A Dreamland of Death: From Oneirography to Oneirofiction in William S. Burroughs’s My Education and The Western Lands

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Abstract

I propose a very descriptive analysis of the Land of the Dead, as it appears in 2 books by William S. Burroughs: the novel The Western Lands (1987) and My Education: A Book of Dreams (1995). Some dream reports already transposed in his diary are rewritten for the 1st volume and then later presented in the 2nd. I do not fully embrace any dream interpretation theory, but I come with various insights following different approaches, such as the ones of Carl Gustav Jung, Francis Crick, or Michel Jouvet. To carry on the comparative approach, in some points of my account I make references to Jack Kerouac, another beatnik who published his dream diary, Book of Dreams (1960). Even though Burroughs could be described as postmodern, hypermodern, or even amodern (Murphy, 1997), all 3 volumes reflect, in diverse, implicit, or explicit ways, a mythical modernist aspect: the recurrent oneiric space of death, which presents several features I will discuss (such as phantom vs. body, public vs. private, breakfast problem), regarding an urbanistic dystopian topography.

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