The Literature of Sleep

This module examines the representation of sleep and sleep-related states in literature and culture. Most of us will spend about a third of our lives asleep – which is to say that we will spend more time sleeping that doing anything else in our lives. But if sleep is arguably the most common human activity, it is also the least describable. Can sleep –  a state that separates us from all sense of time, from language, and from rational self-awareness – even count as a region of human experience? Or is it simply a void that separates one day from the next? How, if at all, can the ‘void’ of sleep be represented in literature and culture? In what ways has literature shaped itself to fill this void? And how has literature responded to the erosion of sleep by modern industrial and post-industrial cultures?