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Brandell, J.R. (2004). Eighty Years of Dream Sequences: A Cinematic Journey Down Freud's “Royal Road”. Am. Imago, 61(1):59-76.

(2004). American Imago, 61(1):59-76

Eighty Years of Dream Sequences: A Cinematic Journey Down Freud's “Royal Road”

Jerrold R. Brandell

“The secrets of who you are and what has made you run away from yourself—all these secrets are buried in your brain—but you don't want to look at them. The human being very often doesn't want to know the truth about himself because he thinks it will make him sick. So, he makes himself sicker trying to forget.… Now, here is where dreams come in. They tell you what you are trying to hide. But they tell it to you all mixed up, like pieces of a puzzle that don't fit. The problem of the analyst is to examine this puzzle, and put the pieces together in the right place, and find out what the devil you are trying to say to yourself.”

—Dr. Brulov, in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound

The publication in 1910 of English translations of Freud's 1909 lectures at Clark University and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, as well as of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life four years later, accelerated the diffusion of psychoanalytic ideas throughout American culture in the first quarter of the last century. Indeed, William McDougall, a prominent psychologist, observed in 1926 that “a host of laymen, educators, artists, and dilettanti … fascinated by Freudian speculations” had “given them an immense popular vogue,” to the point where psychoanalytic terms and concepts became embodied in current slang (22). However, it was above all The Interpretation of Dreams, translated (like the Psychopathology) by A. A. Brill in 1913, that captured the public imagination, receiving wide exposure through newspaper articles, essays, and even detective stories (Hale 1971, 409-11). Not surprisingly, Freud's argument that the universal nocturnal phenomenon of dreaming provided compelling evidence for mental life below the surface of consciousness appealed especially strongly to screen writers and movie directors.

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