Sleeping spaces and the circumscription of desire
in Sleep and its spaces in Middle English literature
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Chapter 3, in particular, examines the literary implications of how, in a society in which beds and bedchambers were relatively scarce and protected, sleeping either in such specialised sleeping spaces, or elsewhere, entailed navigating various pleasures and dangers such as desire, detection, abduction and disease – as well as dreams. As with sleep itself, my interest in the spaces of sleep particularly concerns the ways in which they become the focus of narrative commentary and diegetic conversation. Intriguingly, when negotiating the possibility of sex in Middle English romances, it is often the spaces of sleep, rather than bodies themselves, that receive textual attention. Beds and other sleeping spaces sometimes serve as contested liminal environments in which gendered roles can become destabilised, and the spaces of sleep (like sleep itself) also stimulate diegetic interpretations of character and conduct, as when bloody bedsheets lead to accusations of adultery in Arthurian literature.

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