Sleep Fictions: A Digital Companion


This collection features all notes related to connections between sleep and modern transportation.

Also see theme: Sleep Spaces.

The nineteenth-century saw the emergence of sleeper cars in rail transit. One social and cultural irony that underscores the systemic racism of the Progressive Era is the mass employment of Black men as railroad porters to attend patrons of Pullman sleeper cars. These men were not permitted to sleep in the cars and were very restricted in off-duty and resting hours. Furthermore, the train systems neglected to designate resting spaces on trains for Pullman porters. Alan Derickson's Dangerously Sleepy (2013), for instance, cites a Pullman conductor’s account in 1901 who “estimated that [porters] got four or fewer hours sleep per night” (90) and admired one porter for his “ability to keep wide awake when he is a living corpse from want of sleep” (90). Derickson also finds that porters were forced to “sleep in public places, mainly in the men’s lounges and restrooms of the sleeping cars” (85).

Another transit theme relates to the restorative powers of sea travel, in which writers including Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Booker T. Washington expounded upon the virtues of open air and long stretches of time, which enable the traveler on an ocean liner to catch up on rest. 

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