Eleni Kefala

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20042005 Forum on Sleep and Dreams

Eleni Kefala

Comparative Literature

Inside/Outside the City of Dreams: Dreaming (of the ) World(s)

For Homer, in The Odyssey, dreams work in parallel with and as additions to reality. The topos of dreams forms the space of encounter of three different worlds: the world of humans, the world of the Gods, and the world of the dead. Dreams form the locus where premonitions, advice, or even threats can reach humans from the other worlds. Conceived by Homer as an adjunct to reality, the City of Dreams allows the possibility of entering and leaving. In J. L. Borges’ writings (the city of) dream is reality inasmuch as reality is the outcome of a dreaming God—the poet himself—who constructs and deconstructs the world interminably with his words—the Wor(l)d. Specifically, Borges’ work constitutes a constant speculation on the philosophical problem of knowledge with respect to the world. For Borges, the world we perceive as real is essentially a construction (a dream) of the human mind as it attempts to impose meaning on a chaotic and meaningless world.


Dr. Kefala uses a comparative approach to the literary and philosophical topoi of sleep and dreams in the work of Homer and Borges. Borges, who blends Eastern and Western philosophy, ideology, and religion in his fiction, invites in-depth analysis to explain overlapping notions from philosophers from the Western tradition as various as Plato, Aristotle, Berkeley, and Schopenhauer. Buddhism’s influence on Borges is also examined.