Dr Diletta De Cristofaro

Reimagining Sleep exhibition at Newcastle’s City Library

Following a workshop series and online exhibition, I’m delighted that the Reimagining Sleep exhibition will be on at Newcastle City Library (level 2) from 14th to 28th March 2024.

Marking World Sleep Day (15th March), the Reimagining Sleep exhibition explores the lived experience of sleep. The exhibition gathers a collection of objects, writings, and soundscapes made by, with, and for people with sleep issues. In a world that all too often frames sleep either as a waste of time or as a mere tool for productivity, this exhibition invites viewers to consider and reimagine their relationship with sleep. We ask: what does sleep mean to you?

The exhibition places playful collaboration at its core. As a visitor, you’ll be invited to give your input and help us grow the exhibition’s collections. Our goals are to foster wellbeing through creativity and to connect and involve multiple voices, in order to facilitate knowledge-sharing around sleep.

The exhibition programme features a public talk (14th March, 6-7pm) by me, and a creative workshop (23rd March, 10am-12pm) with the exhibition’s curator and artist Chiara Dellerba. Both the talk and the workshop are free events but registration via Eventbrite is required. Further details below.

Are We in a Sleep Crisis? An Exploration of Contemporary Culture | City Library | Level 2 | 14th March 2024, 6-7pm

A talk by Dr Diletta De Cristofaro, Assistant Professor in English Literature at Northumbria University

In this talk, the Reimagining Sleep project Principal Investigator, Dr Diletta De Cristofaro, will explore the selection of sleep books she has curated for the exhibition. While sleep science is divided on whether we are currently experiencing a sleep crisis or not, contemporary literature is full of bad sleepers. Dr De Cristofaro will consider what literature, and culture more broadly, tell us about our relationship with sleep and the world we inhabit.

Oneiric Journey to the Nearby Cosmos | City Library | Level 2 | 23rd March 2024, 10am-12pm

A creative workshop with Chiara Dellerba

Join exhibition curator and artist Chiara Dellerba in exploring how our bodies and minds react to sounds. During the workshop, you will experiment with creative writing techniques and mark-making to develop visual responses to meditative soundscapes. If you’d like, your responses will then be uploaded to the companion online exhibition, enriching its collaborative nature and the plurality of voices represented.

Visit the Reimagining Sleep Online Exhibition

I’m delighted to announce that the Reimagining Sleep exhibition is now live: you can view it here.

This exhibition, curated by Chiara Dellerba and co-produced with participants at our creative workshop series last Spring, is the culmination of the Understanding and Reimagining Sleep and Its Disorders project, which I have run in partnership with The Sleep Charity and colleagues at the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research.

Each exhibition page features a toolkit, which you can use to explore your relationship with sleep through creative exercises. You’re invited to contribute to the exhibition by uploading your responses to the toolkits’ prompts on the website (there’s a form on each exhibition page).

Enjoy viewing and contributing to the exhibition and let us know what you think!

“Sleep” on Free Thinking, BBC Radio 3

I was interviewed for an episode of “Free Thinking”, on BBC Radio 3, all devoted to sleep.

The episode was presented by Dr John Gallagher and featured myself, Prof Sasha Handley, Kenneth Miller, and Dr Emily Scott Dearing. I discussed how contemporary writers are dealing with our fraught relationship with a good night’s sleep. Have a listen below!

New article out now in Textual Practice

‘How do you sleep at night knowing all this?’: climate breakdown, sleep, and extractive capitalism in contemporary literature and culture

My latest peer-reviewed journal article has just been published open access in the journal Textual Practice. Here’s the abstract:

Contributing to the emerging field of critical sleep studies, and developing an intervention situated at the intersection of the environmental and the medical humanities, this article considers a range of contemporary texts: Jenny Offill’s realist novel Weather (2020), Karen Russell’s Sleep Donation (2014), Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves (2017) and Hunting by Stars (2021) – three examples of the ‘sleep-apocalypse’ genre – Finegan Kruckemeyer’s play Hibernation (2021), and the Perfect Sleep app by Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne (2021). I show how these texts do not just simply reflect the negative effects that climate change has on sleep health, which are manifold, as scientific research evidences. Rather, cultural production arguably draws attention to structural parallels between the climate crisis and the so-called sleep crisis, namely, contemporary society’s presumed widespread sleep deprivation and rise in sleep disorders. Both crises are the product of a capitalist system geared towards continuous extraction – and exhaustion – of resources, from the Earth and human bodies. Thus, in the texts considered, sleep is explored, on the one hand, as a casualty of the climate crisis and, on the other hand, as something whose value we need to reassess as part of our ongoing work to avert climate collapse.

