Dream and Body in Diderot

Vanderheyden, Jennifer 2004. The function of the dream and the body in Diderot's works. New York: Peter Lang.

In the introduction to his Interpretation of Dreams, Freud states that he will demonstrate the possibility of interpreting the significance of the dream by examining its psychological structure. Rather than continuing a study of dreams based on their symbolic meaning (codified as a whole), he will examine the fragments of dreams in order to discover the desire or wish behind the repressed emotions of the dreaming subject. I propose a similar project: studying the function of the dream and its interpretation will in turn elucidate the function of the body's nonverbal communication. An examination of the psychological structure of this analogic communication based on dream interpretation will uncover the unconscious and noncodified speech of the body in Diderot's works. (Vanderheyden 2004: 1)
Thus Vanderheyden's aim is practically the same as mine.
Rather than continue an investigation of the inadequacy of words, or digital communication, to convey thought, this study explores the capabilities of the body's "painted" communication, especially as depicted artistically in literature and other genres through the concept of the tableau vivant, that is, a literary painting created by the narrator in which the characters are portrayed as if suspended in a state of oscillation between paralysis and movement. The narrator "paints" these bodies in two ways: as a visual description of their interactive expressions of sentiment and movement, and also as a composite or tableau for the reader to observe and interpret. As such, the tableau vivant offers a frozen glimpse of a momentary exchange that contains the possibility of emphatic communication. (Vanderheyden 2004: 1)
And of course the coalescent study of dreams and nonverbal communication takes literature and painting (that is, both body-articulations or concourse and body representation or visual concourse) as its subject matter.
The use of the term tableau vivant clearly maintains and supports Diderot's conception of the blurring of the plastic and verbal arts, the success of which depends directly on the ability of either the artist or the poet to portray convincingly the body's speech. In Diderot's De la Poesie dramatique, he writes of the importance of the body's soundless communication, and of the rapport between the pointer and playwright. [...] The "peintre du sentiment" has the capability to instill movement in his subjects. In addition, Diderot speaks of the body's mobility and of the writer's ability to depicts this movement so that the characters can convey adequately their feelings. (Vanderheyden 2004: 5)
The same point comes up in Poyatos. Basically, the study of concourse is the study of how the artist or writer conveys nonverbal communication with a verbal or visual means. In the end, such a study can benefit further artists or writers.
Although digital communication, or the spoken word, must be an integral element of any theatrical representation or work of fiction, gestures and pantomime can assist the spectator in ascertaining the character's feelings, especially because of their immediacy, spontaneity and rapid succession. Thus, the narrator must depict the characters' gestures and physical appearance in such a way that this tableau vivant resembles the composition of an actual painting in which the characters come alive for the spectator/reader. (Vanderheyden 2004: 5)
Nonverbal communication is important for the arts.
In fact, the term in French that approximates the English word "empathy" is that of sensibilite... (Vanderheyden 2004: 9)
That's because empathy was coined quite lately. It was either Lotze or Tichener who translated Einfühlung as "empathy". The older concept is "sympathy". Good to know what approximates it in French.
I investigate the fragmentary nature of the dream and its relation to the disjunctive syllogism implies in its segmented and rifting glimpses of meaning. If the spectator of the body's speech must supply "labels" of interpretation, it is because logical connections were lost in continual mediation. (Vanderheyden 2004: 14)
I think Langer may also be the source for Lotman in his Culture and Explosion when he talks about dreams being untranslatable into verbal language.
After a detailed discussion of the characteristics of analogic communication and its similarities to the phenomenon of the dream and to the unconscious, I establish the fundamental rapport between this oneiric communication and the primordial subject. When speaking of Nietzsche's characterization of the dream-state as primordial, Freud also referred to this unconscious state as "the archaic inheritance of man." Dreams and nonverbal communication take us back to the primitive interactions of man, to a presocial and preverbal existence where the Rousseauian "cri de nature" was the spontaneous signifying mode. I demonstrate the unique possibility contained in analogic/oneiric manifestations of thought for an approximation of an original subject situated before the intrusion of the myth of realism. (Vanderheyden 2004: 14)
I don't very much like the psychoanalytic bent of this author but she seems to be making some great points that I should investigate for myself.
Early references to the body's communicative role through gestures have been associated with the art of oratory. Born around A.D. 40, Marcus Quintilianus, known as Quintilian, described the power of gestures in his Institutiones Oratoriae: "How much power gesture has in a speaker, is sufficiently evident from the consideration that it can signify most things even without the aid of words." He specifies the importance of harmonious and graceful movements that do not distract from or contradict the accompanying spoken word. Quintilian presents detailed indications of the appropriate movements of the various parts of the body (including the feet), but what is most relevant to this study are his comments regarding art and mimesis. Speaking of the communicative efficacy of the body's mobility, he states: "Nor is it surprising that such signs, which must at any rate depend on motion, make such impressions on the mind, when even painting, a voiceless production, and always keeping the same form, penetrates into our innermost feelings, and with such force that it seems at times to surpass the power of words" (p. 360). As Diderot has exemplified in his Salons, the portrayal of the body in a painting, although static in form, contains expressive movements that communicate more effectively than words. (Vanderheyden 2004: 14)
Vanderheyden is quite abreast with the history of nonverbal communication, it seems. You can call bodily behaviours "body's mobility" but we still have to take account that "mobility" has a connotation of locomotion in English.
