Recalling Djuna Barnes, A Modernist Mover and Shaker

Jade French at the TLS:

As the subtitle of this collection of essays plainly implies, Barnes did modernism her way. She might have been ambivalent about the movement, resulting in what Daniela Caselli calls her “aesthetics of uncertainty”. But there is no doubting her credentials as a modernist mover and shaker: as a Left Bank journalist, an interviewer of James Joyce, the author of that late modernist masterpiece Nightwood (1936) and the beneficiary of Peggy Guggenheim’s largesse. Yet Barnes also slips away from easy chronology and canonization, not least because of her longevity. Born in 1892, she died in 1982, at the age of ninety, having outlived many of her peers by decades. On its dust jacket and between chapters, Shattered Objects acknowledges that longevity by featuring photographs of her in later life. The visual representation matters. Barnes’s reputation has long been framed as a story of decline – as that of a once dazzling author turned (by the mid-century) recluse.

more here.

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