Dreaming Mimesis

Robert Bringhurst in “Poetry and Thinking” in Thinking and Singing edited by Tim Lilburn.

But not to repeat. Mimesis is not repetition.

One way of answering that music [poetry as a music we lean to see, to feel, to hear, to smell and then to think and then to answer] is to sing. Humans, like birds, are able to make songs and pass them on. Human songs, like birdsongs, are part nature and part culture: part genetic predilection, part cultural inheritance or training, part individual inflection or creation. These are the three parts of mimesis. If the proportion of individual creation in human song is greater than in birdsong, that’s no cause for pride, though it may be very good cause for excitement. What it means is that nature and culture both are at greater risk from us than they are from the birds.

This tripartite taxonomy cries out for a folding onto another spot in Thinking and Singing. In the same book in an essay by Zan Zwicky “Dream Logic and the Politics of Interpretation”

That is: I think all, or at least many, of us are aware of primary-process-structured thought, at least from time to time. As I observed at the outset, its products marble our daily waking life in the form of slips of the tongue, and jokes — which, unlike dreams, do not tolerate much in the way of secondary process translation. They also apparently visit us when we’re tired, or moved, or, often, when we are confronted with certain kinds of spatial problems whose solutions may strike us as evident but difficult to reconstruct in words.

Zwicky’s invocation of spatial problems makes me wonder if the mechanisms of dream work as identified by Freud (displacement and condensation) can be mapped onto the three parts of mimesis as identified by Bringhurst. It is evident that any attribution of causation be it genetics, cultural training, individual creation can be displaced and ascribed to one or both of the other two. In other words one or two of the three parts can be repressed in interpretations.

Condensation (one dream object standing for several associations and ideas) would involve some sort of fusion of the three parts. This is where Bringhurst’s formulation of mimesis as an answer to the music of poetry may serve as an anchor point to the mapping we are projecting. The parts of mimesis respond through a sort of condensation to the various sensory modalities that guide our apprehension of the world, its music and its poetry.

And of course Freud identifies other processes in dream work. So there may be other ways to absorb the parts of mimesis into a practice of interpretation.

And so for day 1073

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