I Had a Dream about my Future in Folklore

An interesting series of dreams over the last few nights, with last night’s dream perhaps getting closer to reality than might be desired. I dreamt that I was in a department that was undergoing a significant transformation — it was being re-formed or something of that nature — and everything was in flux. I have an appointment with the head of the department, but when I go to his office there are two faculty members present. I am, at first, put off by what was supposed to be a private meeting but the dream reality is ambiguous — I am early or maybe this is the way it supposed to be — but I decide to make the best of it.

The discussion begins with one of the other individuals, an aged woman, wondering what folklore is and why what I do is in any way special. I give a dependable, brief defense of the field, seeking to fend off the usual assumptions that it’s fairy tales and a cabinet of curiosities. But she is determined that folklore studies is trivial: her stance is not aggressive or mean-spirited, more a kind of focused indifference and ignorance that represents a kind of entrenched conservatism that isn’t unfamiliar to me in real life.

At first, I decide to push back, defending the discipline in some of the usual ways but also trying to be evocative — “folklore studies is the texts as people actually use them to create their reality” — where I can. But eventually I realize that even I can’t care that much any more: the institutional drift is against it, and I begin to speak more about my interest in narrative, deflecting the defense of folklore studies into a discussion of my own growing interest in, and preference for, narrative studies.

And, this morning when I got up to write down this dream, I saw a notice from [Academia.edu][] about activity on [my account][] there: already the posted paper from MLA on [“Using Topic Models and Morphologies to Understand Folk Narrative”][mla] has more hits than all of my work on material culture combined.

This is where I should have been all along.

[Academia.edu]: http://www.academia.edu
[my account]: http://louisiana.academia.edu/JohnLaudun
[mla]: https://www.academia.edu/4725693/Using_Topic_Models_and_Morphologies_to_Understand_Folk_Narrative

I woke from a dream this morning in which I had gotten a nice note from my editor, Craig Gill, outlining ways to be productive — he wanted to make sure I delivered the book on time. One nice bit of advice oneiric Gill gave me was: “don’t think of writing for ‘due by’ but rather week by week.” It was a longer sentence, and better put, but I remember the play on the word *by*. Given that the email had something like five or more bullet points in them, it’s interesting that the one that stayed with me is the one that has the more poetic dimension to it. We are discussing the second chapter of David Rubin’s *Memory in Oral Traditions* today in class: this would seem to support the assertion that formula create stability in memory.

Revisiting Old Dreams

For the second night in a row now I have revisited an old dream. It was/is an interesting experience.

In the first dream I was in a dune house, or a collection of structures that made up a single dwelling, preparing it for a party by making sure all the outdoor lights sufficiently illuminated the place such that it could be seen from the two-lane road that passed nearby — a sandy driveway curved between two dunes before opening into a large open area that was both a parking area and a patio. Inside the living area was where I recognized the structure from a childhood or adolescent dream: I had fought and/or been chased by some oppressive and/or dauntless force (monster or bad guy, who knows now?).

a dune house somewhat like the one in my dream

a dune house somewhat like the one in my dream

That was two nights ago. Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

Last night/this morning I dreamt I was making my way through a vast hotel/dormitory space. When last I was here, I was single, now I followed my wife and daughter, and at times my mother (so the women in my world — what signifiers!). We were, as I was before, in search of a particular apartment, but the structure was so large as to make even obvious attempts at location quite difficult to follow. E.g., the apartment/suite had a room number like 2Q176, which was something like floor-wing-suite. I panicked when I lost track of my family, but then, oh how technology can enter into one’s dreamworld, I called them from my cell phone to find out where they were. I scrambled up too narrow stairways — with too much wallpaper and carpeting I might add — which gave onto very plush lounge areas which were also perhaps a bit dated by their wall-to-wall carpeting, overstuffed furniture, wallpaper, and chandelier sconces. (Really? Is my unconscious furnished in a fashion I would find abhorrent?) Eventually the counselor is found, a professorial character with the hip/guru sensibility one images one finds among a certain generation of UC Berkeley faculty. Sigh, again the unconscious seems rather unimaginative. All I remember is walking with him to find a place to sit. This time we walked up, always up in this dream, on wooden stairs to find a place in a small cafe filled with wooden benches and tables to sit and talk. I can’t remember now what we talked about, if we talked at all before I woke.

What does it mean to dream dreams you have dreamt before? In both cases, dreams that were once filled with anxiety or dread or fear are now either more tempered, re-directed (the anxiety is on the momentary loss of my family), or inverted completely into one of welcoming guests: `anxiety => anticipated hospitality`.