Launch of the Reimagining Sleep Exhibition at Being Human Festival

Join us for the launch of the Reimagining Sleep online exhibition in Newcastle as part of Being Human Festival

18th November, 2-4pm, at the Biscuit Factory: come along for a creative guided tour of the exhibition where you’ll have the chance to contribute to it! Free and open to all.

Playing with materials and content from the exhibition, we will discuss the artistic strategies behind it and sleep research. We’ll then explore how our bodies and minds react to sounds and, through creative writing and mark-making activities, we’ll develop together visual responses to meditative soundscapes. If you’d like, your response will then be uploaded to the exhibition, enriching its collaborative nature and the plurality of voices represented.

The event is free but booking is required. Join us at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle by reserving your ticket below.

This event is the culmination of Understanding and Reimagining Sleep and Its Disorders, a public engagement project I lead at Northumbria University funded by the Wellcome Trust (Research Enrichment – Public Engagement grant). Run in partnership with The Sleep Charity, the project consists in a workshop series, an online exhibition curated by artist and creative producer Chiara Dellerba, and resources.

Being Human Festival, the UK’s national festival of the humanities, takes place 9–18 November 2023. Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, with generous support from Research England, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. For further information please see beinghumanfestival.org.

Keynote at Somnambulations

I’m delighted to be giving a keynote at “Somnambulations 2: Critical Approaches to Sleep” in Montreal (26-27 June). The conference is part of The Sociability of Sleep Research-Creation Project. I’ll be talking about “The Cultural Meanings of Insomnia”.

Here’s a brief abstract:

In many analyses, the age of globalization is also the age of a sleep crisis—or societal insomnia—largely attributed to the 24/7 society. Through the exploration of a range of texts—memoirs, fictions, self-help manuals, art installations, and TV series—this talk explores the cultural meanings of insomnia in the age of globalization and, in so doing, why this period is also widely believed to be the age of societal insomnia. In the talk, insomnia will emerge as a site where contradictory social imperatives that articulate sleep as, at once, a waste of time and essential to wellbeing merge with a range of individual and collective anxieties about life in the 24/7 globalized world, from concerns about precarity and the nature of work to concerns about new technologies and the environment. 

Addendum (Feb 2024): you can now read a great review of the talk over at The Polyphony.

New peer-reviewed article on sleep-tracking

My new article, “Quantified Sleep: Self-Tracking Technologies and the Reshaping of 21st-Century Subjectivity”, co-authored with Simona Chiodo, is now available as part of a special issue of Historical Social Research devoted to “Sleep, Knowledge, and Technology: Studies of the Sleep Lab, Sleep Tracking and Beyond“. The special issue is edited by Hannah Ahlheim, Dariuš Zifonun and Nicole Zillien.

In this article, Simona and I situate the rise of everyday sleep-tracking practices within the sleep crisis discourse and explore these practices’ reshaping of 21st-century subjectivity.

Reimagining Sleep workshops – video now available

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a public engagement project, funded by the Wellcome Trust and run in partnership with The Sleep Charity, called Understanding and Reimagining Sleep and Its Disorders. The first phase of the project – a creative workshop series – is now completed. Find out more about the workshops by watching the video below and stay tuned for the project’s second phase, an art exhibition of works co-produced by workshop participants and artist Chiara Dellerba!

Video by North News; post’s image by Chiara Dellerba

CNN interview about apocalyptic stories

I was interviewed by Scottie Andrews, a CNN reporter, about our enduring fascination with the apocalypse and The Last of Us series finale.

You can read the article, “‘The Last of Us’ isn’t the first doomsday story to hit our screens. Why we’re so fascinated by the end of the world”, here.