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C. Gantet, Der Traum in der Frühen Neuzeit (Eric Midelfort)

Francia-Recensio 2015/1 Frühe Neuzeit – Revolution – Empire (1500–1815)

Claire Gantet, Der Traum in der Frühen Neuzeit. Ansätze zu einer kulturellen Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin, New York (De Gruyter) 2010, VI–621 S., 18 Abb. (Frühe Neuzeit, 143), ISBN 978-311-02311-2-0, EUR 149,95.

rezensiert von/compte rendu rédigé par

Erik Midelfort, Charlottesville

It seems clear that early modern Germans were much interested in dreams and that they published extensively on what dreams were and what they might mean. The list of works published in German and in Germany during the seventeenth century (the VD17) registers 113 titles containing »Traum«or associated words, and the still incomplete VD18 lists another 279 titles. Scholars have long paid careful attention to the topic, but until now no one has successfully explored the shifting philosophical, medical, political, and religious basis for these early modern inquiries. In this revised Habilitationsschrift (FU Berlin, 2007), Claire Gantet sets new standards for the history of dreams by analyzing much more than just the works that explicitly treat dreams or purport to recount a significant dream. She does not offer a detailed discussion of what she means by a »cultural history science « (Wissenschaft), but her book is a splendid example of what she has in mind. She has patiently teased out the way in which the Renaissance revival of Platonism challenged Aristotelian and scholastic views of dreaming, a challenge that inspired thinkers such as Paracelsus to refashion the understanding of thinking, imagination, and perception. For scholars on both kinds, dreams could be divided into those of purely natural origins (of various sorts), those of demonic origin, and those that came from God or His angels. So long as the Bible was an unchallenged source of knowledge about the self, the possibly supernatural origins of dreams seemed incontestable, and dreams therefore might well represent God’s way of communicating with humankind. The Lutheran Reformation brought a profound new split over the nature of revelation and of God’s means of communicating with mankind. Dreams now became part of confessional debate, and Philip Melanchthon was famous for reforming the understanding of the soul so that both astrology and dream interpretation became valuable tools for understanding God’s interventions and the future more generally. His influence endured for generations. One challenge for any early modern scholar was that the Bible reported several meaningful dreams and thus seemed to validate the interpretation of dreams as prophetic. Occasionally it appears that Gantet is less interested in dreams as reported by early modern dreamers than in the developing structures in and through which dreams were understood. Hers is a learned volume that provides a remarkable intellectual and cultural history of the Holy Roman Empire from the age of Erasmus through the age of Kant, all filtered through the unusual lens of dreams. Gantet is alive to the competing claims of various academic specialties, and so she outlines the way in which medical views conflicted with or supplemented the insights and anxieties of courtiers and politicians and theologians. In the late sixteenth century, as worries about witchcraft rose to ever greater heights, demonic dreams became a familiar topic of dispute; were the supposed flights of witches or their pacts with the devil nothing more than sick fantasies or devilish illusions? The dispute between Johann Wier (Weyer) and Jean Bodin rested on more than their assessment of witchcraft and, as Gantet shows, depended also on how and how much one should trust one’s perceptions. The answer to that question had implications more broadly for one’s confidence in one’s own convictions or ideas. Another welcome area of her investigations is the widespread early modern notion that mystical visions were a form of dreaming; depending on one’s attitude toward mysticism, one might validate or excoriate such visions and »dreams«. The Pietist rising of the late seventeenth century led understandably to a large and controversial literature on such dreams. One conclusion that arises frequently is that early modern dreams were regularly thought to point forward in some way, as opposed to the familiar (often Freudian) model of dreams that somehow digested or reflected elements of the dreamer’s past. Gantet points to a major shift in the understanding of imaginatio,which in the early sixteenth century had been a »physiological«function that joined body to soul but did not produce what was later called self-awareness or self-consciousness. The debates over revelation and demonic influences later twisted this conception to emphasize the deceptiveness of the imagination. But witches and fanatics came to appear diseased in their imaginations. The upshot was that the imagination and dreams in general came increasingly to possess a fictive force, so that dreams needed to be understood through the lens of aesthetics. Physicians and philosophers of the eighteenth century built on this process in moving steadily away from any supernatural notions of dreams, even though they mostly avoided denying their possibility. By mid-century scholars such as Johann Gottlob Krüger recounted dreams that he had deliberately created as fictions to be judged in aesthetic terms. To this extent Gantet claims that dreams had become »psychologized«. Under the influence of Pietist dream diaries, accounts of dreams became a means of self recognition and self exploration, yielding information about one’s »unconscious«. But this was a different unconscious from what psychiatrists studied in the twentieth century because it did not yet possess any »motive force«. Raising such questions posed deep and unanswerable questions for Immanuel Kant, whose critique of Swedenborg tried to bridge the growing gap between the mechanical world of »dead matter« and the »pneumatic«immaterial world of living minds and spirits. Dreams and dreaming had become central to this discussion. In the wide range of her sources and the depth to which she pursues her questions, this book sets new standards and poses both new questions and important answers. My only complaint concerns the bibliography, which is extensive but unnecessarily complicated, making it difficult to consult.

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PSJ Metadata
Erik Midelfort
C. Gantet, Der Traum in der Frühen Neuzeit (Eric Midelfort)
CC-BY 3.0
Frühe Neuzeit (1500-1789)
Sozial- und Kulturgeschichte
16. Jh., 17. Jh., 18. Jh.
4015701-5 4070914-0 4060750-1
Europa (4015701-5), Erkenntnistheorie (4070914-0), Traumdeutung (4060750-1)
PDF document gantet_midelfort.doc.pdf — PDF document, 314 KB
C. Gantet, Der Traum in der Frühen Neuzeit (Eric Midelfort)
In: Francia-Recensio 2015/1 | Frühe Neuzeit - Revolution - Empire (1500-1815) | ISSN: 2425-3510
URL: https://prae.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-recensio/2015-1/FN/gantet_midelfort
Veröffentlicht am: 11.03.2015 11:25
Zugriff vom: 27.01.2020 02:24
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