Download e-book for iPad: Becoming Insomniac: How Sleeplessness Alarmed Modernity by L. Scrivner

By L. Scrivner

A learn of the historical past of contemporary insomnia, this publication explores how poets, newshounds, and medical professionals of the Victorian interval came across themselves in near-universal contract that modernity and sleep have been by some means incompatible. It investigates how psychologists, philosophers and literary artists labored to articulate its explanations, and its strength therapies.

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Additional info for Becoming Insomniac: How Sleeplessness Alarmed Modernity

Example text

One might be tempted to assume, furthermore, that such a message, disseminated by an atypically suggestive telegraph operating throughout the night, likely was atypically problematic for insomniacs, whose disorder was both particularly suggestible and particularly contingent on the status of the nocturnal hours. Yet we must be careful not to overestimate the initial signalstrength of the message or its effects on the general population. The transatlantic cable was not, at first, anything like the great democratizer that we now imagine the Internet to be; its use only prevailed among the elite echelons of the so-called “brain-working” classes—urban professionals, accountants, business managers, newspaper editors, shipping magnates.

26 But the debate about what was unsettling was itself unsettled. Many argued that any kind of determinism, whether of the materialist or religious variety, once embraced, had the opposite of an unsettling effect, that it instead lulled its adherents into a life of passive spectatorship, 44 Becoming Insomniac lethargy, and apathy—for why strive for anything in life when all is predetermined? ”27 Free will could thus be unsettling in that it raised anxieties about guilt and fault and accountability—things rendered largely meaningless by determinism.

The thoughts think. Because I can’t stop thinking—indeed I am now thinking, with increasing alarm, about my inability to stop thinking. What alien agency is keeping me thinking when I, the thinker, would rather stop now? Though the thinker wants nothing more than to stop thinking, one nagging thought remains: Isn’t thinking about the will to stop thinking itself a continuance of thinking? Ah! A new problem on which to think! In this simulation of the onset of insomnia we see how troublingly close in proximity are thinking and willing.

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