Sour Dreams: Dueling Nightmares in Frankenstein

The question of how to interpret dreams within a novel is one of the most contentious in all of literary criticism. The natural tendency may be to analyze them as though they were real dreams, which includes the implicit assumption that authors are capable of writing the same kind of dreams that our minds produce physiologically. Of course, the popular Freudian mode of interpretation owes much to the act of reading, imbued as it is with notions of symbolism and representation. Thus we are left with little solid ground to stand on, confident only in our impression that literary dreams must mean something, since they have been purposefully devised by conscious authors. The most famous scene in Frankenstein, in which Victor flees from his newborn creature into his bed, ends with a particularly mysterious dream sequence that features his beloved Elizabeth transforming into the rotting corpse of his mother. Seemingly concocted with an eye towards the graphical morphing technology of modern computers, the scene has acquired much of its current intrigue from the Freudian revolution in the early 20th century.

Yet Dr. Jonathan Glance rejects psychoanalysis as a useful tool for the interpretation of dreams in a pre-Freudian text, choosing...

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