Sleep & Contemporary Culture:
I’m working on a new book project, “Writing the Sleep Crisis”, funded by the Wellcome Trust (Research Fellowship in Humanities and Social Science 2020-21) and the European Commission (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship 2021-22). The project explores how sleep, and lack thereof, is represented in contemporary writings across fiction, non-fiction, and digital culture.
Sleep experts are divided on whether our society is actually suffering from the crisis of poor sleep my project’s title refers to. Yet the discourse of contemporary society as profoundly sleep-deprived dominates cultural production. My project is the first to analyse cultural engagements with this discourse and what they tell us about our conceptions of sleep, health – especially mental health – the temporal rhythms of day-to-day life in the twenty-first century, and the pressures these rhythms exercise on us.
“Writing the Sleep Crisis” is a deeply interdisciplinary research project. Throughout the duration of the project, I will be working closely with sleep psychologists, as well as philosophers and social scientists of technology.
If you’d like to find out more about the project, you can watch the video below: “Are We in a Sleep Crisis? Perspectives from Contemporary Culture“, an online public lecture I gave at The Lit & Phil in June 2021.
Keep up to date with this project’s news:
Sleep Stories at Durham Book Festival 2021
As part of “Writing the Sleep Crisis”, I’m currently collaborating with Durham Book Festival on “Sleep Stories“, which will launch on 9 October 2021.
We have commissioned exclusive short stories/podcasts about sleep from poet and author Salena Godden whose debut novel, Mrs Death Misses Death is shortlisted for the 2021 Gordon Burn Prize, award-winning poet Andrew McMillan whose latest collection is pandemonium and acclaimed novelist Jenn Ashworth, whose latest novel is Ghosted.
Each podcast will be introduced by myself, Professor Jason Ellis and Dr Erik Hoel. Find out more at our roundtable event on Saturday 9 October, at which we’ll be discussing the science and culture of sleep. Tickets here.
The first podcast will be released on Saturday 9 October and subsequent episodes will be released on Saturday 16 and Saturday 23 October.
In April 2021, with Andrew Tate (Lancaster University, UK) and Mary McCambell (Lee University, USA), I organised the first international conference devoted to Canadian writer and visual artist Douglas Coupland. Marking the 30th anniversary of the publication of Coupland’s first novel, Generation X, ‘Douglas Coupland and the Art of the “Extreme Present”‘ explored the richness of Coupland’s engagement with contemporary life across writings and visual culture. You can find out more, including recorded sessions, on the conference website. The conference attracted more than 300 registered attendees from across the world.
Andrew, Mary and I are currently working on follow-up projects, including an edited collection and Couplandesque, a newsletter on Coupland’s work, as well as art, trends, pop culture, and literature that could be considered “couplandesque” (sign up to the newsletter here). Watch this space!