Cover image for Forming Sleep: Representing Consciousness in the English Renaissance Edited by Nancy L. Simpson-Younger and Margaret Simon

Forming Sleep

Representing Consciousness in the English Renaissance

Edited by Nancy L. Simpson-Younger, and Margaret Simon

COMING IN MAY

$99.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08611-8
Coming in May

232 pages
6" × 9"
1 b&w illustration
2020

Cultural Inquiries in English Literature, 1400–1700

Forming Sleep

Representing Consciousness in the English Renaissance

Edited by Nancy L. Simpson-Younger, and Margaret Simon

“This fascinating book argues that human sleep and sleeplessness is (and was) shaped as much by social and cultural factors as by human biology. Its pages represent an important justification of literary and historical inquiries into the extraordinary variability of human sleep habits that can be traced across time and space. Those who choose to read this book will soon appreciate why humanities scholarship is so essential to understanding one of the most essential features of human life.”

 

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Forming Sleep asks how biocultural and literary dynamics act together to shape conceptions of sleep states in the early modern period. Engaging with poetry, drama, and prose largely written in English between 1580 and 1670, the essays in this collection highlight period discussions about how seemingly insentient states might actually enable self-formation.

Looking at literary representations of sleep through formalism, biopolitics, Marxist theory, trauma theory, and affect theory, this volume envisions sleep states as a means of defining the human condition, both literally and metaphorically. The contributors examine a range of archival sources—including texts in early modern faculty psychology, printed and manuscript medical treatises and physicians’ notes, and printed ephemera on pathological sleep—through the lenses of both classical and contemporary philosophy. Essays apply these frameworks to genres such as drama, secular lyric, prose treatise, epic, and religious verse. Taken together, these essays demonstrate how early modern depictions of sleep shape, and are shaped by, the philosophical, medical, political, and, above all, formal discourses through which they are articulated. With this in mind, the question of form merges considerations of the physical and the poetic with the spiritual and the secular, highlighting the pervasiveness of sleep states as a means by which to reflect on the human condition.

In addition to the editors, the contributors to this volume include Brian Chalk, Jennifer Lewin, Cassie Miura, Benjamin Parris, Giulio Pertile, N. Amos Rothschild, Garret T. Sullivan Jr., and Timothy A. Turner.

“This fascinating book argues that human sleep and sleeplessness is (and was) shaped as much by social and cultural factors as by human biology. Its pages represent an important justification of literary and historical inquiries into the extraordinary variability of human sleep habits that can be traced across time and space. Those who choose to read this book will soon appreciate why humanities scholarship is so essential to understanding one of the most essential features of human life.”

Nancy L. Simpson-Younger is Assistant Professor of English at Pacific Lutheran University.

Margaret Simon is Associate Professor of English at North Carolina State University.