The Space Between: Literature and Culture 1914-1945

"Vivid and Repulsive as the Truth": Hybridity and Sexual Difference in Djuna Barnes's The Book of Repulsive Women

Meghan C. Fox
LaGuardia Community College—CUNY

This article argues that Djuna Barnes’s The Book of Repulsive Women challenges dominant representations of female sexuality by transvaluing perversity and endorsing a form of radical alterity. In this text, as in much of her oeuvre, Barnes uses hybridity as a formal and representational strategy for expressing resistance to generic conventions and gendered norms. This recuperative reading of Barnes’s marginalized chapbook demonstrates how the text creates physical and conceptual spaces for her queer subjects and offers non-binary models of gender and sexuality. Furthermore, Barnes’s text allows us to think more concretely about the politics of form and to account more tangibly for gender within Deleuze and Guattari’s conception of “minor literature.”

Keywords:  Djuna Barnes / The Book of Repulsive Women / hybridity / sexual difference / minor literature / feminist theory
In a 1919 interview with Djuna Barnes, her publisher, Guido Bruno, asserts, “No one can deny that all your efforts are picturesque, unusual, even beautiful in their ugliness. No one denies you have talent. But why such morbidity?” (386). Barnes replies, “This life I write and draw and portray is life as it is, and therefore you call it morbid.”  

Bruno’s interview with Barnes highlights her “unusual” style and the logic of repulsion that governs her first chapbook, The Book of Repulsive Women, but it also epitomizes the reductive critical attempts to categorize Barnes’s early work. Bruno insists on positioning Barnes’s artistic output in terms of decadent aesthetics, a claim he reinforces by comparing the visual elements of her 1919 play, Three from the Earth, to Aubrey Beardsley’s drawings and its language to that of Oscar Wilde (384). Bruno also published the interview in Pearson’s Magazine under the title “Fleur du Mal à la Mode de New York,” thus drawing parallels between Barnes and Baudelaire. In this context, it does not seem surprising that critics initially cast aside Barnes’s early work as a “derivative” and outmoded form of 1890s decadence, but this critical indifference toward The Book of Repulsive Women has also pervaded contemporary scholarship.  In spite of the current critical attention to Barnes and the various extant editions of The Book of Repulsive Women, this text has yet to garner the scholarly consideration it deserves.1 Because the poems are incongruous with the dominant aesthetics of the period, failing to adhere to the poetic trends of Pound and H.D.’s imagism, William Carlos Williams’s free verse, or T. S. Eliot’s fragmented and densely allusive poetic style, they tend to be ignored or disparaged. Bridget Elliott and Jo-Ann Wallace also make note of the critical challenges for feminist readers who must grapple with the derogatory connotations of the collection’s title (137). Consequently, with the exception of recent work by Daniela Caselli, Melissa Jane Hardie, Mary E. Galvin, Irene Martyniuk, and Mary I. Unger, contemporary scholarship on Barnes, including new monographs, only mentions The Book of Repulsive Women in passing, if at all.

Published in November of 1915, this little book of “8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings” appeared as part of the “Bruno Chap Books” series, which included works by Alfred Kreymborg and Richard Aldington.2 The work featured Barnes’s black and white drawings as well as her poetry and depicted an array of so-called “repulsive” women: lesbians, prostitutes, and female corpses. Although prostitutes and lesbians abound in the literature of the period and at the fin-de-siècle, Barnes does more than rehearse tired scripts. In The Gender of Modernity, Rita Felski argues that the figure of the lesbian and the prostitute within the work of French avant-garde writers, including Baudelaire’s, enabled “a subversion of ‘natural’ heterosexuality and the imperatives of biological reproduction…without necessarily challenging the traditional assumptions and privileges of masculinity” (20–21). Barnes’s work, however, appropriates and redeploys decadent tropes as a way to expose and challenge this misogyny. Moreover, the chapbook moves among various artistic forms and historically situated aesthetic registers, and ought to be reassessed in relation to Barnes’s genre-bending oeuvre.

Revisiting this early and often-disregarded text offers insight into Barnes’s seemingly disparate body of work. From this first poetry publication to her posthumously published Creatures in an Alphabet (1982), Barnes’s literary projects privilege hybridity; they are mixed genre or mixed media forms, most often brought about through the pairing of text and image. Barnes’s oeuvre, and The Book of Repulsive Women in particular, reveals her interest in challenging generic conventions and dominant Western iterations of “proper” forms of embodiment, sexuality, and personhood. I argue that Barnes uses hybridity as a representational strategy for articulating varied forms of embodied female experience that fall outside the domain of proper femininity. In so doing, she critiques representations of women propagated by hegemonic philosophical and literary projects that construct women in terms of lack and repulsion, but she also offers alternative models of gender and sexuality that move beyond binary thinking. Thus, I advocate for the recuperation of The Book of Repulsive Women by revealing how Barnes’s “crooked” rhymes and “repulsive” drawings construct a potential third space for the queer subjects of her chapbook.3 This essay joins other recent feminist examinations of form, including book-length studies by Diane Warren, Daniela Caselli, Julie Taylor, and Bonnie Roos, that act as a corrective to the pitfalls of past criticism that Caselli has identified: “Barnes scholarship has suffered for too long from the opposition between a formalist criticism guilty of neglecting sexual politics and a feminist criticism bypassing formal complexities” (81). Furthermore, as a temporal inversion of Scott Herring’s recent work on Barnes’s “geriatric avant-garde” aesthetics, which asks readers to recalibrate their definitions of productivity and confront their prejudices regarding old age, this essay seeks to reconsider older narratives of Barnes’s life and her writing in order to reexamine The Book of Repulsive Women with fresh eyes.

Herein, I espouse a feminist appropriation of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of a “minor literature” as a way to illustrate the extent of (and the relationship between) Barnes’s radical sexual politics and aesthetic aims in The Book of Repulsive Women. As I suggest above, early readings of the text posit aesthetic failure but do not engage with Barnes’s representation of female embodiment or her critique of normativity, both of which are central in this text. My work also builds on the aforementioned contemporary scholarship on the chapbook in my use of “minor” literature and my consideration of hybridity and radical alterity as crucial elements of Barnes’s feminist critique. I argue that Barnes reinforces her repudiation of social norms through her resistance to established genres and aesthetic trends. Although Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of a “minor literature” is often put to productive use within postcolonial theory, we may better understand Barnes’s textual politics by considering the significance of “minor literature” within the context of gender.

