Poetics of Women's Autobiography

Dreamer: Kathleen, 92, American

Life Writing, Literature and Dreams -or- The Poetics of Life, Light and Hope

Can humans sense when their life time is coming to an end? Can dreams provide sign posts? My mother who is 86, has been having some health problems the last year or so. Recently, I had an uncommon style of dream, in that usually my dreams are more verbal and dialogically oriented. This dream however was one simple symbolic image, the natural image was of the moon in its final phase of the lunar cycle. What I could see, was a small crescent of light on the moon's surface, the last rays of light of the old cycle. The moon has often been culturally associated to women and the menstrual cycle. Light in Ernst Bloch's "The Principle of Hope" is associated to poetic utopian hope, versus the poetic darkness of dystopian despair.

While I am uncertain about how much time my mother really has, I am certain from my dream and the dreams that my mother has told me, that her biological life cycle has moved into its final phase. Using Erik Erikson's model of psychosocial development during the human life cycle, my mother is now in the "wisdom" phase, where the primary existential question that is being pondered and retrospectively reflected upon is; "Have I lived a full life?". While Erikson calls this stage "Ego integrity versus despair", more accurately it reads as the emotional problem of the ego's sense of hope and happiness versus despair and depression". From a popular film culture perspective, the Hollywood classic "It's a Wonderful Life" underscores such an emotional life review.

Others have reported similar dreams to the IIDR, here is one of them.

Kathleen, 92, American

This was a dream my mother (Kathleen) had in August of 2005. She was 92 and she died Oct. 2005. She told me that she had a tap on her shoulder, in her dream and turned and it was her father. He embraced her. Before I could comment she turned and walked out of the room saying, "It was a substantial dream." She was overcome and teary. She felt it was warning her that the end was near. (This is her dream not mine so I am filling in her age etc.)

Mr Hagen's Reply: Poetics of Women's Autobiography -or- Autobiographical Theatre

Interesting dream.

In the dream your mother "turned" and it was her father. Turns, and figures are the stuff of poetry are made of. Is death not the final poetic rite of passage turn, figure and gesture in one's life? Whether the dream is about her personal father and/or the figure of father in heaven is uncertain, what is clear however, is the poetry of your mother's life and her death. At the end of one's life the poetic autobiographical substance of one's life is preserved (for example) in elegies, eulogies, epitaphs and obituaries. These are written to lament the passing of a life. Dreams help to celebrate the poetry of life and death.

For a better understanding, Sidonie Smith has written a very insightful book called "A Poetics of Women's Autobiography". Smith cites Wilhelm Dilthey's influence and his "call of history grounded in autobiographical documents". The dream is the archetypal prototype of all autobiographical documents and the history of the marketplace of ideas which is well dialogically rooted in the Socratic method.  

The dream can be viewed as an autobiographical theatre, which is a place where the actor is also the author who creates a life story. In this theatre of life writing, what is in the narrator's head and heart is laid bare. Dream research provides insight into this individual and collective theatre of memories of everyday life and times of those living in the global village. From a popular music and lyrical perspective Barbra Streisand's "Memory" (watch music video/the moon light plays a metaphorical role in the song) conveys the poetic sentiments of biographical remembering.

Kathleen's Reply:

Thank you Mark for the reply. Strangely, my Mother did write poetry and also lived her life as if it were a poem. The figure was my grandfather, her father, and he was very close to her. She had actually "seen" him out the corner of her eye just before my father died. I know by substantial she would mean almost like real. What a nice summation of her dream.

 Once again, thank you. 

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.