Schmitt quotes Marc Blotch's description of the three orders of feudal society, and the corresponding gestures. Blotch characterizes the gestures of feudal aristocracy as "gestes de sang," or warrior actions of protection. He describes the three orders as those of the men of the church, those of the warriors, ansd those of the manual workers (p. 209). An in-depth study of the various gestures of these social classes, along with other customs such as funeral protocol, may be found in Schmitt's comprehensive study. (Vanderheyden 2004: 18)
Today you could probably make the same distinction. There are religious gestures, military gestures and the gestures of laymen. Although, today you could probably view the movements of TV presenters, Youtube vloggers, fashion models etc. as different classes.
Obvious codified gestures include the head leaning on the fist as a sign of sadness, an embrace to connote peace, tearing out one's hair as a sign of grief, the postures of praying and other signs of worship, and the hand of God at the top of the painting in order to bless the figures depicted. (Vanderheyden 2004: 18)
These are examples of symbolic gestures. "The hand of God" I now realize refers to the hand that is placed on someone's head, the hand that mediates God. It could be, that is.
As mentioned above, what is most pertinent to this study is the repeated reference to codified gestures, or gestus. These were referred to by the classical writers to make the distinction between the "good" gestures of the orator as compared to the "bad" gestures of the actor or mime. (Vanderheyden 2004: 18)
Apparently this distinction was proposed by Jean-Claude Schmitt. I'm not well versed in French Medievalism, but Jennifer V. can mediate these writers.
The body in a trance-like o "possessed" state would be paradicmatic of these excessive and chaotic movements of the body known as gesticulatio. Contrary to the well-tuned and harmonious body that exemplifies modesty (even in certain religious dances such as David's dance), dissonant movements reflect a lack of control and suggest multiple meanings, such as in a disjunctive syllogism. (Vanderheyden 2004: 18)
Another connection between self-control and bodily behaviour. See also Haltung.
In his discussion of melodrama as a text of muteness, Brooks also compares this type of communication to the dream-state, especially because of the expression of "our most basic and determinative meanings" (p. 78). Any gesture or movement becomes significant, especially when related to the whole experience of the person in question. Brooks cites Eric Bentley and his writings on melodrama as one source, and it is to Bentley that I turn to end this historical perspective of the role of gestures. Speaking of the hyperbolic nature of melodrama, Bentley refers to the term Narranfreiheit as the "fool's exemption from common sense," and it is just this suspension of common referentiality that is present in dreams and in dream analysis. To quote Bentley: "It is as children and dreamers - one might melodramatically add: as neurotics and savages too - that we enjoy melodrama... The primitive, neurotic, childish mind does not exaggerate its own impressions." He continuos by describing melodrama as the "Naturalism of the dream life." The melodramatic body, desacralized, and, in a sense, desocialized, resembles the gesticulatio of antiquity with a major exception: the primary spectator has no legitimacy or sovereignty. (Vanderheyden 2004: 22)
At some point one has to remember that Vanderheyden is a French scientist and naturally inclined to make statements that don't necessarily make sense.
In this work [Steps to an Ecology of Mind], Bateson challenges our perception of reality and our openness to consider other levels of meaning. Similar to Watzlawick, he also signals the importance of redundancy and pattern in communication, and speaks of analogic communication as a metacommunication about the abstract contingencies of relationships. Complicating the interpretation of this communication is that the "algorithms of the heart and unconscious are coded and organized in a manner totally different from the algorithms of language" (p. 139). He continues by stating that dreams and art may provide an access to this region of the mind. (Vanderheyden 2004: 26)
We should not be surprised. Bateson and Ruesch coined "metacommunication" and Bateson later discussed dreams as well.
After all, certainly humankind dreamt before verbalizing formal language! (Vanderheyden 2004: 26)
A sweeping statement similar to my own statement that we imagine bodies and we imagine as bodies. It is indeed very possible that humans had dreams before they learned to speak. It seems to hold both phylo- and ontogenetically.
