Cappozzo (2015 Congress)

Valerio Cappozzo
(Department of Modern Languages, University of Mississippi)

“A Dictionary for Dream Interpretation: The Somniale Danielis in its Manuscript Sources”

Abstract of Paper presented at the 2015 International Congress on Medieval Studies
Session on “Predicting the Past: Dream Symbology in the Middle Ages”
Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
Organized by Valerio Cappozzo

2015 Congress Events Announced and 2015 Congress Events Accomplished

[Published on 29 March 2015]

This paper presents the results of research on the transmission of the Somniale Danielis in Latin and Italian manuscript sources. Widely circulated in the late Middle Ages, this dream manual was structured so that key terms in the text corresponded to the subjects of the dreams. The investigation yields an inventory of dream symbols, which functions as a dictionary with a comparative table of medieval dream symbols. Each entry provides the variants associated with one symbol, as recorded in the examined manuscripts, and shows all the existing variations in meaning, with a critical apparatus from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries.

Set in context, this broader view of dream symbols may be seen to correspond to the astonishing and varied genre of medieval bestiaries, in which animals are categorized and analyzed according to their symbols, which often derive from fantasy and superstition. Similarly, in significant measure, dreams and their interpretation may be timeless, so that the Somniale Danielis appears to gather into its sphere some traditional beliefs, transmitted orally or in written form, by turns, that may transcend social classes and specific moments in time.

This paper focuses on the importance of the dream dictionary as starting point for commentary on each dream symbol, in order to identify the tradition to which the symbol belongs in each manuscript. How these symbols were represented in contemporary visual arts and literature can significantly guide this investigation in the quest for recognizing their specific meanings. The medieval and humanist dream dictionary can provide portals to exploring many aspects of the medieval imaginary in action; it can also tell us much about local legends and traditions implementing or channeling human fantasy. Such materials can help to advance our knowledge of territorial specificities in the changing landscapes of medieval and early modern creativity in relating to the interlinked worlds of imagination and reality.


Website Editor’s Note:

Prof. Cappozzo’s Abstract for his Paper presented for one of our Sessions at an earlier Congress is posted here:
Cappozzo (2012 Congress)

We thank him for his generous contributions to our sponsored and co-sponsored Sessions, including the organization of the session in 2015.


Valerio at the Podium at his 'Dream Session' for the 2015 International Congress on Medieval Studies. Photograph © Mildred Budny.

Valerio at the Podium at his ‘Dream Session’ for the 2015 International Congress on Medieval Studies.


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