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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for Arts in Society

PhD Ceremony S.R.D. SCHIERHUBER (AiS), Sleep, watch, and extended cognition in Spenserian epic and Shakespearean drama

When:Th 02-12-2021 12:45 - 13:45
Where:Academy building

S.R.D. (Stephanie) Schierhuber will defend her doctoral thesis on Thursday 2 December 2021.

Sleep, watch, and extended cognition in Spenserian epic and Shakespearean drama


  • Prof. Dr R.D.P. Lansdown
  • Dr J. Flood
  • Dr C. Hansen

The University Library publishes the thesis digitally after the defence ceremony.

Sleeping bodies make frequent appearances in early modern English literature, including in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and in the dramatic works of Shakespeare. Despite the pervasiveness with which sleepers appear in the literature, the topic has received scant critical attention. This dearth of critical work highlights the problem that sleeping bodies pose for literary critics. Without movement, a voice, or dreams, little remains for critics to read other than what scholar David Roberts calls a “disconcerting void.” An examination of sleep theory in the period reveals that sleep was regarded as a contradictory act. Sleepers were inaccessible in that they were isolated from the external world due to sensory restriction. But early modern bodies, including sleeping ones, were porous entities. The act of sleep relies on continuous interaction between the body and the external world. This thesis argues that sleepers form extended cognitive systems in order to supplement their biological attentional capacities that are inhibited in during sleep. In examining sleep from an extended mind perspective, this thesis offers a means to move past the ‘problem’ that sleeping bodies pose and provides a novel way to access and read the sleeper. In doing so, this thesis challenges the assumption of sleeping women as absent and passive and considers the complex social dynamics that surround their sleep, explores the structure and location of sovereignty, and grapples with issues of consent and coercion in the face of unequal power.