The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters- The Infinite Conflict of Reason
In his painting titled “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,” Francisco de Goya illustrates a horrific image of a man sleeping while being attacked by “monsters” as a product of his failure to create. Yet Goya ‘s depiction does more than merely tell a story. When analyzed in the historical context, the painting beckons and outlines much of the rhetoric of the enlightenment period - that human reason will produce progress. If we centralize this tenet from the point of view of the context, a revolutionary mind in progress, it presents a clear lack of respect in Europe from the Scientific Revolution to the Industrial Revolution during a period of intellectual, political and artistic enlightenment through reason, as a new way of thinking about the world. Now let me start by describing the symbolic meaning of the image before I proceed its analysis and correlation to the historical conflicts created by the Enlightenment. The central image of the engraving shows a man who is an intellectual and/or artist lying on a desk next to a piece of working paper and feathers. The man appears to be asleep, likely after working hard on a task. That being said, his positioning could be telling a rather different story: one where he (the man, the painting) is writhing under the effect of an emotional crisis and melancholy. I would argue the sleeping man or “sleeper”, if you will, represents “reason” resting possibly as the result of overall exhaustion, and quite literally mental fatigue. This would imply that the hard work and effort of thinking made the man fall asleep. Behind the sleepers slumbering body, there is semi-darkness, where several nocturnal creatures including owls, cats, bats etc. are lurking. What might have invoked them? Perhaps the man’s suffering and inability to appeal to reason, that is, his creativity and freedom of expression. We (the audience) can think of the monsters as the...
Cited: Kishlansky, Mark A. "The Two New Sciences." Sources of World History. 4th ed. Vol. 2. California: Thomson Wandsworth, 2007. 400-04.
Spodek, Howard. "The Scientific Revolution." The World’s History. 4th ed. Vol. 2. New Jersey: Person Education, 2010. 523-27.
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