Deleuze and Guattari define a work of “minor literature” through “the deterritorialization of language, the connection of the individual to a political immediacy, and the collective assemblage of enunciation” (18). Their conception of a “minor literature,” however, is not one that reifies minority subject positions; “minor” is not a stable term, but one contingent upon shifting power relations and, more specifically, its relationship to the “major.” Minor literature has been taken up most often by postcolonial critics to discuss the politically-charged work of writers from colonized or formerly colonized nations who choose to write in the language or forms of the colonizers. Yet, I argue minor literature, as a theoretical paradigm, may allow us to account for the effects of gender and sexual orientation upon language and even genre. The Book of Repulsive Women exposes the denigration of women’s bodies and forms of expression that appears within Western philosophy and the literary canon. Barnes responds by inverting these representations, transvaluing dominant accounts of perversity, and endorsing forms of radical alterity. The chapbook’s improper discourse and its medial generic status complement the liminal and grotesque female subjects it depicts. That is to say, Barnes’s text concretizes the relationship between the hybrid bodies she depicts and the generically hybrid text that contains them. In this way, The Book of Repulsive Women enables us to reconceptualize the shape of a “minor literature” in an effort to take into account both sexual and textual difference. Barnes’s queer and feminist interventions into language and the relationship posed between the words and images of her chapbook help us to think more broadly about Deleuze and Guattari’s conception of form in a “minor literature” and more concretely about the effects of gender upon language and literature.

Otherness: Hybrid Bodies and Forms

Barnes’s oeuvre is characteristically unruly and impossible to pin down.4 The “promiscuity of the Barnes corpus,” to use Caselli’s turn of phrase, is both a source of pleasure and frustration for scholars (4). Her work borrows from various genres and literary periods, thereby resisting easy attempts at categorization. Much like her contemporary Gertrude Stein, Barnes writes as if “there is no use in a centre” (498). Referents and perspectives shift almost seamlessly in her polyphonic texts. Warren lauds Barnes’s work as “one of the most extended and linguistically dexterous explorations of gender and literary tradition produced in the twentieth century,” and she provocatively maintains that Barnes’s boundary-crossing aesthetic proves most viable in her work prior to Nightwood (21, 138). Yet unlike Warren’s book-length study, which focuses exclusively on Ryder, Ladies Almanack, Nightwood, The Antiphon, and Barnes’s journalism, my argument assesses the efficacy of Barnes’s hybrid subjects and forms through an analysis of The Book of Repulsive Women. By defying “proper” genre conventions, The Book of Repulsive Women creates space for the representation of the “improper,” or marginalized, subjects of modernism. Barnes’s animal-human hybrids reveal and reject the ill-fitting Victorian strictures that still informed the socio-political values of the early twentieth century.

Barnes’s chapbook articulates its political immediacy through its subscription to an ontology of sexual difference and its transvaluation of otherness; the volume exposes the structural violence that turns women into objects—they appear throughout the collection as deviant bodies, debased commodities, and decaying flesh—but it also gestures toward a queer futurity. The first poem, “From Fifth Avenue Up,” begins, “Someday … / We’ll know you for the woman / That you are,” and concludes with a lesbian sex act (ll.1, 5–6). The final poem, “Suicide,” operates in the past tense and depicts two corpses: the first is a battered woman, “shattered” with “a bruisèd body” (ll. 1, 3); the second is likened to a “beer gone flat” (l. 12). Andrea Weiss deems the collection “a satire on the way men look at women’s bodies” (147), but Barnes’s critique reaches further than the detrimental effects of the male gaze. Her text destabilizes these pervasive views and the heterosexist culture that perpetuates them.

Barnes’s poems and drawings feature lesbians, prostitutes, and grotesque and aging bodies, but the collection suggests that the titular adjective “repulsive” extends beyond these groups: all women are or will be repulsive. Barnes’s “collective enunciation,” to use the language of Deleuze and Guattari (17), is alarming but politically motivated; its progressive potential exists in its efforts to reshape the consciousness of its audience. The unsettling nature of the title is its inclusivity: if all women are repulsive, lesbians and prostitutes share something in common with the “proper” lady. Barnes’s chapbook may speak from the margins of society, but the poems and drawings suggest that the margins are more expansive than most would like to acknowledge. If a woman’s worth is predicated on society’s approval of her physique and her adherence to sexual norms, then her potential for success may only be short-lived. Repulsion therefore serves a twofold purpose: it makes misogynistic ideology visible, and it operates as a queer affective tool for repelling normative values.

Hybridity, likewise, operates as a representational strategy for exposing these double binds and exploring forms of sexual and textual difference. In the text, woman appears as a hybrid subject, a mélange of human and animal parts, in a perpetual state of becoming, but the chapbook also combines two forms of art: drawings and “rhythms,” or poems. By this point in her career, the pairing of text and visual images was already familiar to Barnes, as sketches frequently accompanied her journalistic work in The New York Morning Telegraph, New York World Magazine, and The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.5 Certainly, illuminated manuscripts, novels, and children’s books have long made use of the pairing of text and illustration, and at first glance, even William Blake’s pairing of poems and illustrations bears a striking resemblance to the structure of Barnes’s chapbook.6 Yet Barnes’s work differs from these more conventional forms in a few key ways. Barnes’s images are drawings, not illustrations—a distinction articulated in Barnes’s subtitle to the work that will be made clear below—and consequently, there is no direct correspondence between the poems and the images.7 Furthermore, Barnes’s use of drawings and poems makes an implicit argument about the inadequacy of a single genre to articulate her stance. Irene Martyniuk makes a similar point: “The verbal must be complemented and completed with visual images in order to tell the complete tale” (66). Although a “complete” tale is never accessible in Barnes’s work, The Book of Repulsive Women and much of her oeuvre remain dedicated to representing marginalized subjects through hybrid “minor” forms; this serves as an overt challenge to the constructed divisions between established genres and gendered norms.

