CHAPTER 1: Introduction: From Hypnos to the Hypnoglyph

Consciousness, Literature & the Arts, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

CHAPTER 1: Introduction: From Hypnos to the Hypnoglyph


... slouthe doeth bryng drowsines. For which cause, S. Paul sayeth: surge qui dormis, arise thou which art a sleepe: and Christ crieth owt so often, videte, vigilate, looke about you, and wache.

ROBERT PERSONS1

§0.12. Labour hard in your Callings that your sleep may be sweet while you are in it; or else you will lye in bed on pretence of necessity, because you cannot sleep well when you are there. ... Weary your bodies in your daily labours: For the sleep of the labouring man is sweet, Eccles. 5.12

§0.18. Remember how many are attending thee while thou sleepest. If it be Summer, the Sun is up before thee that hath gone so many thousand miles while thou wast asleep: It hath given a dayes light to the other half of the world since thou laidst down, and is come again to light thee to thy work, and wilt thou let it shine in vain? All the creatures are ready in their places to assist thee, and art thou asleep?

RICHARD BAXTER2

I divide my time as follows: half the time I sleep, the other half I dream. I never dream when I sleep, for that would be a pity, for sleeping is the highest accomplishment of genius.

SØREN KIERKEGAARD3

Formatting the Hypnoglyph

There are few notable denials of the essential role of sleep in personal wellbeing. Caligula and Andy Warhol are among the exceptions. Caligula was a notorious insomniac who slept for about three hours nightly and would wander through spacious porticos invoking the day.4 As an artist, Warhol was fascinated with the muted consciousness evident during sleep, yet he also desired to reduce his own dormancy to a bare minimum and took amphetamines to lengthen his workday.5 Such exceptions to the general acceptance of sleep constitute rather extreme examples, but at the same time, unequivocal eulogies of the dormant state are also infrequent. Until rather recently, of all the universal elements of human life - such as death, love, violence, or sex -, sleep as a spacious discursive rubric (of which the dream is only one aspect) has been less likely than any other to become a topic of extended commentary. Sleep is indeed a recognized specialty of scientific research, and medical advice disseminated via the internet and other media affirms that adequate sleep is indispensable. At the same time, apart from the critique and interpretation of dreams, this physiological sine qua non has tended to receive little direct attention in the reflective discourse of such fields as psychoanalysis, philosophy, and literary criticism. Hence while the dominion of sleep is obvious in that a third or more of the typical human life is consumed in what is basically a non-activity, this ever-recurrent phenomenon has often endured low prestige (again, until recently) in academic discussions and other cultural arenas.6

Yet it is hardly the case that sleep never qualified as a topic of reflective consideration at variance with the diatribic pronouncements of hypnophic preachers, rulers, and philosophers as well. In the wake of Plato's cogent articulation of a pejorative outlook on sleep (to be examined below), Aristotle's relatively benign view in the Parva naturalia very early on established an alternative precedent that, if sometimes overlooked, also spawned thoughtful responses. Hegel's Anthropology, for instance, contains an infrequently read yet provocative sub-treatise on the condition of dormancy. Human consciousness is therein framed as a product of the proddings brought by the awakened senses and reason upon the ongoing données and habits of the unactuated, dormant self. Freud's "Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams" (1916) and Ferenczi's "Sleep and Coitus" (a chapter in Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality [1924]) are necessary inclusions in any conceivable reading list on the subject of sleep. Portions of Emmanuel Levinas's Existence and Existents (De l'existence a l'existent [1947]) are similarly essential along with a succinct sequel by Maurice Blanchot in L'espace littéraire (1955). …

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CHAPTER 1: Introduction: From Hypnos to the Hypnoglyph
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