“When I’m dreaming back like that I begins to see we’re only all telescopes.”

Joyce, Finnegans Wake



Dream-analysis does not necessitate an affirmation of the existence of universal structures of expression; it need not amount to the tiresome interpretation of the same hidden message over and over again, wherein the forms of thinking and speaking and finally reality itself are rendered identical, cruelly reduced to a single and all-encompassing formula. It suffices to mention that the good doctor Freud would have us believe the dream-work is essentially uncreative, that it amounts in the end to an organic process of coding, one of unsteady translation between the sleeping consciousness and the passive unconscious, producing a kind of dense hieroglyphic writing which must then be interpreted through an analytic exchange. 

The dream understood as writing (even schizowriting) becomes poisoned; the dream taken as representation leaves us only with a kind of mindless condensation and confusion of many distinct memories. Even so, the messages are too free; Freud always seems to lose sight here, missing the material process of decoding unfolding before his eyes. We miss the dream-work entirely, we find only translation instead of production. Freud is neither the last nor first scientist to seek relentlessly to crush singularity in favor the universal — a strange moment where it seems reason itself has gone mad, engaging itself in an infinite and searching analysis “beneath” for some powerful and profoundly-hidden writing. It is this desire for some universal “meaning” disseminating itself through the dream in a distorted form which necessitates the uncreativity, the non-productive character Freud ascribes of the dreamwork. And thus the dream has already frozen, and becomes a little analysis in itself.

The interminability of the analysis corresponds precisely with this frozen process, this hideous arresting of the infinite circulation of the dream. It is only possible to open psychoanalysis to the outside by arresting its own process of continuous interpretation: “No longer are there acts to explain, dreams or phantasies to interpret, childhood memories to recall, words to make signify; there are colors and sounds, becomings and intensities… There is no longer a Self that feels, acts and recalls; there is a ‘glowing fog, a dark yellow mist’ that has affects and experiences movements, speeds.” (ATP 180) It is clear enough a non-productive unconscious could not produce a cure; such an unconscious could only accept one imposed from without, a cure intended to code and crush desire — to normalize our unconscious, not to assist its process of production. 

This entry was written by Joseph Weissman and published on Friday, February 20, 2009 at 8:40 pm. It’s filed under coding, Deleuze and Guattari, dream, freud, joyce, production, psychoanalysis, unconscious, writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

14 thoughts on “Dream

  1. Hey Joseph,

    I just wanted to thank you for writing this article. It seems to offer a fourth position contra Freud, Levi-Strauss, and the neurobiology types who imply that dreams are random synaptic explosions. Your thoughts are always fascinating, but especially so when they converge with my own interests.

    Best to you,


  2. You’re welcome, and thank you for your comments!

  3. Of course such a line of thinking also allows us to see other grounds for forms of “symptomology” also as creative. The viral infection as creative, the infection, the broken bone…and ultimately, the death.

  4. Ideologically, I’m very much in agreement, and yet while in -atp- we have this kind of attitude towards hermeneutics, Deleuze still draws upon Freud in -DR- in order to set the foundations for repetition. It’s also worth remembering the role that fantasy plays in Freud, that it’s an act that must always be constructed through psychoanalysis. In -essays critical and clinical- deleuze is clear that “a child is being beaten” does not HAVE to mean that “the father is beating the child i love,” but that is not Freud’s thought. Rather, Freud says that that interpretation is constructed through analysis. The incidident that the child was being beaten never happened and yet it is the fantasy that the child was beaten that is an act of creation.

  5. Robert,

    Sorry for not getting back to you sooner! I did not really mean to go after Freud as much as this particular notion of dream-analysis, an interpretation-process which hinges upon the uncreative character of the dreamwork. A “constructive” analysis still aims to grasp a dream’s “meaning” and articulate it through a particular (semiotic-political) pragmatic framework. Closing the aberrant line off into a little black hole-complex, a holey space populated by tactics aimed ultimately only at constituting the transcendental nullity of the Sign itself. The signifier of the signifier, the significance of the dreamwork, has never been the question: the dreamwork is creative, productive not of a hieroglyphic script but of a cosmos, of a new Earth.

    When I dream I am not analyzing what I dream, I am not ‘translating’ a message, I am engaged in a delirious process of becoming, adrift along a singular line of flight which singularizes itself, dramatizes itself to the degree that I become what I dream. Nietzsche says that there is nothing which we are MORE responsible for than our dreams; this is precisely where (to say it again) Freud asserts the dreamwork is uncreative, denies our responsibility for it, denying the delirious becomings it produced — and instead suggests analyzing it like it were an ancient message!


