Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion


Digitizing Sleep Cultures investigates a particular phenomenon that arose at the onset of the Progressive Era, in which Americans strove to streamline and condense sleep. Consequently, prominent thinkers engaged in debates over sleep's purpose and the impact of limited sleep on the body. Google Ngram Viewer provides some cursory evidence for how sleep's concerns increased at the turn of the twentieth century. The use of terms, such as "sleepless," "exhaustion," and "insomnia," spiked during the years between the Civil War and First World War.

This project uses literary fiction as a lens to investigate this cultural manifestation of sleep anxiety and inquiry. It also provides an archive of digitized, open-access texts related to U.S. sleep culture. By creating connections between literary texts from the Progressive Era and a larger corpus of sleep discourse (ranging from the contemporary moment to today), I hope to make visible the insights that non-medical narratives can lend to issues of the body, particularly related to sleep, to which medical and scientific experts have historically laid claim.

Each page features embedded annotations (called "notes") within the featured, public-domain literary texts. These notes either directly correspond with or supplement discussion in the book, and relevant page numbers are provided to allow for easy cross referencing between the book and digital companion. It is my hope that these notes will supplement and extend the arguments made in the book, as well as illuminate the revelations I uncovered in my research and literary analysis that did not fit neatly within the framework of the manuscript. 

Additionally, I use Scalar's tag visualization to thematize these notes in an effort to highlight sleep-related concerns and debates prominently featured in fiction and other forms of popular print culture surrounding the Progressive Era. These themes range from the period's sleep-related literary and cultural tropes, such as the Sleeping Beauty figure, the neurasthenic, and the Somnambulist, to twentieth- and twenty-first century medical terminology including insomnia, parasomnia, and sleep deprivation. Other concerns represented by theme tags relate to conditions of soporific addiction, caffeine dependency, and time anxiety, as well as issues of social agency within the context of gender, race, class, and disability. These thematic tags and visualizations enable visitors to seek out topics in critical U.S. sleep studies that relate to their own research interests and scholarly inquiries.

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