The original arrangement of the chapbook underscores the role of hybridity in the text. The first edition of The Book of Repulsive Women contains two distinct sections. The “rhythms” or poems appear at the beginning of the text and the “drawings” appear at the end of the volume, introduced by a separate title page. Later reproductions have not respected the original format of the chapbook but instead have integrated the two sections; the various extant editions reflect different editorial decisions in the arrangement of poems and images. Routledge, which reprinted this collection along with some of Barnes’s other work under the title The Book of Repulsive Women and Other Poems in 2003, made decisions about which poems were meant to be paired with which drawings and proceeded to incorporate the drawings on the same pages as the poems. Douglas Messerli, editor of the 1994 Sun and Moon Press edition, suggests that there is a direct relationship between the artwork and specific poems, but states, “Without knowing Barnes’s original intentions, I felt editorially more comfortable placing the art on facing pages of the poems rather than on the same pages. Moreover, the art seemed to relate, in my mind, with poems different from those Bern Boyle [a previous editor] had chosen” (9). Additionally, in subsequent editions, the size and orientation of the images have been changed.8

Some scholars may see the integration of images and poems as an improvement upon the original text, but even conservative and conscientious editorial changes alter the way we read and interpret Barnes’s text in potentially troubling ways. Placing Barnes’s images alongside specific poems reframes the collection and encourages readers to see the images as playing an ancillary role in the collection. Yet, the subtitle to the work, “8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings,” reflects the original publication layout and places equal emphasis on both components of the project. Also, the extended title notably refuses the commonplace terms “poems” and “illustrations.” If this is a request to abandon our preconceptions of standard forms, then we must also resist the temptation to read her images as subordinate to the “rhythms,” as merely illustrations of the poems.9 In Picture Theory, W. J. T. Mitchell challenges cultural conceptions of images as “passive objects of description and explanation” and reminds readers of the theoretical work performed by visual images (82). Barnes’s work enacts this argument: her drawings are not simply examples of appraisals made within the poems; they contribute to the discourse on bodies and boundaries in nuanced ways. The collection’s expression through image and text—or what Mitchell calls the “imagetext”—and its rejection of conventional terminology emphasize the hybridity of the work and Barnes’s commitment to breaking with the established forms of major literature. More specifically, Barnes’s composite texts, which incorporate her poetry and her drawings, unsettle conceptions of modernism as an aesthetic movement predicated on purist and autonomous art objects. Mitchell argues that the pure division between the image and the verbal is “both impossible and utopian” and asserts the importance of recognizing this modernist conviction as ideology (96). In The Book of Repulsive Women, Barnes unravels the rhetoric of purity and reveals the fragility of culturally constructed genres and identity categories—a project she would continue throughout her life. In so doing, Barnes grants textual space and theoretical consideration to other modes of expression and alternative ways of being. As Deleuze and Guattari assert, “Expression must break forms, encourage ruptures and new sproutings” (28). In its attention to marginalized subjects and its commitment to unconventional forms, The Book of Repulsive Women does just that.

Barnes’s collection reveals the ways in which the female body has been socially constructed to the detriment of women. Her rhythms and drawings literalize the grotesque bodily metaphors present in “major” literature and philosophy that relegate women to a less than human status.10 “From Fifth Avenue Up” depicts female bodies that are “sagging” and “bulging” (l. 31) and “Twilight of the Illicit” features “long blank udders” (l. 1) and “dying hair hand-beaten” (l. 13). While these depictions may be read as a refusal to present women as beautiful objects for the scopophilic pleasure of men, the othering of women in this fashion reminds us of the ways that theories of sexual difference have been deployed to advocate for the regulation of women’s bodies. In the eyes of society, time turns women into grotesque entities.

Along similar lines, the chapbook represents female sexuality as deviant and dirty. The third poem, “From Third Avenue On,” begins:

And now she walks on out turned feet
            Beside the litter in the street
Or rolls beneath a dirty sheet
                        Within the town. (ll. 1–4)
The subject’s movements beneath “a dirty sheet” mark her, her sexuality, and the spaces she inhabits as literally sullied. A later poem, “Twilight of the Illicit,” marks debauchery by means of “spotted linen” (l. 3). Whether in the private quarters of a bedroom or in the public streets of New York City, this woman is surrounded by filth. It is not until later in the poem that one realizes that the speaker is ascribing to this woman a sense of mobility, visibility, and sexual freedom that she will later be denied. The “out turned feet” of her birdlike gait yoke excessive sexuality with animality and establish parallels between this poem and the drawing of the androgynous figure with two birds reprinted below (Fig. 1).

The third and fourth images in the first edition—which are perhaps the most startling images of the collection—feature naked or half naked women (Figs. 2 and 3). The first of these is semi-upright, posing on a brick wall with her back arched, one knee bent and the other leg fully extended behind her:

The woman in the drawing holds two limp flowers in her hand. Her features convey excess and animality. The woman’s face seems to be embellished with lipstick and eye makeup in such a way that makes her look more terrifying than beautiful.11 What one assumes to be her hair closely resembles reptilian spikes. Rabbit ears appear atop her head and a tail, taking the form of a dotted line, seems to protrude from her buttocks. As Bonnie Kime Scott notes, this is an early example of the “beast turning human,” perhaps a nascent image of Robin Vote in Barnes’s later work Nightwood (84). The figure poses in front of a dark sky and a gray textured moon.

The second nude drawing seems to convey an orgy (Fig. 3). A reclining woman, perched above the other figures, is partially covered by a piece of fabric, which hangs over her bed. She is grasping the appendage of another figure:

Scott identifies these ambiguous limbs as hands and arms, but they could very well be feet and legs (84). The indeterminacy of the body parts seems deliberate. Barnes’s drawings blur and blend the characteristics of the human and the animal, thus challenging the distinctions between individual subjects and species. The legs or arms, adorned in animal-print fabric, bleed into the white of the page creating a discontinuous border around the drawing. The two figures below the reclining woman appear to have flippers in place of hands. One is clearly a Chinese man as evidenced by his exaggerated "Fu Manchu"-style mustache. His rounded back, which is heavily textured, appears to be covered in scales. An additional limb extending from the shoulder stretches upward, possibly between the woman’s legs. All of the limbs have a “phallic quality” to them (Scott 84). The figure in the center is difficult to describe and its gender is indecipherable. The face comes closest to resembling a Venetian mask. Like Picasso’s 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Barnes’s drawings provocatively make use of prostitutes, masks, and primitivism, thusly refusing to depict traditional feminine beauty.

This image and the second one in this collection—depicted below (Fig. 5) featuring a bodiless Asian figure wearing a traditional conical hat—reveal an underlying orientalist preoccupation in this work.  Racist stereotypes perpetuated by the fear of “Yellow Peril” were pervasive in England and America at the beginning of the twentieth century, but their presence in the chapbook is more than a reflection of the time.12 By situating stereotypical Asian figures in the same frames as deviant women, Barnes problematically equates woman with the racialized other. This unsettling gesture erases important differences in its efforts to emphasize women’s marginalized status.

Yet, Barnes also transgresses proper boundaries in more productive ways. Nearly all of the drawings reveal ambiguous or inconsistent borders. In one image of a woman dancing, dotted lines are used to represent her legs, but the incomplete borders do not clearly demarcate the woman’s lower half (Fig. 4).

Her midsection also requires the work of the viewer to fill in the missing lines. In another image, which features a woman grasping a Chinese lantern, suggestive of the world’s oldest profession, the figure’s lower half entirely vanishes into the whiteness of the page; this drawing has only partial borders on a small portion of three of its sides (Fig. 5).13 Arms and legs are only partially visible with white patches (created by negative space) cutting cross-sections out of the body parts.

