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Archiv für Religionsgeschichte

Ed. by Bickel, Susanne / Frankfurter, David / Johnston, Sarah Iles / Pironti, Gabriella / Rüpke, Jörg / Scheid, John / Várhelyi, Zsuzsanna

Together with Beard, Mary / Bonnet, Corinne / Borgeaud, Philippe / Henrichs, Albert / Knysh, Alexander / Lissarrague, Francois / Malamoud, Charles / Maul, Stefan / Parker, Robert C. Y. / Shaked, Shaul / Stroumsa, Gedaliahu Guy / Tardieu, Michel / Volokhine, Youri

CiteScore 2018: 0.26

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.132
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.435

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The Stuff of Dream

An Aesopic Critique of Dream Interpretation

Adam Rappold
Published Online: 2014-03-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arege-2013-0007


This paper employs a little-discussed passage from the Life of Aesop, wherein the slave Aesop undercuts the dream-interpretation of his master, to comment on the broader status concerns of dream interpretation in antiquity. Specifically, extending Leslie Kurke’s (2011) framework in Aesopic Conversations, this paper identifies the depiction of Aesop as part of a more widespread ’demotic’ critique of high/elite wisdom culture, arguing that belief in the predictive power of dreams was a hallmark of elite culture. By doing so, it reveals that skepticism about the ability of dreams to predict the future was a trait stereotypically associated with ’low’ or non-elite culture, at least until the first century CE. Ultimately this allows us to defamiliarize our readings of ancient sources and to generate new interpretations, a fact which is tested on Socrates’ dream in Plato’s Phaedo. As a takeaway, this revised discourse about dreams undercuts modern scholarly assumptions about the relative status of believers versus skeptics in Greek religion. Perhaps most importantly though, through its framework for reconstructing and tracing the impact of literary stereotypes, this paper offers an attempt to glimpse true popular culture and a rebuttal to the claim that the ’inner thoughts’ of the non-literate cannot be understood.

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Published Online: 2014-03-26

Published in Print: 2014-03-01

Citation Information: Archiv für Religionsgeschichte, Volume 15, Issue 1, Pages 83–96, ISSN (Online) 1868-8888, ISSN (Print) 1436-3038, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arege-2013-0007.

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