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Four phases of the project

The project’s four phases, each lasting approximately 12 months, are outlined below with their objectives:


1. Latin early Christian sources (200-1000 CE)

  • Place patristic dream literature in the context of Classical Greek and Latin dreambooks (e.g. Artemidorus’ Oneirocriticon) and medical works on sleep theory (Dossey 2013); compare with recent neurocognitive development theory (Domhoff 2003).

  • Trace the development of a distinctly Christian theory of dreams in Latin patristic writers up to the early Middle Ages, including Tertullian’s De anima (ed. Waszink 1954), Lactantius’ De opificio Dei, Institutiones, and De ira Dei (ed. Brandt and Laubmann 1965); and Augustine of Hippo’s De quantitate animae, Confessiones, and De civitate Dei (cf. Dulaey 1973), and On Dreams, Synesius’ allegorical interpretation of dreams from 405-6 CE. Identify its Classical influences and any legitimation of religious violence.

  • Identify roots in Jewish Scriptures and common interpretations in Talmudic sources, and their legitimation of religious violence through dreams.

  • Compare with other western texts on real dreams, classifying according to Kenny (1996), in hagiography or the Lives of saints, e.g. the Miracles of Saints Cyrus and John, whose shrine near Alexandria became a site for incubation in the seventh century; Martin of Tours’ Glory of the Martyrs, a celebration of Gallic saints; and Gregory the Great’s Dialogues; consideration of the lay/monastic/clerical elements of Gregory’s target audience. This will include analysis of religious authority and the use of violence in lay and monastic contexts. Compare findings from western canon law, or the Acts of church councils, to determine ecclesiastical attitudes to dreams. 


2. Greek early Christian sources (200-1054 CE)

  • Analyse late-antique Greek Christian sources on dreams and religious authority, e.g. hagiographic texts such as the Apophthegmata patrum, the sayings of the Egyptian desert fathers,  for  whom divine and demonic visions  were  a  common occurrence; pseudo-Daniel’s Oneirocriticon and its Latin translation, Somniale Danielis (ed. Martin 1981); classify real dreams using Kenny’s (1996) taxonomy.

  • Compare with Latin sources (cf. phase 2): do differences emerge that may be ascribed to East/West divergence on the legitimation of violence and religious authority by dreams?

  • Compare these with later Byzantine works, e.g. Oneirocritica of Germanus and Nicephorus (ed. Oberhelman 2008); and Paul Evergetinus’ popular text, Synagoge (ed. Laggis 1992-1993), which was aimed primarily at a monastic audience and drew heavily from Gregory the Great’s Dialogues (see Wortley 1994; Louth 2013).

  • Compare with findings from Byzantine canon law on both dream texts and religious violence.


3. Arab Christian and Muslim sources (800-1000 CE)

     Analyse the tenth-century Oneirocriticon of Achmet, an Arab Christian text written in Greek (later translated into Latin),

     and its Muslim Arabic sources, as identified by Mavroudi (2002). This will reveal the mutual influence of Christian and

     Islamic  dream theory in this period. Compare this with the early Muslim texts discussed by Lamoreaux (2002).


4. Comparative analysis and dissemination of results

     Compare the use of dreams as a tool for legitimation of religious authority and inter- religious violence in early Islamic                  dream texts, e.g. early traditions of the Life of Muhammed (see Shoemaker 2012; Mayer and Neil 2013), with their use in

     Jewish, Christian and pagan texts. The first outcome of the project will be the first study of dreams and their cultural

     significance in religious contexts from the rise of Christianity to the rise of Islam. A secondary outcome is a better

     understanding of the historical use of dreams to legitimise religious violence, and its relevance to modern religious conflict.

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