The blurring of borders and boundaries in Barnes’s drawings adds to the discourse on hybridity and otherness that appear in the poems by making visible the marginal space women have been assigned within the Western public imaginary.

Paradoxically, the drawings and poems depict women as simultaneously incomplete and excessive. Female bodies take the shape of “lips, long lengthened” (“Twilight of the Illicit,” l. 15), “bulging” bellies (“From Fifth Avenue Up,” l. 31), and a “massive mother” (“Twilight of the Illicit,” l. 27). The text luxuriates in the abject, which Julia Kristeva theorizes as “a vortex of summons and repulsion,” that which “disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous” (1, 4). Kristeva’s words aptly characterize this dense, enigmatic, collection of drawings and poems. In Barnes’s drawings, the grotesque images of disfigured female bodies bleed into the white of the page, as borders and boundaries must simply be imagined. In the West, women’s bodies have been historically and culturally constructed as leaky and incomplete. They regularly bleed, and when subjectivity is contingent upon proper forms of embodiment, female bodies defy the “boundaries of the proper” (Shildrick 17). Yet, while these excesses may be read as repulsive, they are not depicted as necessarily negative qualities within the poems. Barnes’s excessively alliterative verse replicates the excesses of the female body, reveling in its sensuality and physicality; the poetic form underscores the transvaluation of these characteristics. The text thus works on multiple levels. First, The Book of Repulsive Women exposes phallogocentric logic in order to critique it. At the same time, the poems and images appropriate conceptions of lack, excess, vice, and repulsion in such a way that subverts this patriarchal view of women by valuing the very things that “major” literature and culture despises. Barnes’s poems situate true perversity within hegemonic institutions, not female sexuality.

Barnes’s blurring of borders and boundaries represents a challenge to and radical reconsideration of subjectivity. Her unbounded subject disrupts the taxonomic relationship between humans and animals, and forces the reader to recognize the socially constructed hierarchies operating within society. By making women’s lived experience of otherness visible, Barnes opens up space for “the possibility to express another possible community and to forge the means for another consciousness and another sensibility” (Deleuze and Guattari 17). Barnes shows us that this new consciousness requires a movement away from binary and essentialist thinking.
The Reader’s Complicity 

In a letter to her German translator Wolfgang Hildersheimer, Barnes wrote: "The Book of Repulsive Women (idiotic title) was published here ages ago, and pirated by a wretched set called the Alley Cats or something of the sort. I was very stupit [sic] about getting copyright in my youth. Poems they are, and not—much—ink drawings, very thin, very few. Not worth bothering about I should think" (qtd. in Caselli 69).  Caselli, Hardie, Bridget Elliott, and Jo-Ann Wallace make note of Barnes’s apparent ambivalence toward the chapbook and observe that both her first publisher, Guido Bruno, and Oscar Baron of Alicat Bookshop profited from the commodification of Barnes and her first publication. Bruno exploited Barnes’s work to bolster his own reputation as a decadent Bohemian provocateur, while Baron, undeterred by Barnes’s charges of piracy, printed and repurposed the chapbook to cultivate his image as an eccentric publisher and bibliophile.14 The fraught history of The Book of Repulsive Women may account for Barnes’s resentment toward the work, but more importantly, its publication history speaks to one of the concerns the chapbook articulates: men’s indifferent yet persistent efforts to turn women’s bodies—and bodies of work—into debased objects for their own gratification.

Barnes’s chapbook posits non-normativity and repulsion as sources of pleasure both sexually and ideologically, but it also refuses to conceal the bleaker side of alterity; the construction of “otherness” from without sometimes proves lethal, as the final poem “Suicide” suggests. Yet, Barnes mitigates the problematic lens of “otherness” in this collection by implicating her readers in the perpetuation of this damaging ideology. By scrutinizing the male gaze and exposing hypocritical views toward sex work, Barnes displays the political immediacy of her queer poetics. Thus, rather than being derivative, as some critics suggest, Barnes’s use of decadent tropes poses a challenge to misogyny and homophobia: Barnes’s poetics interpellate her readers as queer subjects, while simultaneously exposing their complicity in the structures that create an “unlivable life.”15

“To a Cabaret Dancer,” for example, catalogs the decline of a young woman forced to negotiate society’s contradictory stances on female sexuality. The cabaret first appears as an alluring opportunity with “lights and wine” (l. 7). Yet, the glamour and prospects that this lifestyle purportedly offers soon prove to be a ruse. The dancer arrives with “splendid grace” (l. 6), but as “she groped and clung / About his neck” (ll. 15–16) and “sang / Between our knees” (ll. 19–20), her sexualized body becomes a commodity. Her experience slowly destroys her, for it “Soiled a sweet and ignorant soul /And fouled its play” (ll. 31–32). The poem’s raw and sexualized verbs catalog her physical decline. The dancer’s innocence is taken from her along with her vitality. The speaker states:

We saw the crimson leave her cheeks
 Flame in her eyes;
For when a woman lives in awful haste
 A woman dies. (ll. 25–28)
The loss of pigmentation in her face, an easy metaphor for the loss of her spirit and liveliness, reinforces her body’s physical decay. This poem mimics a familiar narrative, but the tone of the final stanza shifts and implicates the reader:

Until her songless soul admits
 Time comes to kill:
You pay her price and wonder why
 You need her still. (ll. 41–44)16
Rather than serving as a didactic cautionary tale, “To a Cabaret Dancer” highlights the hypocrisy embedded in society’s attempt to criticize the dancer. The poem forces the reader to acknowledge his or her complicity in the woman’s condition. It concludes by citing “you” and your participation in these types of exchanges as part of the reason for her demise. This poem must be read alongside “From Third Avenue On” to fully appreciate Barnes’s critique of the limited options available to women at this time. “Twilight of the Illicit” and “From Fifth Avenue Up,” on the other hand, offer subversive alternatives to the bleak prospects proffered by the heteronormative exchange of women prominent in “major literature.”

