Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion


Gilman’s goal with the Forerunner was to wake women up. She boasts in a volume two “Comment and Review”* of a letter from a subscriber that read: “I should like to thank you for the great part your writings are taking in the awakening of our sex.” Her poems in particular voice this agenda. In "In How Little Time,” Gilman associates an inner awakening with “Power in the hand and brain for what needs making.”
The Forerunner combines theories of social evolution, sociology, and medicine to use “waking up” as a metaphor for the advancement of a white female social consciousness and portrays disciplined sleep as a restorative act for white women struggling in their pursuit of public service. Gilman also engages a capitalist lexicon through her treatment of routine sleep as a practice that is earned rather than necessary. To gain "power in the hand and brain for what needs making," she argues for the importance of restorative rest, she claims that it should only serve those who contribute to society with what she describes in Our Brains and What Ails Them as “brain power.” Because the body serves as an “elaborate machine for the transmission of force,” she identifies the physical act of resting as a mechanical instrument that, if utilized properly, has the potential to serve society’s greater good.

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