Anyone looking to get up to speed with recent developments in "critical sleep studies" could do a lot worse than read a new review essay by the scholar who coined the term, Emory University's Benjamin Reiss. In a piece that appears in the 15th February number of the Los Angeles Review of Books, Reiss traces a brief genealogy of sleep studies in the humanities and social sciences via Norbert Elias, E.P. Thompson, Henri Lefebvre and A. Roger Ekirch before offering a shrewdly appreciative (but not uncritical) comparative appraisal of three important recent works in the field: Matthew Wolf-Meyer's The Slumbering Masses; Jonathan Crary's 24/7: Terminal Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep; and Alan Derickson's Dangerously Sleepy. What is more, in the course of his review, Reiss formulates a series of questions that are absolutely central to sleep studies: "How to recover this nightly oblivion and bring it back into the course of human history? What’s mutable about sleep? How do societies organize themselves around the biological requirement that everyone shut down for at least a few hours a day? When do sleeping arrangements or patterns of sleep or inequities in the social distribution of sleep become notable and contested? When does sleep run afoul of social rules? Who gets to control sleep, and on what terms?"
When Margaret Thatcher was UK prime minster she was reported to be able to get by on some four hours sleep per night. Not all of her successors have displayed such iron discipline. A minor scandal erupted in the UK last year when an image of David Cameron asleep on a four-poster bed next to his ministerial case (the so-called "red box" -- the very symbol of governmental power, responsibility and confidentiality in British politics) was posted on Instagram by his sister-in-law. But Cameron is by no means the only public figure to have been caught napping in recent years. From the Huffington Post, here is a gallery of images of politicians and celebrities who have nodded off in public.
An eerily life-like state of a half-naked sleepwalker has appeared in the grounds of Wellesley College, Massachusetts, as part of a new exhibition of work by the New York-based artist Tony Matelli. A petition to have the statue removed has already been signed by several hundred students.