“Seen from the ‘L’” explicitly registers the male gaze and further problematizes a seemingly inherent notion of otherness. The poem’s title refers to a voyeuristic experience when riding New York City’s L train, which runs part of its course above ground. A young woman’s naked body is the subject of the poem:

Still her clothing is less risky
Than her body in its prime,
They are chain-stitched and so is she
Chain-stitched to her soul for time.
Ravelling grandly into vice
Dropping crooked into rhyme.
Slipping through the stitch of virtue,
            Into crime. (ll. 13–20)
This stanza depicts a woman literally coming undone. The sewing metaphor—evocative of the feminine and domestic occupation of seamstress—carries this stanza to its completion with the unraveling of her virtue and her clothing paralleling the fall of the rhyme scheme: “Ravelling grandly into vice / Dropping crooked into rhyme.” “Crooked” conveys the illicit nature of these “rhythms” and underscores the chapbook’s “minor” status. Barnes’s diction and rhyme scheme reinforce the meta-poetical nature of this poem and the others. “Feet” and “beat”—terms for describing poetic meter—appear in numerous couplets. The other word frequently rhymed with one or both of these words is “sheet,” which yokes the sexual overtones to the form of these poems.17

“From Fifth Avenue Up,” however, is arguably the most transgressive poem from the collection due to its thinly veiled sex act, its dual perspective on alterity, and its use of embodied queer poetics. Its tone sharply contrasts with that of “To a Cabaret Dancer” in its playful use of language. Barnes’s representation of cunnilingus in “From Fifth Avenue Up” offers divergent perspectives on female embodiment and sexuality. The beginning of the sixth stanza lends itself to a reading of the female body as repulsive and depraved through the negative connotations suggested by words like “sagging” and “bulging.” Yet, by the end of the stanza, the emphasis shifts, concluding with a softer, more sensuous tone. This highly alliterative stanza advances the poem forward by describing sex outside of a phallic economy:

See you sagging down with bulging
Hair to sip,
The dappled damp from some vague
Under lip.
Your soft saliva, loosed
With orgy, drip. (ll. 30–35)
These lines describe female sexuality and pleasure in a way that anticipates the work of Luce Irigaray and Hélène Cixous. Lines like these, which play on the relationship between lips and labia, between language and the female body, also conceptually and thematically gesture to the concerns of Barnes’s Ladies Almanack (1928). Through double entendre, Barnes enacts a transformation or deterritorialization of the dominant language. In this stanza, the “soft saliva” of the female body signifies not only sexual release, but also escape from phallogocentric modes of signification. The poem uses the language of the female body and that of queer sexuality to serve as both a formal and thematic resistance to patriarchy and heteronormativity.

Furthermore, the poem’s linguistic slippage includes a series of unstable referents that render the reader complicit in the orgiastic sex act described therein. Earlier in the poem, the speaker uses the first person plural, referring presumably to the intended audience. Yet, the previous stanza suggests the collective movement from voyeur to actor, from watching to participating. The stanza begins with “We” but ends “at your feet”:

We see your damp chemise lie
Pulsing in the beat
Of the over-hearts left oozing
At your feet. (ll. 26–29)
The reader’s subject position is troubled. Is the reader part of the “we” that is performing cunnilingus or is the reader the “you” that is the recipient of the sex act? The unstable referents in the poem help to trouble this binary thinking—which often structures normative discussions of sex—by dismantling the divide between activity and passivity, giver and taker. The following stanza emphasizes further the queer overtones of the poem by calling attention to the homoerotic (and incestuous) pleasure associated with breastfeeding:

When leaning above your mother’s
Spleen you drew
Your mouth across her breast as
Trick musicians do. (ll. 38–41)
Herein, Barnes queers the relationship between mother and child, a relationship that lies at the center of heteronormative society. This is a transformative moment in the poem and the collection, as a slippage has been established between propriety and repulsiveness. Although the mother seems to satisfy society’s heteronormative reproductive demands, Barnes highlights the subversive bodily pleasure that both the mother and the child gain from the experience of breastfeeding.18 In this textual moment, the term “repulsive” expands to include a broader constituency, thus becoming more inclusive by implication. The chapbook gives voice to underrepresented experiences of female embodiment and privileges alternative forms of motherhood, pleasure, and desire.
Transvaluation or Perversity of a Different Kind

As one of its formal and political objectives, The Book of Repulsive Women strives to transform dominant ideology beginning with the transvaluation of individual words. Since language both reflects and shapes experience, Barnes urges her readers to consider how various words are deployed in “major” literature and how they may be redeployed to subvert these heteronormative frameworks. Deleuze and Guattari ask, “How many people today live in a language that is not their own?” (19). Although their rhetorical question speaks most directly to the oppressive effects of colonialism, it also resonates with a gendered experience of language. Barnes’s work demonstrates that by queering normative terms and transvaluing lack, repulsion, and vice, we may begin to release these words from their negative connotations and consider the potential they hold for challenging the present conditions and for reconceiving of the future.

When the women of Barnes’s collection submit to their “proper” domestic roles, they become repulsive in a very different sense:

Ah God! She settles down we say;
It means her powers slip away
It means she draws back day by day
           From good or bad. (“From Third Avenue On,” ll. 9–12)
Domesticity, propriety, and heterosexuality strip this woman of her power and her freedom, leaving her with only “chinaware” (l. 17), “over-curled, hard waving hair” (l. 19), and “a vacant space … in her face” (l. 22). Settling down may be understood as progress or maturity within a dominant framework, but Barnes’s poem undermines the value of choices taken as given in a heteronormative society. Herein, settling down signals defeat. Barnes reveals that this woman’s fate is not much different from the demise of the cabaret dancer who suffers for different reasons. In both scenarios, their faces reveal the loss of vitality. “From Third Avenue On” shows that it is a woman’s attempts to conform to dominant gender roles that leave her empty and depleted. In moments like this, the text overtly challenges the value of compulsory heterosexuality and domestic complacency, thus enacting a transvaluation of “major” mores.

“From Third Avenue On” also urges readers to revise their conception of reproduction:

Those living dead up in their rooms
Must note how partial are the tombs,
That take men back into the wombs
                                    While theirs must fast.
And those who have their blooms in jars
No longer stare into the stars. (ll. 33–38)
Barnes critiques heteronormativity by asserting that through traditional sex acts, wombs, the feminine symbol for procreation, degenerate into their antithetical states—tombs. Furthermore, her simple rhymes encourage the reader to interpret “blooms” as a variant of “wombs,”  a distinction that emphasizes their existence apart from reproductive functions. Barnes’s play on words has become a common feminist trope, one that Georgia O’Keefe would later visualize in her paintings and Judy Chicago in her installation, The Dinner Party. Through her double entendre and her use of rhyme, Barnes imbues these words with new meaning and makes her political critique clear: when same-sex desire must be sublimated into domestic duties and metaphorized through flowers in a jar, the boundaries between life and lifelessness become harder to distinguish.

