Dancing dwarfs and talking fish : the narrative functions of television dreams /

No Thumbnail Available
Burkhead, Cynthia
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation examines the functions of dreams in television narratives. From its beginning, television has been a storytelling medium. Whether delivered to a live audience or played out on a sound stage, narratives and those who write them have always been the crux of the television program. Also from its beginning, one of the standard tropes for presenting television narratives has been the dream sequence. While film can claim a long history of scholarly inquiry into the connection between film and dreams and the way that dreams function in movies, no comprehensive research exists on the subject of television dreams. Scholars have included dreams as examples in discussions of narrative complexity in television, or in discussions about technological improvements in television's visual presentation, but no studies have sought to analyze the purpose dream sequences have in the narratives that are arguably the most popular and frequently "read" stories in our culture.
This project first looks at dream theory as it relates to film in order to show why that scholarship is not appropriate for an analysis of television dreams. Next, the dissertation analyzes the narrative functions of dreams using as its frame Carl Jung's narrative stages of the dream: exposition, development, culmination, and conclusion. While television dreams, both memorable and obscure, are analyzed throughout, case studies of the television programs The Sopranos and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are included to show in detail how dreams function throughout a television series. The dissertation concludes with an examination of television's own critique of its dreams which occurs notably in episodes of Moonlighting and Max Headroom. This project required a significant collection of data, specifically television episodes with dreams in their stories, and a compendium of that research which includes over 1000 television episodes is included in an appendix at the end of the dissertation.
Adviser: David Lavery.