Technology is making me sleepy
April 25, 2008 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Examples of fleeing from technology into the unconscious in literature?

I am trying to think of some examples in literature (but not modern Sci-Fi), or from film (Sci-Fri ok), but more so from literature, where the threat, or overabundance of technology makes one yearn for sleep, or to go into their unconscious.

An example would be Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein who makes numerous mentions of his desire to be asleep, after he creates the monster.

There must be dozens of novels and films that make reference to this, but I can't seem to come up with any that deal with technology as the cause. For example, I know that a yearning for sleep appears in novels like Amerika, by Kafka, and Notes from Underground talks about how "consciousness is a full-fledged disease. However, those aren't necessarily related to technology.
posted by 8 Bit to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
i feel like bladerunner at least alludes to this.
posted by lgyre at 5:42 PM on April 25, 2008

The particular passage that instantly came to mind upon reading your question:
"To the extent that necessity is socially dreamed, the dream becomes necessary. The spectacle is the nightmare of imprisoned modern society which ultimately expresses nothing more than its desire to sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of sleep."

Though it isn't literature in the strict sense, I think that you might be interested in Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle". Though it doesn't explicitly address technology, I think it would be reasonable to include it among the Spectacle's mechanisms of mediation (and especially so if you consider mass media as resulting from an increased technological sophistication).

Here it is, in its entirety:
posted by Aleatoire at 6:26 PM on April 25, 2008

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind might fill the bill.
posted by paulsc at 8:32 PM on April 25, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you 3. I realize this question is quite vague.

First, let me say, in my head, what I am thinking of is also a desire, due to an impress of the
technological, to be non-conscious, not just unconscious, because unconscious, and dreaming, have heavy Freudian bagage I suspect. I was thinking there must be references that were just an escape from the conscious.

In Blade Runner Deckerd does have that unicorn dream in the director's cut. I think think it relates more to him being a replicant? However, I think (this is me thinking this out and reading the plot descriptions not lectuing btw) Tyrell does build Roy with a limited life (4 years?) which is the flip side to textual examples of technology driving humans to non-consciousness. So thank you, because I had been thinking of those as well. That's great.

I had forgotten what the plot was to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind completely. Some good stuff on this in there. The technology isn't necessarily what drives them to non-consciousness (still just thinking it out) but it definitely allows for it. Interesting. thanks.

The Debord is interesting. Naturally I don't remember the quote, so that is great. Media as technology is slightly beyond what I am thinking, though "mass media as resulting from an increased technological sophistication" I should think, just on face value, has to be true.

Regardless, do you know what he means by the spectacle is the nightmare and the guardian? I would think the spectacle, as increased technological sophistication born mass media, would be the guardian of sleep, but not necessarily the nightmare (at least not to those taken by the spectacle).

Anyhow, thanks for helping me think the question through, and for the leads.
posted by 8 Bit at 9:18 PM on April 25, 2008

"Brave New World" offers an interesting twist-- the protagonist is trying to escape from a hyper-technologized world which dubdues its own subjects with euphoric drugs (soma), commodities, and leisure.

Also, this is a bit more interesting, David Jones's epic World War I poem "In Parenthesis" shows the "everyman" protagonist reacting to the technologization/industrialization of modern war by creating a massive, densely allusive mythic structure from English/Welsh legend, a variety of canonical medieval texts, Christianity, and, weirdly, the works of Lewis Carroll. Ultimately, though, this protagonist seems to feel driven toward the death that will most likely consume him and obliterate his consciousness. All that myth and legend is kind of constructed as a deep cultural unconscious, I think. It's a difficult text, but Jones clearly addresses his preoccupation with technology in the introduction. Also, he provides notes for all his many obscure allusions.
posted by Septimus at 10:36 PM on April 25, 2008

I'm not so sure about a straight contrast between technology versus sleep/unconsciousness exactly. Technology is often a means to escape as well as standing for scientific rationalism and the conscious mind. Examples like David Croneneberg's Existenz spring to mind, or even Being John Malcovitch if you can consider a magic portal is just as much a means to an end as some random piece of equiptment or method dreamed up by a writer of speculative fiction. Many works by Phillip Kick or William Gibson could qualify depending how broad your definitions are. (Too modern?)

This may not be very on topic but I'm reminded of this wonderful biography of mathematician Ada Lovelace, which also deals with the rise of the Romantic, (he uses Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as an example), as a response to the Age of Reason and scientific discovery: The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron's Daughter: Benjamin Woolley.
posted by Coaticass at 1:49 AM on April 26, 2008

"Silent Snow, Secret Snow" by Conrad Aiken is a very moving and somewhat frightening short story about a boy who essentially flees into his unconscious, and sleep. He isn't fleeing technology, necessarily. The story is ambiguous as to motive, but does, I think, otherwise meet your requirements.
posted by Malla at 8:47 AM on April 26, 2008

Response by poster: these are all great. thank you. i'm going to look into them all.
posted by 8 Bit at 10:06 AM on April 26, 2008

Phillip Kick? I meant Phillip K. Dick of course. Oops.
posted by Coaticass at 1:22 AM on April 27, 2008

The Lion of Comarre by Arthur C. Clarke is a take on that from 1949. The whole plot is recounted in the link I provided.
posted by Kattullus at 3:09 PM on April 27, 2008

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