The Book of Repulsive Women furthers exposes the reinscription of dominant values by ironically appropriating various normative tropes. The chapbook’s dedication situates the reproduction of patriarchal values and gender roles at the center of the text. Given Barnes’s fraught family life—marked by sexual abuse and betrayal—The Book of Repulsive Women’s dedication to Barnes’s mother reinforces the chapbook’s ideological critique:

Who was more or less like All
mothers, but she was mine,-and
so—She excelled.19
As the figure responsible for introducing her children to social roles and values, the mother partakes in and reproduces conventions; through sexual reproduction, she produces new citizens. Thus the mother is often an instrument of patriarchy. These lines also introduce the trope of maternity that recurs throughout the collection and foreground the relationship between the particular and the general that is evoked by Barnes’s two poems: “In Particular” and “In General.” In her reading of the dedication, Hardie notes, “‘More or less,’ an equivocation that tropes oscillation as neutral effect, translates the simultaneous ascription of motherhood as a singular and plural category,” a rhetorical move that “ironizes the singularity of any category” (126).

The form of these two poems also underscores an inversion of traditional aesthetic and cultural values. Barnes’s use of enjambment in “In General” and “In Particular” enacts a deferral of pleasure, as the rhyme is pushed to the beginning of the subsequent line. “In General” reads:

What altar cloth, what rag of worth
What turn of card, with trick of game
And you we valued still a little
More than Christ. (ll. 1–6)
Not only does this strategy defy our expectations but also, as Hardie puts it, the inversion of rhyme structurally complements the forms of sexual “inversion” Barnes introduces in the text (125).20 “In Particular,” which appears a few pages later, maintains the same structure and much of the same language, including the same rhymed words—“Unpriced,” “Undiced,” and “Christ”—in lines 2, 4, and 6. The notion of transvaluation, implicit in the first poem, is rendered explicit here. The poem brings together disparate images and places religious value in question.

Barnes also plays with and inverts traditional conceptions of productivity and reproduction through her use of diction. The speaker of “Seen from the ‘L’” observes, “Though her lips are vague as fancy/In her youth—/They bloom vivid and repulsive” (ll. 21–23, emphasis added). By the evaluations of “major” literature, the feminine body does not improve with age but becomes an object of repulsion and a symbol of the undesirable, and yet Barnes complicates her critique by using the word “bloom” to describe this process. Here, repulsion becomes productive by offering an alternative to normative forms of reproduction.

This subversive play on reproduction appears in “Twilight of the Illicit” as well. Although the maternal body is often a symbol of heteronormativity, this “massive mother of / Illicit spawn” is emblematic of excess and illegitimacy (ll. 27­–28). Moreover, if one reads her “satiated fingers” within the context of lesbian sexuality, as Mary E. Galvin does, these lines take on greater significance (95). Maternity may, in fact, serve only as a metaphor:

One grieves that the altars of
Your vice lie deep.
You, the twilight powder of
A fire-wet dawn;
You, the massive mother of
Illicit spawn;
While others shrink in virtue
You have borne. (ll. 23–30).
This is yet another example of transvaluation. Maternity operates as a trope for other forms of creativity. Galvin writes, “Indicating that her creative powers extend beyond procreation, the subject’s ‘vice-filled’ existence is portrayed as fertile, despite the fact that her ‘udders’ are ‘blank’” (95). Within this framework, vice is worthy of worship; virtue causes one to shrink, while vice offers expansive possibilities.

By ironizing and turning away from the norms and structures that devalue and confine women, Barnes grants textual space and theoretical consideration to alternative modes of being. Radical alterity, she suggests, may be a way out of the impasse created by patriarchal definitions of woman. The Book of Repulsive Women’s investment in animality and hybridity reveals its author’s efforts to circumvent the perils of binary thinking. Barnes’s work, in fact, may offer a compelling manifestation of Deleuze and Guattari’s conception of “becoming-animal.” As a process of resistance in relation to the “major,” “becoming-animal” shares with The Book of Repulsive Women a repudiation of sexual reproduction, filiation, and feminine lack, and it opens up a line of flight away from identity. Deleuze and Guattari write, “There is no longer man or animal, since each deterritorizes the other, in a conjunction or flux, in a continuum of reversible intensities. Instead, it is now…a circuit of states that forms a mutual becoming, in the heart of a necessarily multiple or collective assemblage” (22). The decentering and destabilization of identity that is central to Deleuze and Guattari’s frameworks of becoming (including becoming-animal, becoming-plant, and becoming-woman) gives some feminists pause, but it also fosters new feminist considerations; Elizabeth Grosz explains that these becomings seem to negate women’s specificity, but argues that a movement away from identity politics toward new conceptions of subjectivity and corporeality may prove productive for feminist thinking (160–183). She elucidates this claim through her discussion of becoming-woman, “the most privileged mode of becoming” through which all other becomings must pass:  "Not only must men become-woman (which in feminist terms may make political sense) but so too must women. For women as much as for men, the processes of becoming-woman involve the destabilization of molar, or feminine, identity. If one is a woman, it remains necessary to become-woman as a way of putting into question the coagulations, rigidifications, and impositions required by patriarchal (although this may be a term [Deleuze and Guattari] do not use) power relations" (174, 176).  Becoming, therefore, necessitates abandoning the social constraints and definitions of gendered identity that have often proved detrimental to women; it is a process contingent upon the radical reconsideration of the body and a movement away from anthropocentrism. 

In her reading of Ryder and Nightwood, Alex Goody draws on Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of “becoming-animal” to highlight the political value of Barnes’s work. She reveals how these representations of becoming-animal pose a challenge to institutional structures (169–173). But, rather than locating the apotheosis of Barnes’s grotesque bodies, or the becoming-animal, in Ryder and Nightwood, as Goody does, I contend that The Book of Repulsive Women is Barnes’s clearest and most direct attempt to renegotiate the boundaries of the feminine body through its proximity to the animal; her chapbook attends solely to the problem of sexual difference and invites the reader to experience the perils of patriarchy and the possibilities engendered by new conceptions of being and embodiment. In their espousal of radical alterity, Barnes’s animal-human hybrids discover new freedoms and pleasures. Through the process of interpellation, Barnes’s readers are encouraged to do the same.

Although The Book of Repulsive Women situates perversity within heteronormative frameworks, it never depicts female embodiment as fully liberated from patriarchal culture. Barnes’s chapbook gives an appraisal of women’s status within society, most evident in the defeat signaled by “To a Cabaret Dancer” and “Suicide,” but it also gestures toward a queer futurity, the “Someday” with which the collection begins. Barnes lays the groundwork for this alternative future through her use of hybridity and her endorsement of radical alterity. Her images and poems critique phallogocentric ideology by transvaluing the abject and offering new (positive) connotations and associations for “vice” and “repulsion.”

