Thursday theme – When You Dream

Today’s theme song in ENGL 203-04 is “When You Dream,” from the album Stunt by Barenaked Ladies, released in 1998. Lyrics here.

The speaker, watching their new son sleeping, asks, “When you dream, what do you dream about?”

Reading the Alice books has made us ask a lot of questions about dreaming. Can I know when I’m awake and not dreaming? How do I know that I’m not part of someone else’s dream? Can the person in whose dream I appear be someone who’s also part of my dream? (Alice proposes just that possibility in the final chapter of Through the Looking-Glass.) Do children have a special relationship to dreams and to the fount of dream-creativity, imagination?

But in Tuesday’s class, we also asked some questions about the word about. What does it mean to say that the Alice books are “about changes?” Or “about the special relationship between children and imagination?” Or “about the inevitably fluid and unstable nature of conceptual categories”? Or just “about a little girl named Alice who has adventures in an imaginary Wonderland and on the other side of the looking-glass”? Continue reading “Thursday theme – When You Dream”

Physicality vs Substance

The ambiguity of identity is what makes it so convoluted in formulating a direct definition to encapsulate it’s core idea. The direct definition of identity is ‘the fact of being who or what a person or thing is’. However, that interpretation of identity leaves many blank spaces in the answer to our question; What actually is identity? Is it the state of being, or is it the narrative of being a physical entity.  We are given the idea that a person or thing is tied to a singular identity, however, when we change those circumstances, does it retain its identity?

In class, we briefly discussed the issue of identity in defining a book and whether it is the narrative of the book, or its physicality, that represents that definition. In Alice in Wonderland  by Lewis Carroll, questioning identity is a reoccurring and prominent theme. Multiple times, the story makes Alice and the reader question the reality of the situations. However, not all these questions of identity stem from Alice’s time in Wonderland. In the very beginning of the story, Alice and her sister were laying under a tree while Alice’s sister ‘read’ a book. “Once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversations?'”. The purpose of the ‘book’  is not the focus of this blog post, but rather the definition of such object as a book. Is the identity of the book validated by the physicality of the material its made of, or rather the narrative its meant to have?

 The identity of the book in regards to the passage is ambiguous because of the lack of answer. the passage toys with the question because Alice leaves it open for interpretation. As we have seen from class, the answer to this is up to perspective.  Many people may side with the physicality of the book as what defines its identity, while some may side with the narrative. However, maybe identity should stay ambiguous. Let it be what it is.