Clara W. Chow

Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities

20042005 Forum on Sleep and Dreams

Clara W. Chow

International Studies & Business, French

College & Wharton '07

Myth and Mysticism : Mystic Yearning and Slumbering Conciousness

What if you slept? And what if, in your sleep, you dreamed? And what if, in your dream you went to heaven and there plucked a strange and beautiful flower? And what if, when you awoke, you had the flower in your hand? Ah, what then? —Coleridge

The world becomes a dream, and the dream becomes reality. —Novalis

According to Ludwig Binswanger, the Romantic period (1800–1865) was one of three great “dream renaissances” in history. The dream sequences and mystic moments in the works of English Romantic poets have elements that suggest that their art was their way of capturing the mystic union they attained in their dreams.

Although virtually unknown in English, Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenburg) was a towering figure in German poetry. He created the Blue Flower, the central symbol of the Romantic movement in Germany and the embodiment of the yearning of the age. I examine the dream vision that transformed Novalis into a Romantic poet: a mystical experience at the grave of his beloved 15-year-old fiancee Sophie von Kuhn. She became, for him, his "Spirit's Guide" and Saviour; Novalis came to identify her with the divine Sophia and with Christ. Through close textual analysis of Novalis's Hymns to the Night and a study of his unique, lyrical dream language, I show how Novalis fused Christianity with his love for Sophie into a religion by which he lived for the remainder of his short life.