Anatomy of the American Dream and American Nightmare

The introduction of this interpretation, synoptically focuses and frames the historical dialogue of the American speech communities, their mythological literature and the American marketplace of ideas. After the introduction a sample of American dreams and nightmares is presented.

Collecting American Dreams -or- American Autobiographies

One purpose for collecting dreams at the International Institute for Dream Research is to provide the basis for understanding National Dreams and their imagined landscapes and social psychological geographies. National myths and folklore provide generic narrative structures which represents a literary storehouse of thematic design. Individuals living in a speech community are shaped via cultural instruction to learn their nations and culture's literary mythological storehouse inheritance. Said another way, studying dreams is dependant upon studying the culture they were created in.

America is known as the land of dreams and dreamers with creative visions, America as the New World, was seen as a new spiritual beginning. As R.W.B. Lewis "The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century", pointed out, a culture and speech community expresses it's distinct nature through the dialogues surrounding the social problems the community is faced with in it's survival. With the American Adam a new literary tradition and Canon was created, one which increasingly rejected the old Eurocentric social, political, economic and religious dialogical archetypes, myths, fables and fairy tales.

In the beginning in order to cultivate a national dream, it was necessary to develop national literature. It is believed by some that the "Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin" is the defining moment and birth of a national "American" literature, identity and canon as it related to those in the international community of the time. The symbolic key American literary figures of the 19th century to develop the American style and literary tradition of metaphor, thought, literature and writing include Washington Irving, James Fennimore Cooper, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickenson, Mark Twain and David Thoreau.

These American writers emphasized the free will of rugged individuals struggling to define themselves against society. In the 20th century the writers to follow in this American tradition included Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Margaret Mitchell and J. D. Salinger. Thus, the "Great American Novel" is a canonical metaphor for social identity. As a Platonic sublime ideal it is achieved in a polyphonic idiomatic dialogue of American texts, whose aim writers strive to mirror in their work. In order to understand the American Dream they are required reading.

American myths, folklore and poetry reflect the literary communal visual cultural currents of enchantment and disenchantment of the American mind and imagination. The American marketplace of thought is reflected in dreams, film, literature, poetry, music and art, mirroring the embodied philosophy of Americans and American culture. The literary cultural idiom and personifications of America and Americans are varied and at times contradictory. The American dream visions below have been categorized into 4 sections;

  • American Politics,
  • Hollywood Dream Factory,
  • First Person America,
  • American dreams, American nightmares.

American Politics in Dreams -or- The American Body Politic

The dreams in the first section below are about what Richard Hofstadter called the "American Political Tradition". The dreams are not inclusive by any stretch of the political imagination, they are as a sample of the social psychology of the American political unconscious imagination.

America on Film -or- The Hollywood Dream Factory 

In "America on Film" Sam B. Girgus explores the drama of American history using Hollywood's dream factory lens of cinema. Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times" marked the historical psychological changes created by mass media influence and the culture industry, thereby transforming the American dream into the popular visual cultural perceptions of consumption in terms of body, sexuality, violence and love. The Hollywood dream factory has become a dominant cultural psychological influence on the dreams of those living in the "global village". 

First Person America -or- The American Collective Memory Project

This interpretation section is intended to act like Ann Banks "First Person America" where instead of a sample of first person "conscious" side, a sample of the "unconscious" (read dream) narrative life history side of the American Memory Project is revealed. 

American dreams, American nightmares

For David Madden "American dreams, American nightmares" the American dream was originally fueled by the escape from the European nightmare. While the American dream represents the light and hope, the dark film noir side (read IIDR article "Film Noir") can be viewed as the America dream gone wrong, creating the American nightmare. Disillusionment, disenchantment, depersonalization and the derealization of broken dreams is the common coin of the oppressed and disenfranchised. Below is a sample of American nightmares. 


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