• Publication Date: October 22, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554815647 / 1554815649
  • 204 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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  • Publication Date: October 22, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554815647 / 1554815649
  • 204 pages; 5½" x 8½"

Dreams is a work that defies conventional categorization; however, one might best capture its unique formal structure by construing it as a series of prose poems or narrative paintings, a starkly modern text inflected by the far older tradition of the medieval dream-vision poem. Though a work of prophecy, it proceeds with a light touch. The sequence of eleven dreams, loosely interlinked, leaves us to wrestle with our doubts; it takes up thorny questions that challenge a culture right where it may tend to be its proudest. The landscape of the work shifts as it moves among the African savannah, congested late-industrial London, and the olive tree-studded hillsides of Italy. The intersectionality of Schreiner’s writing—its concern with gender, sexual orientation, class, nation, and race—makes her a particularly salient voice for today’s students.

The appendices to this edition provide an accessible representation of Schreiner’s key contexts, South African and British as well as American. The introduction features a biographical overview of a writer wrestling with questions of social justice pertinent to her own era yet relevant to our contemporary moment.


“The genre of the allegorical fable has long been out of fashion. In their new edition of Olive Schreiner’s Dreams, the editors have provided a wealth of judiciously chosen materials, critical and historical, to help us read these allegories with fresh eyes.” — J.M. Coetzee

Dreams, Olive Schreiner’s book of feminist allegories, became an inspirational book for hunger-striking British suffragettes in Holloway Prison. Charlotte Perkins Gilman carried it with her when she left her marriage, and she called it the sunlight of her freedom. It is wonderful to have Schreiner’s influential book now available for students and scholars, with a splendid introduction co-written by the three editors, connecting her South African political roots, London intellectual experiences, controversial feminist ideas, and literary evolution. The editors have provided a rich selection of contextual documents illuminating Schreiner’s literary influences and her intersecting views of the relationships between feminism, race, sexuality, and labor. A welcome and timely edition for a new generation of readers.” — Elaine Showalter, Professor Emerita, Princeton University

“Congratulations to the editors on producing a wonderful new edition of Olive Schreiner’s Dreams, one of her key publications. The editors have also added to the allegories in providing well-chosen selections from across a wide range of Schreiner’s writings, together with thoughtful interpretational notes. The result will surely be an essential book in Schreiner scholarship, appealing both to those wanting an introduction and to those wanting to deepen their knowledge of Schreiner’s work. Brava!” — Liz Stanley, University of Edinburgh

“[The editors] remind us that it was this work, enormously popular and incredibly powerful in her own time, that came to define [Schreiner’s] later career. … [T]he editors strike a delicate balance, highlighting what made her politics radical and, more importantly for modern readers, the radical potential of her work.” — Justin Thompson, Women’s Writing

Olive Schreiner: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text


Appendix A: South Africa

  • 1. From Charter of the British South Africa Company (1889)
  • 2. From Cecil Rhodes, “What We Were Fighting,” Examiner (13 November 1900)
  • 3. From Sol Plaatje, Native Life in South Africa (1916)
  • 4. From Women’s Enfranchisement League leaflet, with Schreiner’s notes (1908)
  • 5. Letters from Olive Schreiner
    • a. To Julia Solly (May–December 1908)
    • b. To Will Schreiner (12 June 1898)
    • c. To Edward Carpenter (3 April 1911)

Appendix B: London

  • 1. From Edward Carpenter, My Days and Dreams (1916)
  • 2. From Constance Lytton, Prisons and Prisoners (1914)
  • 3. From W.T. Stead, “The Novel of the Modern Woman,” Review of Reviews (March 1896)
  • 4. Letters from Olive Schreiner
    • a. To Havelock Ellis (24 April 1887)
    • b. To Maria Sharpe (24 November 1887)
    • c. To Karl Pearson (11 November 1890)

Appendix C: Literary and Intellectual Influences

  • 1. From John Bunyan, “The Author’s Apology for his Book” and “In the Similitude of a Dream,” Pilgrim’s Progress (1678)
  • 2. “The Parable of the Wedding Feast,” Luke 14:7–24
  • 3. From Herbert Spencer, First Principles (1860)
  • 4. From Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lecture on the Times (1841)
  • 5. From W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
  • 6. Selected poems from contemporary Black South African poets
    • a. I.W.W. Citashe, “Your Cattle are Gone” (written during the nineteenth century, published 1961)
    • b. Sol Plaatje, “Sweet Mhudi and I” (1920)
    • c. Mrs. A.C. Dube, “Africa: My Native Land” (1913)
    • d. A.K. Soga, “Daughters of Africa” (1919)
  • 7. From Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
  • 8. From Edward Carpenter, “The Curse of Property,” Towards Democracy (1905)
  • 9. Anna Kingsford, “The Armed Goddess,” Dreams and Dream Stories (1883)
  • 10. Letters from Olive Schreiner
    • a. To Edward Carpenter (26 October 1905)
    • b. To Margaret Harkness (January/February 1891)

Appendix D: The Reception and Importance of Dreams

  • 1. Letter to T. Fisher Unwin (26 September 1892)
  • 2. Arthur Symons, Review of Dreams, Athenaeum (10 January 1891)
  • 3. Amy Wellington, Introduction to Dreams (1915)
  • 4. Advertisement for Dreams, in Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland (1897)

Appendix E: Schreiner’s Corpus

  • 1. From The Story of an African Farm (1883)
  • 2. From Woman and Labour (1911)
  • 3. From From Man to Man (1926)
  • 4. From “The Buddhist Priest’s Wife,” Stories, Dreams and Allegories (1891)
  • 5. From “The Dawn of Civilisation,” Nation and Athenaeum (1921)
  • 6. From “Diamond Fields” (1872)
  • 7. From “The Lingua Franca of the World,” Review of Reviews (1896)

Works Cited and Select Bibliography

Barbara Black is Professor of English at Skidmore College and Graduate Faculty at The School of Letters, The University of the South. Carly Nations is an M.A. graduate at The University of the South. Anna Spydell is an M.A. candidate at The University of the South.