The Wagner Journal

Paula M. Bortnichak and Edward A. Bortnichak, Dream Work: The Inner World of ‘Die Meistersinger’

Paula M. Bortnichak and Edward A. Bortnichak, Dream Work: The Inner World of ‘Die Meistersinger’

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March 2021, Volume 15, Number 1, 4–25.

The Romantic era was marked by an obsession with the blurred border between the real and the imagined; waking and dreaming. It was often in dreams, whether through natural sleep or by substance- or meditation-induced altered consciousness, that artists of this period found their greatest inspiration and produced their most profound masterpieces. Witness William Blake’s visionary portraits of the departed greats of history in the so-called Blake–Varley Sketchbooks (1819–20), Lewis Carroll’s dreamlike Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), the nightmarish late poetry of The Raven (1845) from the alcoholic hallucinations of Edgar Allen Poe, and the dream of the Blue Flower which frames the fantastical stream of consciousness narrative of Novalis’s Henry von Ofterdingen (1802). Works so inspired are commonly referred to as ‘Dream Art’ to signify either their direct genesis in dreams or their characteristic dream-like features. The creative masters of the 19th century probed motivations submerged in the unconscious mind and exposed the innermost thoughts, hopes and fears of their fellow humans in this age of the birth of disciplines, including that of modern psychology. Even though also powerfully stimulated by the natural wonders of the physical world around them, this was a generation of artists that ultimately looked inward for their inspiration.

Few figures in the history of Western art have left as extensive a record of their life-long fascination with all manner of altered consciousness states as has Richard Wagner.

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