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    Djuna Barnes, Thelma Wood and the making of the Lesbian Modernist Grotesque

    Winning, Jo (2019) Djuna Barnes, Thelma Wood and the making of the Lesbian Modernist Grotesque. In: Pender, E. and Setz, C. (eds.) Shattered Objects: Djuna Barnes’ Modernism. Pennsylvannia, U.S.: Penn State University Press, pp. 95-112. ISBN 9780271082202.

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    Received narratives of the relationship between Djuna Barnes and her lover Thelma Wood have failed, to date, to pay due attention to the ways in which the pairing produced a particular shared aesthetic which shaped the visual and literary production of both women. In particular, through an interarts examination of both written and visual materials, this chapter will explore the creation of a visual and textual vocabulary which it terms the lesbian modernist grotesque. Sheryl Stevenson has argued, in relation to Ryder, that the grotesque offers Djuna Barnes 'a rich source of critical tools.' Undoubtedly the tropes of the grotesque and abjection attract Barnes from an early point in her creative career, as evidenced in her early newspaper illustrations and her early (and eventually repudiated) text The Book of Repulsive Women (1915). Yet the trope is most fully drawn out, modified, shaped after Barnes meets Wood and they begin to live and work with and alongside each other. Wood's early sculptural and silverpoint works articulate a similar attraction to dissident and grotesque forms. Together, working across visual (pen and ink illustration, oil portraiture, sculpture and silverpoint) and textual media through the 1920s, they develop a shared (perhaps eventually claustrophobically insular) vocabulary of organic corporeality and human/animal hybridity with which to describe experience, subjectivity and sexuality. For Barnes, this vocabulary comes to shape the language and symbolic landscape of her most famous work, Nightwood (1936). Whilst this work has received a vast amount of excellent critical attention, what has been occluded is the way in which the lesbian modernist grotesque aesthetic which the Barnes/Wood relation produces, structures the text.


    Item Type: Book Section
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Depositing User: Jo Winning
    Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2021 15:58
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:41


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