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Adventures in Creativity

Sue Parman, Professor emeritus of anthropology and award-winning poet, playwright, writer, and artist.


Born in Connecticut, raised in Iowa (until 8) and New Mexico (until 16), went to Antioch College in Ohio, then Rice University in Texas, earned B.A. in Psychology and Ph.D. in Anthropology, lived in the village of Shawbost on the Island of Lewis in the Scottish Outer Hebrides for a year and a half and returns there frequently (or the island comes to her).


Author of six academic books, two books of poetry, a number of full-length, one-act, and ten-minute plays performed in both California and Oregon, as well as numerous essays and short stories.


Married to the anthropologist Jacob Pandian, one daughter (the writer Gigi Pandian).


Author of travel adventures, literary fiction, memoir, scientific essays, science fiction, mysteries, horror, speculative fiction published in The Antioch Review, Lumina, VoiceCatcher, Journeys, Slant, The Hiram Poetry Review, CDM (Crime, Detection, and Mystery, a Swedish publication), Bewildering Stories, and other journals and anthologies.


Has written about Europe, Scotland, Gaelic-speaking crofters, sleep and dreams, evolution of the brain, the biology and culture of salt, how a gorilla would interpret Beowulf, talking dogs, death rituals in Sulawesi, the titles of travel books, invisible rivers.


Have brain, will play.



The Dream in Western Culture


The Dream in Western Culture by Susan Parman is an anthropological and historical investigation of conceptions of the dream (its meanings, connections with other ideas, and uses) in Western culture from Greco-Roman times to the present. Originally published under the title Dream and Culture: An Anthropological Analysis of the Western Intellectual Tradition, this second edition includes two additional chapters that provide biographical information about the author's introduction to dream studies in the sleep lab of Allan Hobson and Fred Snyder at the National Institutes of Health during the 1960s, and how, during her career as an anthropologist and writer, she applied this experience to an understanding of play, creativity, and poetry.




The Dream in Western Culture, the second edition of Susan Parman's Dream and Culture:  An Anthropological Study of the Western Intellectual Tradition (1991) is a tour de force, combining neurophysiological data with a detailed, jargon-free analysis, drawn from the humanities and the social sciences.  Using dreams as her motif, she follows Western cultural evolution from the Homeric age to "Freud and beyond." 

Parman is one of those rare Renaissance women who is able to artfully combine science, history, literature, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and more, often with a playful wit.  As an anthropologist, Parman challenges all scholars to be aware of their own cultural assumptions, especially unconscious ones, in their theoretical  arguments.

--Patricia R. Heck, The University of the South


Parman contends that in order to understand dreams we must first of all understand the cultural context within which they are expressed. Certainly we cannot 'interpret' a dream without some preliminary grasp of indigenous notions of psychology, cosmology, and epistemology. Readers are therefore introduced to everything from classical notions of the self through the modern schools of rationalism and psychoanalysis. This book brilliantly shows the vast shifts in Western presuppositions regarding dreams. Parman's insistence on an anthropological approach to dreams constitutes a healthy antidote to the anachronistic tendency to foist the epistemology of contemporary psychoanalysis back onto earlier periods. 

--C. Stewart, Choice (1991), review of Dream and Culture: An Anthropological Analysis of the Western Intellectual Tradition


Art is accident, angle, an inward
explosion like a lightbulb, a forward
impulse, a meeting
of your own mind, suddenly,
as if you'd met a stranger,
a body naked seen from behind—
a fresh view, a new knowing,
an idea on its way to becoming
itself, only more intensely,
more fraut with the inwardly.
Art is the making of a riddle from a solution,
like a ball turned constantly in the hand
as if each turn brought to view a new land, a key
to the cabinet of curiosity
in which reside the bits and pieces of the self--
those jeweled splinters encased in the pitch of a chaotic sea,
all shimmer and float.  Art coats
a bird with incandescent plumage,
digs gold in the cloister with koi, and even
in the shadowy soil of dishwater shows us Eden.