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Twilight States: Sleepwalking, Liminal Consciousness, and Sensational Selfhood in Victorian Literature and Culture

Wigginton, Rebecca (2015) Twilight States: Sleepwalking, Liminal Consciousness, and Sensational Selfhood in Victorian Literature and Culture. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Twilight States: Sleepwalking, Liminal Consciousness, and Sensational Selfhood in Victorian Literature and Culture argues that sleepwalking was everywhere in nineteenth-century culture, both as a topic for scientific, legal, and public debate, but also as a potent symbol in the Victorian imagination that informed literature and art. Furthermore, the nineteenth-century interest in the somnambulist was provoked by what the figure represented and revealed to the Victorians: namely, themselves. The sleepwalker represented the hidden potential within the self for either greatness or deviance, or, more mundanely, simply a fuller existence than consciousness has an awareness of. Sleepwalking writ large the multi-layered self at a time when the self—by psychiatry and society at large—was being accepted as increasingly multivalent. The sleepwalker was a visible and often sensational embodiment of the multilayered consciousness that became the accepted model of the mind over the course of the nineteenth century, visibly demonstrating what doctors and philosophers suggested that the mind could do. By connecting literary representations of sleepwalkers in the works of Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy, Bram Stoker, and Sheridan Le Fanu to both nineteenth-century medical discourses of somnambulism and popular press’s accounts and illustrations of altered states, we see that the discourses surrounding the figure of the somnambulist indicate that it was a cultural receptacle for fears associated with the changing scientific and political landscape, but also a locus for hopes about human potential and innate goodness: an ambivalence possible because of the sleepwalker’s liminality.


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Details

Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
Creators/Authors:
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wigginton, Rebeccagraywooltrousers@gmail.com
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSmith, Philippsmith@pitt.eduPSMITH
Committee MemberArac, Jonathanarac119@comcast.net
Committee MemberGubar, Marahgubar@mit.edu
Committee MemberTwyning, Johntwyning@pitt.eduTWYNING
Committee MemberArmstrong, Drewcda68@pitt.eduCDA68
Date: 14 January 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 September 2014
Approval Date: 14 January 2015
Submission Date: 5 December 2014
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 240
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sleepwalking Somnambulism Psychology Victorian Fiction
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2015 18:09
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:25
URI: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/id/eprint/23798

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