  6. Seems to me the dream-work at stake here is a poor re-production of rhetoric to be found in -atp- rather than a creative production of one’s own thought. For example, can a precise account of translation vs. production be wrought before proceeding upon its distinction? For the piece is held together by this bind, which is left unexplained & unsupported. The polemic against Freud pales against Freud’s work. Perhaps a more learned commentary upon _Beyond the Pleasure Principle_ would yield some surprising accounts in Freud — that would, moreover, startle & disturb much of what is writ here.

    • Some of this is probably fair. I happen to think it’s important to realize that Freud makes a point of calling the dreamwork “uncreative” in several different places. That’s really the claim I care about, as it’s particularly symptomatic of an analytic reduction; it’s less a science than the art of deducing a foregone conclusion in a closed system.

      As to your larger point, I do not really think the distinction is in fact confusing: the desire of the translator is to be a medium of the transmission of discourse, thereby producing a second, “indirect” discourse; whereas the desire of the producer is to create (new forms, expressions, contents) directly.


  7. So I’ve been rereading. Freud is definitely brilliant, but I still believe he is doing more or less what I’m talking about.

    I’m always willing to discuss the texts themselves if something in particular occurred to you which you read as disturbing the basic logic of this piece.

  8. Polemic against Freud? I find that hard to believe. That would truly be a poor reiteration of Deleuze and Guattari’s project. There is no need to polemicize…does anyone really find Freud captivating anymore, even brilliant, as Joe has so graciously added, besides this disgruntled reader? It’s not against Freud, it’s for Guattari, and there is a difference: you don’t try to kill what’s already dead, especially not with the fact that the issues of the former do not even come close to addressing the complexity of the issues of the latter. Not even to save Freud through Lacan, but to burn them both on the asignifying altar of new subjectivities…rather than resurrecting an exhausted and “interminable” discourse/analysis.

    It makes sense that someone with investments in Freud would take offense at a Deleuzo-Guattarian reading of the dream, for example. There is much to be feared, and instead of insisting that we “go back” to Freud’s Pleasure Principle, maybe you should look forward to Anti-Oedipus. After that we can talk about a return.

  9. I do not think it is entirely inaccurate to link writing with the dream; nor even to argue further that the material production of dreaming involves a kind of mysterious “writing” which is “translated” into “reality.” But precisely here I believe there is a trap, an intellectual blind-spot which we must fully understand if we are to avoid.

    There is a resistance which is capable of completely strangling the scientific psychological will; and of course Freud begins from precisely at this point. An inner resistance exists in the mind which is powerful enough to divert our attention completely away, to draw us back to the very beginning just as we are in reach of the goal — the truth about us, about our desires.

    Now, it appears to be Freud’s opinion — echoed and formalized by Lacan — that this “primary repression,” in effect, produces a kind of self-complicating element in the interpretative problem itself, exemplified by transference: a contradiction with the situation itself which leaves us without the power to question, without even the power to affirm or deny — things simply “are as they are,” we are already characters in a narrative, we cannot even doubt it.

    However, is it not clear that such an act of unconscious translation or appropriation itself speaks of an immense productive apparatus? And yet one may “read” a dream as one “reads” a novel? Is this not pure nihilism? It is only honest to recognize that this interpretative process expresses a certain desire, one which supports specific mental resistances linked to collective machines of all kinds. We are prevented from correlating the contents of our own expressions: “primary repression” essentially engages in seducing us to “give in,” to provoke us to admit we are guilty, to force us to repeat the same tired refrains over and over again — which is really precisely the point.

  10. Taylor — thank you for demonstrating the meaning of polemic in your own response. For why are you assuming that I find “offense,” here? You presume much without evidence. That is polemic. No one needs more cheerleaders for D&G. We need thought. But it takes some time to break from one’s master-texts. Indeed. I would guess that offense can be found at this: for combative stances are rarely found among the initiated. Don’t worry, all stances can be reaffirmed by attending a head-nodding conference of yr favourite philosopher. Like church.

    As for looking forward to -AO-, that particular text is some 40 years old. Forward means: toward what is not yet writ. That be accelerant. /ffwd/.

