•Sleep Talk @ The Wellcome•

A few days back, the day after the ‘A Slap in the Face’ panel, Jon Fawcett called and asked me if I could join in some kind of Avant-Garde comedy troupe that was performing for Breaking the Rules at the British Library. But I sadly had to decline because of this:

This weekend I participated in another panel discussion, this time at the Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine. The event was part of the ‘Sleep Talk’ series accompanying their Sleeping and Dreaming exhibition, which I have reviewed.

In my dealings with the Wellcome, I had met Jung scholar Sonu Shamdasani. We recently had been meeting over lunch to discuss some of our overlapping interest in the foundations of late nineteenth century psychology, neurasthenia, etc.

It was Sonu who kindly invited me to participate in the Thursday’s insomnia panel (Feb 21), which I felt unworthy of, having not yet published anything on the subject.

For some reason I imagined the panel would start later in the day, perhaps around six-ish, so I had no intention of waking before noon. But at 11 am I got a phone call from a nervous Sonu asking me where in heaven’s name was I. Because of my recent bouts with insomnia, I had only slept a few hours. So of course I was a wreck. But what a perfect perspective from which to shed light on the subject of the panel discussion.

Sonu had said things were already going on and that my session would start in an hour. So I tubed it down to Euston and then up to the Quaker building thereon, where I found the group of panelists scattered around amid a coffee break. Kenton Kroker asked me what had kept me away, and thus we bonded over our insomniac interests.

When the panel started up again, I had to listen to and then respond to an essay on insomnia by Eluned SummersBremner, which had been circulated the week before. I had already heard whisperings from the medically minded that many did not know what to make of it. But I picked up on a few threads of the essay’s argument, namely eighteenth-century psychology and Lockean, Hartleyan doctrines of association.

It was exciting, actually, to be surrounded by fellow sleep and insomnia researchers, all sharing their expertise on a topic over which I have been in cloistered study these two years.

After the panel we went over to the Wellcome and strolled around Sleeping and Dreaming, which I had already seen. Then we all went up to Sonu’s stereo-centric office to retrieve some wine. Nice to see him such an audiophile. Then the group moved to more accommodating environs and drank, dined, and chatted amiably the rest of the afternoon and eve. Then home to Hampstead, well satisfied.


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