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First-Year Writing Seminar: Bedtime Writing: The Literature of Sleep

Semester and Year FA 2017
Course Number FIRST-UG423
Section 001
Instructor Adrian Versteegh
Days MW
Time 12:30 PM - 1:45 PM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


“[I]n dreaming, / The clouds methought would open and show riches / Ready to drop upon me, that, when I waked, / I cried to dream again” (The Tempest III.ii.147-150). As the supposed one-third of life we spend unconscious continues to shrink, Caliban’s lament feels more familiar than ever. But current obsessions with the health and productivity consequences of our collective sleep debt obscure a much longer tradition of cultural engagement with sleep, one that not only makes space for slumber as more than mere refueling, but also posits a special relationship between writers and sleep. This course aims to recover that secret affinity and plunder its “riches” by studying literary representations of sleep. Expect encounters with sleepwalkers, insomniacs, oneironauts, and other creatures of the night as we ask how sleep—or lack of it—factors in to literary practices. Readings will include fiction (Dickens, Collins, Chekhov, Carver), poetry (Spenser, Coleridge, Tennyson, Thomson), history (Burgess, Dorhn-van Rossum, Ekirch, Moss), philosophy (Schwenger, Turcke, Wortham), psychology (Freud), the sociopolitics of sleep (Derickson, Williams, Wolf-Meyer), and contemporary memoirs of sleeplessness (Butler, Greene).


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Course Type

First-Year Program: Writing Seminars (FIRST-UG)