Djuna Barnes: A Forgotten Ferocity of the 1920s

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Djuna Barnes was an outspoken and fiercely witty modernist writer of the 1920’s. She was known for her somewhat puzzling writing, her bravery when it came to her own journalism, and her everyday intense persona. She is a figure that, one would think, would have never been forgotten, yet with time, and somewhat by her own doing, she has faded into the background of the 1920’s writers. So much so that, “Barnes once described herself as 'the most famous unknown writer', and this was an astute remark.” (Loncraine.)

Barnes was born in 1892, in New York state to her mother and her eccentric Father (who was rather fond of polyamory). She lived in a home with her Grandmother, Father, Mother, her Father’s Mistress, and her brothers and sisters. She and her sibling were never formally schooled, but instead taught by their Grandmother, whose description in Rebecca Loncraine’s article, lends an understanding to Djuna’s unique personality,

The Barnes children were all educated at home, largely by their grandmother, Zadel Barnes, who was a suffragist, journalist and spirit medium. Barnes's childhood was not happy, and it haunted her writing. (Loncraine)

After the separation of her parents, in 1912, she with her Mother and brothers, moved to New York City. She studied at the Pratt Institute of art, until financial troubles forced her to look for work to support her family and her grandmother’s failing health. She is said to have walked into the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and announced, “I can draw and write, and you’d be a fool not to hire me,” a bold statement that landed her a job in journalism, where her career as a soon to be modernist would begin to flourish. Just as her statement that landed her the job was bold, so was her approach to writ...

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...er writer in Paris in the 1920s. For Joyce presented Miss Barnes in 1923 with the original manuscript of Ulysses containing all of it’s annotations.

Works Cited:

Loncraine, Rebecca. "Djuna Barnes: an unknown modernist: Rebecca Loncraine introduces Djuna Barnes, one of America's least known and most intriguing Modernist writers." The English Review 15.3 (2005): 34+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.

Field, Andrew, and Andrew Field. Djuna, the Formidable Miss Barnes. Austin: University of Texas, 1985. Print.

Bombaci, Nancy. "“Well Of Course, I Used To Be Absolutely Gorgeous Dear”: The Female Interviewer As Subject/Object In Djuna Barnes's Journalism." Criticism 44.2 (2002): 161-185. Art Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 7 Apr. 2014.

Barnes, Djuna. The Book of Repulsive Women: 8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings. Los Angeles, CA: Sun & Moon, 1994. Print.

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