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Products for grant FT-58506-11

Understanding Sleep in the Modern World: An Interdisciplinary History
Benjamin Reiss, Emory University

Grant details:

Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World (Book)
Title: Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World
Author: Benjamin Reiss
Abstract: Why is sleep so frustrating for so many people? While human history presents a vast diversity of sleeping styles, today we define a good night’s sleep very narrowly: eight hours in one straight shot, sealed off in private bedrooms, children apart from parents. The curious product of industrialization, electricity, medicine, and capitalism, this set of sleeping rules has existed for only a few centuries. Yet few seem to be able to live by them. For the world’s poor, “modern” sleep is full of financial and physical risk; but even the well-off now require drugs and gadgets to regulate waking and sleeping. Taming sleep is big business, but it has come at an enormous cost to our well-being. In Wild Nights, Benjamin Reiss draws on centuries of literary, medical, and scientific writings to show how ordinary lives were upended as sleep became modern. In so doing, he offers hope to weary readers: as sleep was transformed once before, so too can it change again today.
Year: 2017
Primary URL:
Publisher: Basic Books
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780465061952
Copy sent to NEH?: No

Sleeping at Walden Pond: Thoreau, Abnormal Temporality, and the Modern Body (Article)
Title: Sleeping at Walden Pond: Thoreau, Abnormal Temporality, and the Modern Body
Author: Benjamin Reiss
Abstract: This essay explores Henry David Thoreau's Walden in relation to the history of sleep, considered as a medical, biological, social, and spiritual phenomenon. Attention to Thoreau's striving for “awakening” and “alertness” has veiled his running rhetoric of dormancy: scenes and tropes of sleeping, nodding off, sleepwalking, snoring, dreaming, napping, exhaustion, and catalepsy recur throughout the text, while factory bells, the shrieks of trains, cries of newsboys, and addiction to caffeine all perturb his slumber or that of his neighbors. The first three sections of this essay situate Thoreau's portrayal of a disrupted sleep-world in relation to the incursions of nineteenth-century patterns of labor and consumption, the spread of psychoactive substances and phenomena, and the rise of neurological science and psychiatry; a fourth considers his efforts to conceive alternative valuations of the sleep-waking continuum as a spiritual and bodily mandate. Using the lens of disability studies to link Thoreau's own private sleep disturbances to his broader critique of modernity, I argue that a reading of Walden can help uncover the origins of how sleep has become a problem in our contemporary world.
Year: 2013
Primary URL:
Access Model: Subscription only; available on JSTOR and Project Mus
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: American Literature

Sleep's Hidden Histories (Article)
Title: Sleep's Hidden Histories
Author: Benjamin Reiss
Abstract: Review essay of recent books on sleep and human history and culture.
Year: 2014
Primary URL:
Access Model: Open access
Format: Magazine
Periodical Title: Los Angeles Review of Books