The Stuff of Dreams... A Psychoanalytic Exploration of the Bio-semiotic Roots of Mind

By Anna Aragno.

Published by The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review

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Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” (1900) burst in at the beginning of a century of enormous upheaval in many areas of knowledge and remains a masterpiece of scientific observation—the cornerstone of psychoanalytic metatheory—though insufficiently appreciated then and now. It was through deciphering the grammar and syntax of a ‘primary process’ vocabulary that Freud arrived at his first topographical theory of mind, which is laid out in chapters six and seven. In the clinical practice of dream interpretation, we observe presentational pictographs of sensory-affective experiences, still tied to bodily feelings, in the very process of being transformed into emotionally cognized representations with interpretable meanings. Stretching from sensory-kinetic-affective bodily experience to memory, meaning, motives and desire; exhibiting proto-semiotic mechanisms of pre-linguistic tropes and cognition, with its metaphorical and manifest/latent structure, the dream is our MRI, a “royal road” into the human unconscious, as sharp an investigative instrument as can be found. Given this initial insight, Freud fervently believed that his theory of dreams held enormous promise for the study of mental evolution. He remained disappointed to the end that the value of this avenue of investigation had not been fully recognized. In the interest of generating an integrative paradigm, this paper addresses the transitional processes in the leap from body to mind, both phylogenetically and microgenetically, via classical psychoanalytic Dream theory. Taking up where Freud left off, I will go even further in claims that can be made regarding the scientific value of an informed examination of the representational mechanisms in the dream, viewing it and the linguistic interpretation of its meanings as a window into the very evolutionary roots of mind.

Keywords: Origins of Mind, Primary-process Grammar, Metaphor as Root Meaning-form

The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review, Volume 11, pp.13-34. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 991.494KB).

Dr. Anna Aragno


Anna Aragno, PhD, came to the US from Italy on a Fulbright scholarship. After graduate work at The New School Graduate Faculty, she completed her psychoanalytic training at Washington Square Institute and the supervisory program at Post Graduate Center in New York City in the nineties. Since then, she has devoted most of her time to writing and is considered a theoretical revisionist. Author of many scholarly papers, several chapters and two books, Symbolization: Proposing a Developmental Paradigm for a New Psychoanalytic Theory of Mind (1997) and Forms of Knowledge: A Psychoanalytic Study of Human Communication (2008), she divides her time between a private practice, presenting at conferences, and writing papers with a strong emphasis on metapsychological revisions. In pursuit of this interest, her affiliations have now expanded to include contributions to the field of Biosemiotics.