Unconscious Motifs and Gender Trouble in Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood

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Sopiko Geliashvili


The above-mentioned article reviews unconscious motifs and gender trouble in Djuna Barnes’ novel Nightwood. American modernist writer, a member of minorities due to her sexual orientation, had always been considered as an eccentric and audacious person in Parisian society. The characters of Nightwood have to fight against their unconscious that is presented not only as the event of specific period of mankind but the problem existing from ancient times to modern life.

Djuna Barnes shed light on topics and issues that had rarely been discussed publicly, including non-traditional sexual orientation, the characters’ search for status as members of society, and a permanent conflict between conscious and unconscious. These topics are presented within a fictional setting, whereas great importance is attributed to the symbolism of decoration together with the appearance of the characters and each of their gestures. Through the above-mentioned devices, the novel creates a sense of spaciousness and despite presenting one specific epoch, it does not belong to any given period of time because it can be associated with the Elizabethan tragedy as well as with king James’s epoch.

In the article I do analyze the sexual experiences and unconscious desires of Robin Vote, Matthew O’Connor, Nora Flood and Jenny Petherbridge. Robin represents the troubled nature of an animal and child with bisexual desires. Matthew O’Connor is the mythological Tiresias who appears in the novel as a hermaphrodite Parisian gynecologist. Nora Flood and Jenny Petherbridge present lesbian characters with childhood traumas.

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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Minorities and/in Literature