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The Collective Dream in Art is a pioneer work in the synthesis of art interpretation. Believing that no existing interpretive approach to art is in itself the whole answer to understanding a work of art, Walter Abell has attempted to correlate the various critical approaches to visual art and the methods and points of view used by specialists in the fields of the social sciences, humanities, and psychology and psychoanalysis. The result is a single integrated theory and method which is applicable and valid for all artistic creation.
In Part I, Professor Abell examines the pros and cons of various approaches to cultural expression; he concentrates on the psychoanalytical approach of Freud and his followers and of other psychoanalysts and on the ideas of the materialist schools of historiography. From them he welds a new framework of interpretation, which he calls the psycho-historical theory. He tests and applies it in Part II to the culture of the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries in Western Europe, and reaches some new conclusions about the meanings of some common medieval motifs. Part III contains pertinent essays on the implications of the psycho-historical theory for the history of art, the role of the artist, and the relationship of artistic expression to society.