‘Snoring for the Million’: Dickens the Sleep-watcher

  • Michael Greaney


This chapter examines the unruly presence of sleeping bodies in the writings of an author who liked to think of himself as a professional insomniac. Sleeping bodies are glimpsed everywhere in Dickens’s fiction, and his gaze is particularly captured by looked-at sleepers; he repeatedly invites us to contemplate the rich currents of symbolic meaning that flow between those who watch and those who sleep. Nowhere is his fascination with sleep-watching more obsessively exhibited than in Barnaby Rudge (1841), a novel in which the spectacle of sleep—especially the sleep of servants—is a persistent object of narrative comedy and visual mastery, but also perceptual uncertainty and political anxiety. Dickensian sleep, I suggest, harbours dormant political possibilities that lie beyond the mastery of his insomniac gaze.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Greaney
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English and Creative WritingLancaster UniversityLancasterUK

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