Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Alisa Schoenbach

Committee Members

Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud and Urmila Seshagiri


Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood is a challenging and beautiful text that continues to confound readers almost 100 years after its original publication. Though the text is often read as a “lesbian” novel, I consider the possibilities available when we read this text instead with a more open queerness in mind. By looking at the novel’s treatment of image, time, history, gender, sexuality, and identity, a new way of reading is revealed which rejects moves of taxonomization and categorization. This thesis explores how Barnes challenges dominant modes of representation and understanding, not to be a simple contrarian, but to present a new form of affective realism which challenges readers’ understanding of the world and those within it as clearly defined. Through Nightwood, Barnes rejects stability and finality and instead presents a text with ever-shifting meaning and identities which can serve as a guide to reading and living queerly.

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