Roughly chronological, these essays explore Barnes’ early work in the New York newspaper world of the ‘teens, proceed through the 1954 publication of The Antiphon, and include several approaches to such works as Ryder, Ladies Almanack, and Nightwood. This judicious mix of essays—many of them illustrated by photographs and drawings—presents a comprehensive picture of the creative imagination of Djuna Barnes.
Essayists include Mary Lynn Broe, Nancy J. Levine, Ann Larabee, Joan Retallack, Carolyn Allen, Carolyn Burke, Sheryl Stevenson, Marie Ponsot, Frances M. Doughty, Susan Sniader Lanser, Frann Michel, Karla Jay, Jane Marcus, Judith Lee, Julie L. Abraham, Meryl Altman, Lynda Curry, Louise A. DeSalvo, and Catharine Stimpson. Individuals sharing personal recollections of Barnes are Ruth Ford, James B. Scott, Alex Gildzen, Hank O’Neal, Chester Page, Andrew Field, and Frances McCullough. Janice Thom and Kevin Engel provide an updated bibliography.
From The Book of Repulsive Women to The Antiphon, Barnes challenged old gender dichotomies as she shaped radical sociopolitical views. Her textual methods celebrated a multiplicity of voices, heterodox forms, and genres, transgressing those tenets of modernism that privilege the “high art” of a single, unified textual identity or a discrete discourse. These essays offer various critical approaches and sinuous readings of the full range of Barnes’ achievement. Interwoven through the essays and reminiscences is a lively commentary from Barnes’ friends and contemporaries as well as Barnes herself.