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Illuminating Sleeplessness in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth

Illuminating Sleeplessness in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth 2016 robert h. elias prize winner Illuminating Sleeplessness in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth Hannah Huber, University of South Carolina In The Decoration of Houses, her 1898 home décor guidebook, Edith Wharton scrutinizes the emergence of imitation “bric-à -brac” (184) and domestic electricity. Lecturing on the “unhealthiness of sleeping in a room with stuff hangings” (170), she maintains that “dust-collecting upholstery and knick-knacks” (165) contradict the bedroom’s purpose as a resting space. She also critiques the artificially lit home, declaring that “nothing has done more to vulgarize interior decoration than [electric light], which . . . has taken from our drawing-rooms all air of privacy” (126). Wharton’s aversions—to festooned bedrooms and twenty-fourhour lighting fixtures—illuminate her critique of society’s devaluation of both sleep and its designated spaces. Thomas Edison, famous for his light-bulb innovation, personifies the impact electric light had on American sleep practices. In 1895 he claimed, “People do not need several hours of continuous sleep, and that a few minutes, or an hour, of unconscious rest now and then is all that is required. . . . The habit of sleep was formed before the era of artificial light when people had no other way of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Studies in American Naturalism University of Nebraska Press

Illuminating Sleeplessness in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth

Studies in American Naturalism , Volume 11 (2) – Aug 29, 2016

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Publisher
University of Nebraska Press
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Copyright © University of Nebraska Press
ISSN
1944-6519
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Abstract

2016 robert h. elias prize winner Illuminating Sleeplessness in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth Hannah Huber, University of South Carolina In The Decoration of Houses, her 1898 home décor guidebook, Edith Wharton scrutinizes the emergence of imitation “bric-à -brac” (184) and domestic electricity. Lecturing on the “unhealthiness of sleeping in a room with stuff hangings” (170), she maintains that “dust-collecting upholstery and knick-knacks” (165) contradict the bedroom’s purpose as a resting space. She also critiques the artificially lit home, declaring that “nothing has done more to vulgarize interior decoration than [electric light], which . . . has taken from our drawing-rooms all air of privacy” (126). Wharton’s aversions—to festooned bedrooms and twenty-fourhour lighting fixtures—illuminate her critique of society’s devaluation of both sleep and its designated spaces. Thomas Edison, famous for his light-bulb innovation, personifies the impact electric light had on American sleep practices. In 1895 he claimed, “People do not need several hours of continuous sleep, and that a few minutes, or an hour, of unconscious rest now and then is all that is required. . . . The habit of sleep was formed before the era of artificial light when people had no other way of

Journal

Studies in American NaturalismUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Aug 29, 2016

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