You know how sometimes you have very vivid dreams shortly before waking? Sometimes what seems like one large complex vision? Grand and complete? Or rather, more likely, the marvel that is your mind rewrites and reconstructs bits and pieces, weaving and knitting and embroidering them into a thing. Which seems coherent and cogent at the time. Well, here’s one of these. It was big and colourful and was an image of a whole thing, a structure that was vast and lived and moved and breathed.
Seeing it, seeing it fade as I woke up, and re-member-ing it while waking up; followed by the usual sense of deflation: this was not an ecstatic dream-vision. What did you expect? What did I expect? Dreaming is just part of usual everyday life. Part of work: working on the “what next?” third post in the “Medievalising beginners’ French assignments and assessment: 2018 renovations and innovations” series (coming up next); thinking about other, longer-form and larger-shaped writing: the “Translating Rape in Flamenca” series which looks like it’s the central chapter of The C-Word Project, the Enimia project (featuring another massive marvel: a dragon), and The Hairy Apollinairian Beast; and designing courses for September.
And, and, and, and, … as those “ands” multiply and accumulate monstrously, one way to manage them is to collect them together and turn them into a single monster.
Current reading translated into the dream too, as expected with dreams. Nearly finished: Catherynne M. Valente, Space Opera. Savouring slowly, daily: Moby Dick—for the first time! at last!! and yes, it is extraordinary!!!—which makes everything weird. The kind of book (or other imaginative work) that changes the way that you look at everything around you when you’re not inside it; or rather, when it’s not inside you, which is what’s also happening at the same time when you’re reading immersively. When you put the book down—as you have to with something that massive—you realise that you’re still inside it and it’s still inside you even in those pauses between readings. A non-orientable object, appropriate for a whale and for a whole worldwide literary, imaginative, and analogical history of whales and whalishness and whaling.
Thinking about whales as they are in one of the courses I’m currently designing, RMST 221B, which is about medieval and pre-modern literature in the Romance vernaculars (taught in English and readings in English translation) and will be on the theme of “Animal Reading”; ex. the Navigatio Sancti Brendani in its Old French version.
As ever, there is no need to resort to Freud (or Freudianism and psychoanalysis) for interpretations of dreams: he didn’t invent and doesn’t hold copyright on either dreaming or dream-reading, both of them obviously having existed long before him; and having done so in cultures, ways of reading, and ways of knowing all around the world; and under it in layers of underworlds, subversive counter-cultures, resistant subcultures, and wild subtexts.
Flat-footedly and smaller-scale, it would be sensible to factor in post-operative recovery from sedation, a full moon, and this magical thing happened near where I live on Wednesday:
The dream looked something like this:
When I woke up I wrote some notes, after which I had coffee and breakfast to fortify myself for the task of reading and transcription. Then I wrote the razo above and selected this post’s image-punctuation.
Here are the transcribed notes.
Division of any work (book, course, assignment) into parts, organised (organically, as an organon) by:
—the 4 elements
—the 5 senses
—the common sense
—“and/or” above: a structure that’s not 2D linear (only 1 organising principle, as the y-axis) but a multidimensional network, not a route-map but a constellation
Plus 4D of time, movement, being a living changing thing.
Scaffolding assignments, to see their shaping neither as invisible steps before the miraculous presentation of a finished whole, nor as static lifeless modules fitting together (prefabricated parts and/or heavy guidance; analogy: children’s toys, jigsaw). But rather: emphasis on making and flow, and on going with that flow and thinking about it and of what it means to be in it, as much as about an(y) end result or end product. An architectural analogy that’s not merely mechanical, but alive: where the maker is only one participant in a living moving dynamic active (hopefully interactive) scaffolding. The other makers: others in a group, other parts of that maker (inc. reflection on learning), and the making itself. Tricky, slippery, sprouting and spouting.
—anatomical parts + systems + flow: humammal, other animal, and vegetable physiology
—geography, cosmology, world-mapping as world-making: ecosystem
—7 liberal arts, with the last stage being music
—trobar and its treatises, doctritz de trobar, grammars (and larger idea of grammar, and Martianus Capella)
Perception of a whole *as* a whole:
—knowledge, compilation, compendium, summa
—Aristotle, Avicenna, Aquinas, etc.
—big story-telling: weaving narrative out of key elements; narrativising; then gem-studding them; including and embracing decoration, interlace, marginalia. The commemorative intertwines with the mnemonic. Carruthers; Physiologus, Isidore, Brunetto, Matfre; Occitan chansonniers, 13th-14th c. Franciscan encyclopaedism and zoophilia. The book / book of wonders / wonderbook as at once also an animal and a living world. Zumthor, Kay, Zink, VanderMeer “Wonderbook.”
which is also / overlapping / morphing / digressing into RMST221B course planning
(There endeth the notes; and so you see why I’m sceptical of all Grand Theory that claims to be able to Theorise All Of The Things Everywhere Ever, because it often looks like notes scribbled down after a vivid dream; and all too often it is monstrous, becomes a monstrosity, and turns people into monsters.)
Short 4-image version of being troubled and haunted by something uncomfortable about the “scaffolding” analogy used in the scholarship of teaching and learning:
What whales are and what they could be: