Abstract

This article considers the cultural significance of sleep as a creaturely state and bodily practice on the threshold between public and private space in Dickens’s fiction. It focuses on the sleeping bodies that are sprawled across the landscapes of Barnaby Rudge, and offers a new reading of the novel as a text in which sleep, especially the sleep of servants, is an object of narrative comedy, visual mastery, perceptual uncertainty, and political anxiety. The public sleeper is often a haplessly undignified presence on the margins of Dickens’s fiction, but Barnaby Rudge seems to attribute a certain uncanny agency to the figure of the watched sleeper. In this novel, the sleep-watcher emerges as a compromised voyeur, whilst the sleeper becomes a potentially explosive unknown quantity. What is more, these shifting power-relations between those who watch and those who sleep are subtly implicated in the class conflicts that the novel famously dramatizes.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1512
Print ISSN
0039-3827
Pages
pp. 1-19
Launched on MUSE
2014-03-24
Open Access
No
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