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) and the European Commission (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship). 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 visit the project’s website or read a short introductory piece called “Writing the Sleep Crisis” in The Polyphony, in which I discuss sleep deprivation and speculative fiction that imagines the future end of sleep. You can also watch the videos below: “Are We in a Sleep Crisis? Perspectives from Contemporary Culture“, an online public lecture I gave at The Lit & Phil in June 2021, and “Forty Winks Café“, the first public event of the project I organised as part of Being Human Festival 2020, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities.
I’m currently collaborating with Durham Book Festival on an exciting sleep-related commission, to be revealed at the Festival’s 2021 edition. More details soon!
Keep up to date with this project’s news:
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!