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Palgrave Macmillan

Sleep and the Novel

Fictions of Somnolence from Jane Austen to the Present

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  • © 2018


  • Offers the first full-length study of how the novel engages with human sleep
  • Makes a substantial contribution to the emerging field of ‘critical sleep studies’ and to topical debates about the history and cultural significance of slumber
  • Introduces an array of concepts – the Schlafroman or ‘sleep-novel’; the ‘sociable sleeper’; ‘sleep-watching’; the ‘world-from-a-bed chronotope’; ‘sleep-science fiction’ – with which to describe the novelistic history of sleep
  • Explores the literary pre-history of present-day anxieties about insomnia and sleep-deprivation in a ‘24/7’ society

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About this book

Sleep and the Novel is a study of representations of the sleeping body in fiction from 1800 to the present day which traces the ways in which novelists have engaged with this universal, indispensable -- but seemingly nondescript -- region of human experience. Covering the narrativization of sleep in Austen, the politicization of sleep in Dickens, the queering of sleep in Goncharov, the aestheticization of sleep in Proust, and the medicalization of sleep in contemporary fiction, it examines the ways in which novelists envision the figure of the sleeper, the meanings they discover in human sleep, and the values they attach to it. It argues that literary fiction harbours, on its margins, a “sleeping partner”, one that we can nickname the Schlafroman or “sleep-novel”, whose quiet absorption in the wordlessness and passivity of human slumber subtly complicates the imperatives of self-awareness and purposive action that traditionally govern the novel. 

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Table of contents (7 chapters)


“With Sleep and the Novel, Michael Greaney makes a valuable contribution to an under-researched area of the novel and makes a good case for ways in which attention to sleep—and expressly not dream sleep—might, despite its marginal position in narrative, have wider-ranging effects on our reading. … Fluent, attentive, and engaging, this is a book that deserves to be read.” (Stephen Thomson, The Review of English Studies, September, 2018)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Department of English and Creative Writing, Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom

    Michael Greaney

About the author

Michael Greaney is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English Literature and Creative Writing, Lancaster University, UK. He is the author of Conrad, Language and Narrative (2001) and Contemporary Fiction and the Uses of Theory (2006). He has published widely on sleep studies, and is one of the co-founders of the website ‘Sleep Cultures’, an online hub for humanities scholars working in the field of sleep studies. 

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