May 12, 2010

Saint-Denys and the first theories on dreams

Marie-Jean-Léon Le Coq, Baron d'Hervey de Juchereau, Marquis de Saint-Denys (1822 – 1892), sinologist, published anonymously in 1867 a singular book : Les Rêves et les moyens de les diriger (Dreams and how to direct them). Avant-garde, the Marquis de Saint-Denys described dreams in which the dreamer is conscious of dreaming and he suggested techniques to control these dreams. At the age of 13 years, the author began to keep a diary. He noted deficiencies in the conduct of his dreams. After six months of monitoring, he managed to fill holes in his dreamlike memory. For him, images of our dreams come from snapshots of memories, memory functioning as a camera. The spirit then recombines, during sleep, these snapshot souvenirs. In practice, the Marquis de Saint-Denys managed to control his "lucid"dreams.
This book is one of the first serious research on the subject. Marcel Proust will use it to write certain portions of A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). In 1899, the work of Saint-Denys will be cited by Sigmund Freud in his Intepretation of dreams. The book will also influence the surrealist André Breton, who names the Marquis de Saint-Denys in the first pages of Les Vases communicants (The Communicating Vessels).

Currently, the librairie Loliée offers :
  • St-Denys (Marie-Jean-Léon Le Coq, baron d'Hervey de Juchereau, Marquis de). Les Rêves et les Moyens de les diriger. Observations pratiques. Paris, Amyot Éditeur, 1867, in-8, Bradel binding in cream half-vellum (Paul Vié). First edition. Frontispiece in colours. From the library of the french writer Anatole France with a hand-written note.