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14 - Djuna Barnes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2012

Timothy Parrish
Affiliation:
Florida State University
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Summary

“There is not a person in the literary world who has not heard of, read and some stolen from NIGHTWOOD. The paradox … is … I am the ‘most famous unknown of the century!’” Writing to Natalie Clifford Barney in the 1960s Djuna Barnes (1892–1982) makes a hyperbolic claim about both her 1936 novel Nightwood and her oxymoronic obscurity, but in neither case is she wholly misguided. Nightwood, described on publication as a book that “does not belong to any easily definable class,” is a defining work of the twentieth century but woefully absent on roll calls of the American novel. Barnes has been a marginal figure in the literary canon, a repeated anecdote of expatriate American modernism rather than a writer of influence. Barnes is difficult, what Daniela Caselli describes as an “improper modernist” not easily suiting labels such as “queer,” “feminist,” or “avant-garde,” and her fictional style can still disconcert the most diligent of readers. But Barnes’s major fiction shows that she is much more than a literary anecdote. Exploring Barnes’s career as a writer and novelist it becomes clear that she offers a particular response to the cultural and literary tumult of the early twentieth century and is a unique voice in the history of the American novel.

New York Journalism

Barnes began her writing career as a journalist in New York at the age of twenty-one, employed as a writer and illustrator for the Brookyln Daily Eagle in spring 1913. She was soon writing and interviewing for a range of New York publications including the New York World Magazine, New York Tribune, and New York Morning Telegraph Sunday Magazine. Established as a successful freelancer, Barnes went on to write for Vanity Fair after her move to Paris in 1919 and for the Theatre Guild Magazine in the early 1930s.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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References

Caselli, Daniela, Improper Modernism: Djuna Barnes’s Bewildering Corpus, Burlington, Vt., Ashgate, 2009.Google Scholar
DeLauretis, Teresa, “Nightwood and the ‘Terror of Uncertain Signs,’” Critical Inquiry, 34, Winter 2008, 117–29.Google Scholar
Edmunds, Susan, “Narratives of a Virgin’s Violation: The Critique of Middle-Class Reformism in Djuna Barnes’s Ryder,” Novel: A Forum for Fiction, 30.2, Winter 1997: 218–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goody, Alex, Modernist Articulations: A Cultural Study of Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy and Gertrude Stein, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Horner, Avril and SueZlosnik, , “Strolling in the Dark: Gothic Flânerie in Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood.” Gothic Modernisms, ed., Smith, Andrew and Wallace, Jeff, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2001, 78–94.Google Scholar
Kaup, Monika, “The Neobaroque in Djuna Barnes,” Modernism/modernity, 12.1, 2005, 85–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marcus, Jane, “Laughing at Leviticus: Nightwood as Woman’s Circus Epic.” Silence and Power, a Reevaluation of Djuna Barnes, ed. Broe, Mary Lynn, Carbondale and Edwardsville, Southern Illinois University Press, 1991, 221–50.Google Scholar
Parsons, Deborah, Djuna Barnes, Horndon, England, Northcote House, 2003.Google Scholar
Ponsot, Marie, “A Reader’s Ryder.” Silence and Power, a Reevaluation of Djuna Barnes, ed. Lynn, MaryBroe, , Carbondale and Edwardsville, Southern Illinois University Press, 1991, 94–135.Google Scholar
Taylor, Julie.Djuna Barnes and Affective Modernism, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2012.Google Scholar
Warren, Diane, Djuna Barnes’s Consuming Fictions, Burlington, Vt., Ashgate, 2008.Google Scholar
Barnes, Djuna, “The Terrible Peacock,” in Smoke and Other Early Stories (Los Angeles, Sun & Moon Press, 1993), p. 25Google Scholar
Caselli, Daniela, Improper Modernism: Djuna Barnes’s Bewildering Corpus (Burlington Vt., Ashgate, 2009), p.124Google Scholar
Barnes, Djuna, Ryder (Normal, Ill., Dalkey Archive Press, 1990)Google Scholar
Warren, Dianne, Djuna Barnes’ Consuming Fictions (Burlington Vt., Ashgate, 2008)Google Scholar
Barnes, Djuna, Nightwood (London, Faber & Faber, 2007)Google Scholar
Plumb, Cheryl J. considers the titles considered for Nightwood in Djuna Barnes, Nightwood: The Original Version and Related Drafts (Normal Ill., Dalkey Archive Press, 1995), p. viii; Barnes lists possible titles (including the suggestion “The Beggars’ Comedy”) in a 1930s address book in the Papers of Frances McCollough, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Box 2Google Scholar
Goodby, John, “Djuna Barnes as a Source for Dylan Thomas,Notes and Queries 58.1 (2011): 127–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
William Burroughs letter to Mary Lynn Broe, January 1985; printed in Silence and Power: A Reevaluation of Djuna Barnes, ed. Mary Lynn Broe (Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1991), p. 206
Marcus, Jane, “Laughing at Leviticus: Nightwood as Woman’s Circus Epic,” in Silence and Power: A Reevaluation of Djuna Barnes, ed. Mary Lynn Broe (Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1991), pp. 221–50Google Scholar
Higgins, Aidan, Windy Arbours: Collected Criticism (Normal Ill., Dalkey Archive Press, 2005)Google Scholar

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  • Djuna Barnes
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.015
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  • Djuna Barnes
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.015
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Djuna Barnes
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.015
Available formats
×