    JW: I appreciate yr response. We all know it is easy to attack Freud, especially when he is compacted for easy digestion. Especially when others have already done so, many times already, and provided the basic framework to do so. But here is a question, JW: what does Freud mean by ‘uncreative’? What, precisely, is un/creation in Freud? For it is not ‘creation’ vis-a-vis the plenitude of desire to be found in Deleuze. Rather, the creative in Freud, or Freudian desire, relates to the displacement of the desired object (lack). D&G will call this a ‘partial object’ in -AO- & -ATP- (Guattari introduces the term, direct appropriation of Lacan’s petit objet a — which we know from -The A-O Papers-, in case anyone ever doubted it). In short, the creative in Freud does not mean the same thing as the creative in Deleuze: in Freud, the creative desire is that of lack; in Deleuze, the creative arises from the infinite virtual of becoming. Thus, what does Freud mean by dreamwork being uncreative? Hypothesis: that it might not have something to do with desire (lack) as simplistically thought. The uncreative, in short, might in fact be closer to the Deleuzean creative, by way of negativity, in the sense that its repetition has something to do with the novelty of an event. And what if we read Freud this way, what then? It means we remove a target and reintroduce an ally. Sounds kind of Deleuzean, eh, searching for difference rather than embracing absolute negation of the object?

    As for the reading of translation/transmission:

    “the desire of the translator is to be a medium of the transmission of discourse, thereby producing a second, “indirect” discourse; whereas the desire of the producer is to create (new forms, expressions, contents) directly”

    Perhaps an alright starting point, sure. But why is production not already translation, even traditionally from concept to material, or en proces, among constituent elements of a formation, toward the unity or fragmentation of a text and/or object? Or: why is not translation not essentially production, a creative act? Surely the last 20-30 years in translation studies has upped the ante on this one: translation is very much a creative re/production, which is to say, rewriting, of that which is already a translation en proces by virtue of its creative re/production. Processual logic? Indeed: it is resampled from D&G:

    “This problem [that of mimesis/imitation] is in no way behind us. Ideas do not die. Not that they survive simply as archaisms. At a given moment they may reach a scientific stage, and then lose that status or emigrate to other sciences. Their application and status, even their form and content, may change; yet they retain something essential throughout the process, across the displacement, in the distribution of a new domain. Ideas are always reusable, as they have been usable before, but in the most varied of actual modes.”

    – D&G, -ATP- 235 (english)

    This some 13 pages before the excellent critique of blindness in Freud & Ferenczi to becoming-animal — which has more to do with the postulates of a humanism than the meaning of un/creation.

  11. You’re right, tV, there is no real need for my own polemics or my cheering. I supposed your wisecrack at atp to be an “offense” of sorts. And I appreciate your means of taking me up on my ‘challenge’ to read Anti-Oedipus.

    We are obviously privileging different theoretical aspects, and it would be interesting to have a reconciliation. What I find most intriguing is your reference to Deleuzian repetition, which is where things shift and the terrain moves from Capitalism to Schizophrenia onto Difference and Repetition. I find the treatment of Freud here to be much more oriented towards this problematic, maybe even touching up what you call uncreation.

    In any case, I suppose I was articulating the break between D+R and C+S (in my own polemical way). Doesn’t the landscape for the link between Freud and D+G become strained here? Here they break with desire as lack.

    On the other hand, in D+R there is already a critique of negativity, arguably the same critique that lays the foundation for the ‘break’ in Capitalism and Schizophrenia.

    To be honest, I never meant offense at responding to you, I only felt provoked to return fire for what seemed like fire to me. At least this is the kind of fire that can be played with. Thank you for still conserving your edge here, too, and I also must say that I find your juxtaposition of Freud and D+G to be insightful.

    What I want to end on is not that Freud is irrelevant due to D+G or that they are irreconcilable. But that, in a sense, Deleuze never stops privileging other psychoanalysts, like Jung per se, even at the beginning of his career (I’m thinking of Kerslake’s book on Deleuze and the Unconscious). What are the reasons for Freud being an adversary or a target? For I know Deleuze would never polemcize against Freud willy-nilly (he claimed to have hoped to have never hurt any philosophers’ feelings, even Hegel’s). At the same time, even Guattari says he finds the structuralist psychoanalysts to be much more dangerous and misled than the Jungians, Freudians, or Reichians. There, too, I feel that Guattari doesn’t want to just say, hey, Freud’s in the past, but I do feel that much of his critique of Freud is based upon this relationship with Lacan (as you noted). So then, if Zizek is somehow right to claim that Freud is ok for Victorian unconscious analysis but for capitalism you need Lacan’s version of the ‘subject,’ then what does Deleuze and Guattari have to offer? That’s all I was trying to say, because I don’t think Joe’s original post can be claimed to be a “poor re-production of rhetoric to be found in atp.” I found that somewhat harsh, and it should be noted that atp is quoted from once and very tangentially and should not be considered even the main work to be considered here.

