At the borders of sleep
On liminal Literature

At the Borders of Sleep investigates a liminal or threshold state between two fundamental modes of human consciousness, the waking state and the sleeping one –which are not as distinct from one another as is commonly thought.  Perhaps only at the borders of sleep can we get a sense of their connection.  During true sleep we are unconscious; and while dreaming we uncritically accept what is happening to us, which we will later translate into untrustworthy waking narratives.  As we are poised on the threshold of sleep, however, we can consciously observe what our preoccupied consciousness doesn’t usually admit during the day.  Liminal states are so subtle and evanescent that only literary depictions can do them justice; and so literature, along with philosophy and some science, has generated this book’s argument.  That argument is then turned back upon literature to show how both reading and writing are liminal experiences, taking place at the edges of conscious thought.

The book has sections dealing with drowsiness, insomnia, and the moment of waking; it ends with a section titled “Sleepwaking,” which is devoted to literature – particularly “experimental” literature - that blurs dream and waking life.  The authors considered in this study are a varied lot: among others, Marcel Proust, Stephen King, Paul Valéry, Fernando Pessoa, Franz Kafka, Giorgio de Chirico, Virginia Woolf, Philippe Sollers, and Robert Irwin.