to the conference will:

1. Analyse, compare and evaluate from an interdisciplinary perspective the roles that phenomena such as dreams, visions, and somnambulism played in enlightened and romantic discourses in German-speaking countries to conceptualize notions of creativity and subjectivity.

2. Explore the interplay between theoretical concepts of dreams in medicine, anthropology, and philosophy on the one hand, and, on the other hand, literary and artistic representations of ASCs.

In addition, we will extend the impact of the conference by curating in parallel an art exhibition, open to the general public. This will consist of a German and a local Exeter painter's responses to authors and texts of the period under discussion: engravings by Caspar Walter Rauh (1912-1983) and oils, water colours and linocuts especially produced for this occasion by Steven Bramble (Exeter). The DEI has agreed to host this exhibition and will make it available to the public for four months free of charge.

2 April 2020

9.30-9.45 - Registration

9.45-9.50 - Welcome and introduction

9.50-10.20 - Prof. Dr. Elena Agazzi (Professor of German, University of Bergamo, Italy):
Boltens aufklärerische Traumdeutung zwischen Medizin und Folklore

10.20-10.50 - Prof. Dr. Philipp Osten (Director of the Zentrum für Psychosoziale Medizin; Institut für Geschichte und Ethik der Medizin, Hamburg):
Mediziner und Somnambule. Staatstragende Fallgeschichten

10.50-11.20 - Discussion

11.20-11.40 - Coffee

11.40-12.10 - Dr. Sheila Dickson (Senior Lecturer in German, University of Glasgow):
Traumbilder und Ahungen in K.P. Moritz' Magazin zur Erfahrungsseelenkunde

12.10-12.40 - Prof. Dr. Hans-Walter Schmidt-Hannisa (Professor of German, NUI Galway):
Assoziation. Zu einem Topos im  Traumdiskurs um 1800. (Jean Paul, Novalis, Pockels)

12.40-13.10 - Discussion

13.10-14.10 - Lunch

14.10-14.40 - Prof. Dr. Manfred Engel (Professor of German emeritus, Universität Saarbrücken):
Traum im Werk von Clemens Brentano

14.40-15.10 - Prof. Dr. Christof Wingertszahn (Director of the Goethe Museum Düsseldorf):
Goethes Träume: Poetik und Psychologie

15.10-15.40 - Discussion

15.40-16.00 - Tea

16.00-16.30 - Prof. Dr. Ricarda Schmidt (Professor of German, University of Exeter):
The Staging of Politics and Gender: Wishful Dreaming in Kleist's Plays

16.30-17.00 - Dr. Michaela Schrage-Früh (Lecturer in German, NUI Galway):
Dreams and Visions in German Women's Writing: From Caroline von Wolzogen's Agnes von Lilien (1797) to Annette von Droste-Hülshoff's Ledwina (1819)

17.00-17.30 - Discussion

18.30 - Dinner

3 April 2020

9.30 - Registration

9.40-10.10 - Dr. Marlen Schneider (Maître de conférences, Université Grenoble Alpes):
Traumdarstellungen und Genieästhetik im künstlerischen Diskurs der Spätaufklärung und Romantik: von Fragonard bis Riepenhausen

10.10-10.40 - Prof. Dr. Melissa Percival (Professor of French, Art History and Visual Culture, University of  Exeter):
Fancy, Dreams and Daydreams

10.40-11.10 - Discussion

11.10-11.30 - Tea

11.30-12.00 - Dr. Christian Quintes (Fellow, DFG-Kolleg Forschungsgruppe 'Russischsprachige Lyrik in Transition', Universität Trier):
Traumtheorie und Traumpoetik bei E.T.A. Hoffmann und Joseph von Eichendorff

12.00-12.30: Dr. Joanna Neilly (Associate Professor in German, St. Peter's College, Oxford University):
Dreams and Political Realities in post-Napoleonic Germany

12.30-13.00 - Prof. Dr. Jürgen Barkhoff (Professor of German, Trinity College Dublin):
Dreams, Visions and Somnambulism in Mörike's Maler Nolten

13.00-13.30 - Discussion

13.30-14.30 - Lunch

14.30 - End of conference

We warmly invite interested parties to take part in this workshop. Participation fees (£25 for students and unwaged, £40 for waged participants) include 2 lunches, teas and coffees. Please contact by 1 March 2020, if you'd like to participate. Please indicate your dietary requirements and let us know if you'd like to join the workshop participants for dinner on 2 April 2020 (at your own cost).

We are grateful to the University of Exeter and the Cassal Endowment Fund for supporting this event.

Contact Info: 

Ricarda Schmidt
Professor of German
University of Exeter
Exeter EX4 4QH
Tel: ´00441392-72 4224

Source of description: Information from the provider

Fields of research

Literature from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Literature and other forms of art, Literature and philosophy, Literature and natural science, Literature of the 18th century, Literature of the 19th century
Literatur und Medizin ; Träume ; Somnambulismus




University of Exeter (UoEx)
Date of publication: 24.01.2020
Last edited: 24.01.2020