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Title: Sleep and dreams in early modern England
Author: Carter, Jessica
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2008
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Thousands of pamphlets on dreams appeared in England in the period from 1500 to 1760. Many of them were concerned with the issue of determining the kinds of categories to which particular dreams belonged. For instance, the Kentish gentleman Reginald Scot who famously attributed supposed acts of witchcraft to the delusions of dreams also wrote on the "folly" of contemporary belief in divine dreams, and deferred to the expertise of physicians in distinguishing between natural and supernatural categories of dream. Similarly, the sixteenth-century dream-interpreter Thomas Hill argued that the "difference of true dreames from the vayn" including those arising from natural or demonic influences "ought diligently to be noted. "' Clearly, for these contemporaries the issues covered by discussions of dreams spanned a wide range of intellectual divisions from witchcraft to prophecy and medicine. Historians, on the other hand, have considered early modem dreams primarily in relation to their own narrow disciplinary divisions, separating topics that contemporaries saw as intimately linked. This study centres on the connections contemporaries themselves made among dream discourses; how medics viewed their role in distinguishing between natural and supernatural categories of dream; how theologians viewed medical interpretations of false prophecy and demonic dreaming; and the extent to which the arguments of philosophers grew out of political and religious concerns over imposture. It was these issues that shaped the ways in which accounts of dreams were understood, established the view of dreams as imaginations during sleep, and, because of their unique role in debates on authenticity, helped to determine the boundaries of verifiable knowledge.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available