  12. tV,

    Thanks for your clarification. You certainly may be right — but I’m just not sure I buy this line of thinking. To my mind, the uncreative character of the dreamwork is presented as a clear prerequisite of the ability of the analyst to construct a map of condensations and displacements. Only from such an associative logical blueprint could a scientific dream-translation or interpretation can be “suggested.” The contents of the dream are thus summarily reduced to a universal and abstract structure. Freud comprehends the surreality of dreams only on the basis of a logical map of desires; however, it is simply the case that the methods by which such a map can be constructed place unconscionable limitations on the analysand. Specifically, the desires expressed by the dream are not “permitted” to be productive — in short, to be desire, to give rise to singular lines of transformation. Our dreams are frozen, arrested in the very process of becoming. We find dreams are treated by Freud simply as symptoms: signs of desire to be translated using a universal dictionary…

    You’re right in a sense when you say translation is production. My thinking here is that understanding a process in terms of translation generally yields a very different model than understanding the same process in terms of production. The issue is complex, and I very likely elided the subtlety of the relationship.

    Just as a side note, the motor force of this post is more likely a bit of Guattari I came across in Chaosophy rather than ATP. If you’ve not read it yet, I definitely recommend it — not to mention the fact that Taylor helped translate several of the articles.

    Alright. Thanks for pushing back!!


  13. Taylor:

    “We are obviously privileging different theoretical aspects, and it would be interesting to have a reconciliation.”

    Oh no, let’s avoid reconciliation. Sounds a little too classically Hegelian to me, like our individual Geists are going to get together & have a big hug-in or something… let’s instead raise a toast — to what might be done out of this, eh? Let’s built a little fire & pass the pipe. For this kind of exchange, hopefully, makes us all rack our brains — on the nature of dreams.

    “In any case, I suppose I was articulating the break between D+R and C+S (in my own polemical way). Doesn’t the landscape for the link between Freud and D+G become strained here? Here they break with desire as lack.”

    Yes: I think you are correct, and this break is always contextualized in different ways, as I am sure you are aware, that -ATP- was a polemical text, -D&R- the philosophical one. Point being -ATP- was to get people off the couch as the ’60s wound down; -D&R-, however, is more or less Deleuze’s most elaborate statement of his philosophical positioning. This is how ‘philosophers’, see it, at least. But I am less sure there is a break, more interested, then, at the crucial nature of strategy for Deleuze: for if Deleuze positioned his texts this way, what does this say about the entire project of writing (philosophy)? That it is indeed strategic (and not metaphysical). In this respect, such a Deleuze would have a lot more in common with Derrida, who often wrote of the *strategy* of deconstruction in the late ’60s, and made the strategy itself a themeatic of his work for over a decade. Deleuze, by contrast, buries strategy implicitly, though he & Guattari keep coming around to the question in -ATP- (Joe, your language often embraces it: lines of flight, etc; the entire geospatiality of blockages & lines & spirals & black holes comes out of a need to rethink strategy in dead-end capitalism and just-as-dead statist socialism).


    “To my mind, the uncreative character of the dreamwork is presented as a clear prerequisite of the ability of the analyst to construct a map of condensations and displacements. Only from such an associative logical blueprint could a scientific dream-translation or interpretation can be “suggested.””

    Yes, I see what you are saying, and yes: Freud sets a map which at times appears the more inflexible. Though one must ask (a) where does it come from? For Freud sets this out too, and sex/uality certainly is not a mere trifle in human existence, nor is the binarism of gender/sex, nor the master/slave dialectic at stake here, in the eros & death drive; and (b) at what points does Freud seem quite uncertain of himself, and here is certainly -Beyond the Pleasure Principle-. But perhaps more interesting is the connection here to what you name ‘scientific’ — for it might lead one to think that all science first requires a framework from which results are predetermined. Science, at least formally by the scientific method, operates by the opposite fashion, insofar as the only framework is the method itself, and the results are to be empirically proven. I feel like Freud really needs to be brought head-to-head with Bruno Latour here: if Freud is trying to stake out a science (and psychoanalysis birthed the ‘science’ of psychology, psychotherapy, and so forth), then we must ask if the act of proof is in the ‘laboratory’ of the human only? In any case, a digression.

    In closing, if you haven’t read it, hunt down Abraham & Torok’s _The Wolf Man’s Magic Word_, foreward called ‘Fors’ by Derrida. If you think D & G’s reading of the Wolf Man as a multiplicity, becoming-animal, and so forth is the way to go — insofar as it opens dreams to the greater becoming-multiplicity of the world — then this will, perhaps, go a little farther. Here language itself contains within the translations of its phonemes ghost architectures of multiplicity, to the point where the words uttering from one’s mouth are from sealed points of rupture within consciousness: I, the automaton, speaking in tongues. It’s a fascinating analysis, and worthwhile. I often wonder if becoming and multiplicity itself became something of a ‘framework’ or ‘structure’ that has hindered contemporary thought from thinking past D&G’s dreams..

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