It is important to remember that hybridity in Barnes is not limited to the representation of her characters; an essential part of her feminist critique is enacted through her generically hybrid forms. By rejecting the genre categories and aesthetic trends found within “major” literature, Barnes can more aptly challenge the systemic strictures that have regulated forms of expression and modes of being. Doing so allows her to reveal what thrives or could thrive outside of prevailing social structures and recognized literary forms. This “minor” modernist work prompts us to reexamine modernism’s political commitment to language and form as means for overturning conservative notions of gender, sexuality, and subjectivity. Through her hybrid forms and use of transvaluation, Barnes pushes the boundaries of what a feminist or queer critique might look like. Barnes’s transgressive politics and aesthetics undoubtedly place her on the periphery of literary modernism, but from this position, her work can more aptly critique the language and forms of “major” literature. Given the New Modernist Studies’ call for the expansion of the discipline’s geographic dimensions and periodization, we ought to consider how “minor” works from “major” authors might further expand the dynamics of the modernist canon.

Special thanks to my anonymous reviewers, Janine Utell, the organizers and attendees of the 2012 International Djuna Barnes Conference, Celia Marshik, and George Fragopoulos; each of you have offered indispensable feedback at different stages in the development of this article. Thanks also to Isabel Howe, Executive Director of The Authors League Fund, for permission to reprint the images from The Book of Repulsive Women and Amber Kohl and the University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives for providing the scanned images from the first edition that appear in this article.


1 Carolyn Burke marks the text as somewhat of a failure in spite of the “notoriety” it initially received (69); she proposes that the work signaled “the author’s awareness that she had, in fact, reach a dead end in the New York of 1915” (71); Louis F. Kannenstine and Shari Benstock call the work “derivative” (18, 240 respectively); and Douglas Messerli considers it “juvenilia” (7). Elliott and Wallace add, “Barnes found in decadence a ready-made language for articulating alterity” (137). Melissa Jane Hardie notes that Barnes left this text off of her résumé (119). Later, I will offer a possible rationale for Barnes’s indifference toward this work.  The rise of feminist approaches to literary modernism has been beneficial to literary studies and to Barnes in particular. Shari Benstock’s Women of the Left Bank, 1900-1940 (1986), Mary Lynn Broe’s edited volume Silence and Power: a Reevaluation of Djuna Barnes (1991), Bonnie Kime Scott’s Refiguring Modernism, Volumes 1 and 2 (1995), Dianne Warren’s Djuna Barnes’ Consuming Fictions (2008), Daniela Caselli’s Improper Modernism: Djuna Barnes’s Bewildering Corpus (2009), Julie Taylor’s Djuna Barnes and Affective Modernism (2012), and a number of articles, including most recently, Scott Herring’s essay “Djuna Barnes and the Geriatric Avant-Garde” in PMLA (2015), reveal contemporary scholarly interest in a range of Barnes’s lesser-known works. Furthermore, new monographs on Nightwood, including Bonnie Roos’s Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood: The World and the Politics of Peace (2014) demonstrate the emergence of new critical perspectives on political merit of Barnes’s seminal work. The modernist author’s renewed relevance was marked by a 2012 exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum entitled, “Newspaper Fiction: The New York Journalism of Djuna Barnes, 1913-1919,” and The First International Djuna Barnes Conference was held in London in September 2012. Extant editions of The Book of Repulsive Women include Guido Bruno (1915), Alicat Bookshop (1948), Bern Boyle Books (1989), and Sun and Moon (1989 & 1994). Routledge released a collection of Barnes’s poetry call The Book of Repulsive Women and Other Poems (2003), and the University of Wisconsin Press reprinted the collection within Collected Poems with Notes Toward the Memoirs (2005).

“8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings” is the subtitle of the first edition. This series, which brought together modernists and fin-de-siècle decadents, ran from January 1915 through May 1916. Bruno published Alfred Kreymborg’s Edna: The Girl of the Street (1915), Mushrooms (1915), To My Mother (1915); Richard Aldington’s The Imagists (1915); Lord Alfred Douglas’s Salome: A Critique (1915); and Oscar Wilde’s The Harlot’s House (1915) and Four Letters From Prison (1915).

In “Seen from the ‘L,’ Barnes metapoetically refers to her poems as “crooked”: “Ravelling grandly into vice / Dropping crooked into rhyme” (17-18).

Ladies Almanack (1928), for instance, garners feminist readings that celebrate her treatment of lesbian sexuality and readings that critique it (Warren 15), and recent scholarship reveals conflicting attempts to categorize its form. See Kaup on the neobaroque; Taylor on the almanac genre; and Berni on sexological discourse.

Barnes’s drawings for the newspaper, however, tended to be much lighter in tone than the dark and highly sexualized images in The Book of Repulsive Women.

Although her focus is not upon visual similarities between Barnes and Blake, Caselli deems Blake “an explicit intertextual reference” due to his influence upon poems like “In General” and “In Particular” (79).

Caselli concurs: “The five drawings accompanying the eight rhythms, not obviously related to specific poems, fail to explain them … but reproduce instead the complexities found at textual level” (76, my emphasis); she does not develop this point further.

In the first edition, the figure walking with the two birds is situated so that the woman is effectively walking up the right side of the page (see Fig. 1). In subsequent editions, the image has been shrunk and rotated clockwise 90 degrees. Although she does not view the new editions as superior to the first, Martyniuk considers the complete separation of text and image to be one of the reasons that this text failed aesthetically (67-68). Messerli says, “As Bern Boyle so astutely recognized, certain of the drawings appear to fit on the page perfectly with the text” (8). He reprinted the 1994 Sun and Moon Press edition with the drawings and poems on adjacent pages to replace the 1989 Sun and Moon Press edition, which replicated the format of the original publication.

Other issues of the Bruno Chap Books make use of a subtitle with the designation “rhythms,” such as Alfred Kreymborg’s Mushrooms: 16 Rhythms (Feb. 1915) and To My Mother: 10 Rhythms (Apr. 1915), Sadakichi Hartmann’s Tanka and Haikai: 14 Japanese Rhythms (June 1915), and H. Thompson Rich’s Lumps of Clay: 16 Rhythms (Dec. 1915). However, not all of the poetry works adopted this term. The September 1915 issue features Lord Alfred Douglas’s Salome: a Critique, The Beauty of Unpunctuality: an Essay and Three Poems, and the January 1916 issue features H. Thompson Rich’s The Red Shame: 17 War Poems. The University of Maryland, which houses most of Barnes’s papers, did not have proofs of The Book of Repulsive Women or records of any correspondence between Barnes and Guido Bruno, so Barnes’s original intentions cannot be assessed with certainty.

