Emory English professor Benjamin Reiss was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for 2015 and will spend the 2015-2016 academic year studying modern sleep.

Reiss’s Guggenheim project is “Thoreau’s Bed: How Sleep Became a Problem in the Modern World,” a book whose idea germinated in a course Reiss co-taught with Emory neurologist David Rye on “Sleep in Science and Culture.” The book “asks how sleep became a nightly ordeal in need of micromanagement, medical attention and pervasive worry.”

In his Guggenheim proposal, Reiss states, “Far from a simple biological constant, sleep actually is one of the most rule-bound and tightly regimented activities of our society — and yet the rules we adhere to (sleep in one unbroken stretch for roughly eight hours; do so in a private, sealed room with at most one other consenting adult; train your children to sleep alone through the night from a very young age) seem particularly maladaptive to the waking worlds we inhabit.”

Reiss is among 173 Guggenheim Fellows named this year by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; winners were chosen on the basis of “prior achievement and exceptional promise” out of more than 3,100 applicants.

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