59 pages 1 hour read

Sigmund Freud

The Interpretation of Dreams

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1899

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Chapter 1

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis: "The Scientific Literature of Dream Problems"

In the first chapter of The Interpretation of Dreams, “The Scientific Literature of Dream Problems,” Sigmund Freud provides an overview of the existing literature on dreams. Providing this survey helps to set the stage for his own ideas, much like a literature review, which usually occurs at the outset of a research paper.

Freud begins by discussing the ancient beliefs surrounding dreams. “In spite of thousands of years of endeavour,” little progress has been made to penetrate “the true nature of the dream” (4). In ancient times, it was taken “for granted that dreams [...] brought inspiration from gods and demons” (4-5) and could tell the future (oneiric divination). Freud details several ancient classification systems on dreams and their theorists, coming mostly from the classical Greek world and, later, the European Middle Ages.

Throughout this history, certain figures such as Aristotle and Hippocrates began to take a more naturalistic outlook on dreams. For instance, Aristotle believed “that a dream converts the slight sensations perceived in sleep into intense sensations” (5). Freud's overview is important, as it establishes the historical background of the topic of dreams, the deep historical interest in dreams, and the long-standing belief in the supernatural and mystical nature of dreams prior to its scientific investigation.