10 Depictions of women as irrational, incomplete, and even bestial abound in major literature. Critiques of these misogynistic representations can be found in a range of feminist texts including Luce Irigaray’s This Sex Which Is Not One, Iris Marion Young’s Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays in Feminist Philosophy and Social Theory, Margrit Shildrick’s Leaky Bodies and Boundaries, and Elizabeth Grosz’s Volatile Bodies.

11 Scott suggests that this may, in fact, be a mask (84).

12 Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu novels were also popular at this time.

13 Historian Nils Johan Ringdal notes that Southeast Asian brothels are still marked by red lanterns today (201). The red lantern was also a visual marker for Parisian brothels at the fin de siècle (253). 

14 For a detailed account of Barnes’s correspondence with Baron, see Hardie 119-120. For more on Barnes’s relationship with Bruno, see Caselli (5-8, 69) and Elliott and Wallace (132-137).

15 In Undoing Gender, Judith Butler writes, “Certain humans are recognized as less than human, and that form of qualified recognition does not lead to a viable life. Certain humans are not recognized as human at all, and that leads to yet another order of unlivable life” (2).

16 The demise of the dancer echoes the narrative of other poems like Oliver Goldsmith’s “When Lovely Woman Stoops to Folly.”

17 “Feet” appears in “From Fifth Avenue Up,” “From Third Avenue On,” “To a Cabaret Dancer,” and “Seen from the ‘L.’” “Beat” appears in “From Fifth Avenue Up” and “Seen from the ‘L.’” “From Third Avenue On” rhymes “sheet” and “street” with “feet” and “Seen from the ‘L’” rhymes “feet” and “beat” with “sheet” and “street.”

18 Iris Marion Young discusses the pleasure of breastfeeding but argues that as a result of the incest taboo, society has reinforced a strict divide between motherhood and sexuality; this pleasure is therefore rarely discussed.

19 Weiss notes that Barnes was given as a “sexual sacrifice” to the brother of her father’s mistress, later to be his second wife (144). The family member she was closest with was her grandmother, suffragette and writer Zadel Barnes Budington, but Barnes’s relationship with her grandmother was possibly incestuous.

20Here, Hardie refers to the sexological term used to discuss homosexuality at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Works Cited

Barnes, Djuna. The Book of Repulsive Women: 8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings. New York: Guido Bruno, 1915.

---. Creatures in an Alphabet. New York: The Dial P, 1982.

---. Ladies Almanack. Elmwood Park, IL: Dalkey Archive P, 1992.

---. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 2006.

Benstock, Shari. Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940. Austin: U of Texas P, 1986.

Berni, Christine. “‘A Nose-Length into the Matter’: Sexology and Lesbian Desire in Djuna Barnes’s Ladies Almanack.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 20.3 (1999): 83–107. JSTOR. Web. 13 Sept. 2011.

Broe, Mary Lynn, ed. Silence and Power: A Reevaluation of Djuna Barnes. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1991.

Bruno, Guido. “Fleur du Mal à la Mode de New York—An Interview with Djuna Barnes by Guido Bruno.” Djuna Barnes: Interviews. Ed. Alyce Barry. Washington, D.C.: Sun and Moon P, 1985. 383-388.

Burke, Carolyn. “‘Accidental Aloofness’: Barnes, Loy, and Modernism.” Silence and Power: A Reevaluation of Djuna Barnes. Ed. Mary Lynn Broe. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1991. 67-79.

Butler, Judith. Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Caselli, Daniela. Improper Modernism: Djuna Barnes’s Bewildering Corpus. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2009.

Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen. Signs 1.4 (1976): 875-893. JSTOR. Web. 7 May 2010.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Trans. Dana Polan. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986. 

Elliott, Bridget, and Jo-Ann Wallace. Women Artists and Writers: Modernist (Im)positionings. London: Routledge, 1994.

Felski, Rita. The Gender of Modernity. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995.

Galvin, Mary E. Queer Poetics: Five Modernist Women Writers. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.

Goody, Alex. Modernist Articulations: A Cultural Study of Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy and Gertrude Stein. New York: Palgrave, 2007. 

Grosz, Elizabeth. Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1994. 

Hardie, Melissa Jane. “Repulsive Modernism: Djuna Barnes’ ‘The Book of Repulsive Women.’” Journal of Modern Literature 29.1 (2005): 118–32. JSTOR. Web. 12 Sept. 2011.

Herring, Scott. “Djuna Barnes and the Geriatric Avant-Garde.” PMLA 130.1 (2015): 69-91.
Irigaray, Luce. This Sex Which Is Not One. Trans. Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1985.

Kannenstine, Louis F. The Art of Djuna Barnes: Duality and Damnation. New York: New York UP, 1977. 

Kaup, Monika. “The Neobaroque in Djuna Barnes.” Modernism/modernity 12.1 (2005): 85–110.
Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1982. 

Martyniuk, Irene. “Troubling the ‘Master's Voice’: Djuna Barnes's Pictorial Strategies.” Mosaic. 31.3 (1998): 61-81.

Messerli, Douglas. “A Note.” The Book of Repulsive Women: 8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings. By Djuna Barnes. Los Angeles: Sun and Moon P, 1994. 7-9. 

Ringdal, Nils Johan. Love for Sale: A World History of Prostitution. Trans. Richard Daly. New York: Grove Press, 2004.

Roos, Bonnie. Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood: The World and the Politics of Peace. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Scott, Bonnie Kime. Refiguring Modernism, Vol. 2: Postmodern Feminist Readings of Woolf, West, and Barnes. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1995.

Shildrick, Margrit. Leaky Bodies and Boundaries: Feminism, Postmodernism and (Bio)ethics.  London: Routledge, 1997.

Stein, Gertrude. “Tender Buttons.” Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein. Ed. Carl Van Vechten.  New York: Vintage, 1990. 459-509.

Taylor, Julie. Djuna Barnes and Affective Modernism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2012.

---. “‘The Voice of the Prophet’: From Astrological Quackery to Sexological Authority in Djuna Barnes’s Ladies Almanack.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 55.4 (2009): 716–738. Project MUSE. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.

Unger, Mary I. “‘Dropping crooked into rhyme’: Djuna Barnes’s Disabled Poetics in The Book of Repulsive Women.” Legacy 30.1 (2013): 124-150. Project MUSE. Web. 28 May 2015.

Warren, Diane. Djuna Barnes’ Consuming Fictions. Hampshire: Ashgate, 2007.

Weiss, Andrea. Paris Was a Woman: Portraits from the Left Bank. San Francisco: Harper, 1995.

Young, Iris Marion. Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays in Feminist Philosophy and Social Theory. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1990. 


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