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Standing upright, unsleeping: sleeplessness, wakefulness and watchfulness in Prometheus Bound

Beaumont, M; (2021) Standing upright, unsleeping: sleeplessness, wakefulness and watchfulness in Prometheus Bound. Textual Practice 10.1080/0950236X.2021.1900370. (In press).

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Abstract

This article reinterprets Prometheus as an archetype of wakefulness and watchfulness. In the Aeschylean version, this mythical hero, is a victim of what might be characterised as sleep deprivation. The article begins by situating Prometheus in mythographic terms, arguing that scholars have overlooked the importance of sleeplessness to Zeus's punishment of him. It proceeds to trace the changes between Hesiod's and the Aeschylean account, paying attention to matters of crime and punishment. The article then offers a detailed rereading of Prometheus Bound, focusing first on Hermes's threats at the end of the play, an important context for thinking about penal torture; and, second, on the torture to which he is subjected at the start of the play. After outlining the role of sleep deprivation in medieval and early modern torture practices, the article returns to the classical period and the part that remaining awake plays in an episode in the Odyssey. Finally, it argues that Prometheus's sleeplessness, though the result of torture, acquires a positive, even heroic value in the Aeschylean play because it is associated with a state of political vigilance that resists the panoptic surveillance of tyrants. Here, wakefulness is redeemed as watchfulness.

Type: Article
Title: Standing upright, unsleeping: sleeplessness, wakefulness and watchfulness in Prometheus Bound
DOI: 10.1080/0950236X.2021.1900370
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/0950236X.2021.1900370
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, sleeplessness, sleep deprivation, torture, wakefulness, watchfulness
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of English Lang and Literature
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10126141
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