Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion


This project does not intervene in dream studies or psychoanalysis. This is quite a gap in my analysis of U.S. sleep cultures during a period ranging from 1875 to 1916. Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams* after all was published at the pinnacle of my chosen period: 1899. The challenge is that sleep, as an object of study, is so quotidian that I had to draw the line somewhere. As relevant as dream discourse was at the time, the more physiological aspects of sleep, such as insomnia and parasomnia, were just as prominently discussed during a time when sleeping hours were streamlined and nighttime activity became less about sleeping and more about electrically-lit industrial advancement. 

Gilman's poem "A Dream of Gold" seemed an adequate text to discuss as it uses symbolism, desire, and objects of desire--common features of Freudian discourse. Gilman describes the poem as "nonsense sestina," suggesting that she considered aspects of psychoanalysis to be likewise nonsensical. A conclusion with which most modern-day experts would agree. Gilman's parody points to another reason I chose not to explore dreamworld culture for this project---dreams, while they are a very real feature of parasomnia and sleep cycles, are often presented in popular literature as symbols, omens, or messages from the afterlife. Because I am most interested in the physiological aspects of sleep, I feared that an investigation into the dreamworld might result in a red herring of sorts. 

Gilman was not the only one who sought to debunk Freudian psychoanalysis. In a 1910 issue of Popular Science Monthly,** Havelock Ellis counters Freud directly, arguing that the dreamworld does reflect lived experience but not in the way Freud endorses. These selected passages highlight Ellis's argument: *Permalink:


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