Absurdity in the dream may also demonstrate a contradiction (p. 299), but in general, the absurd elements contain the profoundest meaning that contains similarities to the working of the primitive aspect of humankind, a sort of inherent safety valve:
To be sure, we have called the dream absurd, but examples have shown us how wise the dream is when it simulates absurdity ... the dream relieves the mind, like a safety-valve ... the dream is 'an archaic world of vast emotions and imperfect thoughts'. ([Freud?] p. 443)
The dream and pathological displays of the body release the overloaded bombardment of representations that reality has come to entail. Gestures and the unconscious communication of the body result naturally when this safety valve is released. (Vanderheyden 2004: 30)
The argument seems to take this form: because dreams exhibit less inhibition it is therefore probable that dreams are more prone to free visualizations of bodies and behaviours.
As I mentioned previously, the dream and analogic communication exhibit many similarities. The lack of logic in a dream implies a lack of temporality, just as gestures are incapable of expressing the various verb tenses. In fact, the simultaneity of dream fragments and gestural expressions connotes an immediacy that transcends temporal concerns. (Vanderheyden 2004: 30)
Bateson (1969) similarly compares dreams to animal communication. In both there is no time - or at least no tenses.
The tableau vivant that the fantasy "stages" returns us to the paradoxical image of mobility within immobility, as an oscillation between paralysis and movement, marble and flesh. Alain Robbe-Grillet, considered a major theorist of the "Nouveou Roman," (although he has claimed that he does not view the movement as a particular school of thought) has compared immobility to the image of an arrow in full flight, an ideal demonstration of the paradox in question. When does immobility contain movement, and how is that movement communicated? Does the body's portrayal as a disjunctive syllogism allow any resolution? Is transgression of language by flesh more efficient than spoken language? What possibilities lie in the transformation of marble into flesh, and flesh into marble? (Vanderheyden 2004: 42)
The static arrow in flight is, if I remember correctly, an antique syllogism. I must consider this in relation with visual concourse.
The sensation of inhibited will is closely linked to anxiety, which Freud ties to the libido and sexual impulses. (Vanderheyden 2004: 42)
Anxiety, perhaps, but not always with the libido and sexual impulses. Dystopian self-regulation is more closely linked to anxiety produced by the totalitarian environment.
In his text Body Work, Peter Brooks credits the preoccupation with the body as a "key narrative sign" as beginning in the eighteenth century with the rise of the novel (p. 26). To quote Brooks:
The work of social and cultural historians has more and more confirmed our commonsense view that the Enlightenment is the crucible of the modern sense of the individual, the individual's rights, and the private space in which the individual stakes out a claim to introspection, protection, and secrecy, including private practices of sexuality and writing... Within this private space, what often appears to be most problematic, interesting, anguishing is the body. (p. 26)
As was illustrated by the use of the guillotine, the body is held directly responsible for the actions it commits, and the same time acquires a new individuality and freedom. In a novel way, the body becomes a scene of discourse and is endowed with meaning and expression, from the private and manipulative bodies in Les Liaisons dangereouses, to the anguished and somewhat neurotic body in Rousseau, to the excessively painful and public display of the Sadian body. In Brooks's words, the "body is made a signifier, or the place on which messages are written... the result is what we might call a narrative of embodiment, where meaning and truth are made carnal" (Body Work, p. 21). (Vanderheyden 2004: 55)
This seems like a topic I'm sometimes approaching but still trying to stay away from, because it's not exactly the stuff of my own research. There is a distinct possibility for the study of body-motion communication to deteriorate into the study of body-motion (behaviour in and of itself) and then into the study of body.
Diderot exhibited a remarkable sense of the changing role of the body's representation, not only in his time but also in future centuries. Brooks's characteristic of the postmodern body as the "frenzy of the visible" certainly applies to Diderot's works, both theoretical and literary, for Diderot expressed his views on a wide range of artistic endeavors, and demonstrated in his fiction vivid descriptions of the characters involved. (Vanderheyden 2004: 55)
The post-modern body? You mean the surpassed body? Maybe I should give Herbert Blau (1991) another chance?
Like the dream, the body's dissonant and disjunctive communication must be deciphered through an absence of rapports that discordant and energetic melodies reveal by their spontaneity and mobility. (Vanderheyden 2004: 63)
Uh, okay then. I'm not sure what to do with "an absence of rapports" but I do see a connection between somatoception and nonverbal communication.
Representative of most of Diderot's writings and certainly that of the Salons, the dialogic mode provides the best platform for the speaker/author to communicate his thoughts because of the movement and openness involved. In addition, the bodies in a tableau vivant mirror this dialogic format: The bodies' communication within the tableau is dialogic, yet the tableau communicates as a whole, as a one-way communication, resulting in a monologic transmission to the spectator. An "approximate" definition or representation is the best one can expect from art and life. (Vanderheyden 2004: 67)
The tableau communicates as a whole because it involves, as Langer would put it, non-discursive symbolism. It is a one-way deal because the tableau does not respond (the statue may give the impression of movement, but it doesn't actually move).


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