Fictive elements within the autobiographical project : necessary conflation of genres in Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Debra L. Niven (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site:
Janet Ellerby

Abstract: This study examines a woman?s attempt to come to terms with her own life and the relationship that most defined and influenced that life. In Nightwood, Djuna Barnes rejects conventional linear narrative structure in favor of Modernist experimentation with literary forms to tell the true story of her ruined love affair. In the book, she uses fictive devices which allow her not only to create an artistically compelling narrative, but also to reveal a more experientially accurate account of her relationship with Thelma Wood. Based on a close reading of Nightwood, both the published version and the original unexpurgated version, as well as interpretation of autobiographical and psychological criticism, this study explores Barnes?s conflation of the genres of autobiography and fiction. The first section explains the background of Barnes?s life and the effect of her traumatic childhood and her doomed love affair on the text. The next section establishes Nightwood as an authentically autobiographical project despite the author?s experimentation with narrative form and textual construction via the inclusion of fictional elements. The final section examines not only how Barnes uses specific fictive devices in the text, but also her authorial motives for their inclusion. This examination proves the thesis that Barnes?s use of fiction within autobiography serves to textually capture the emotional and psychological truth of the loss of her beloved and communicate her lived experience of that loss to the reader more effectively than more traditional forms of autobiographical writing.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Masters of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Barnes Djuna Nightwood--Criticism and interpretation
Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood -- Criticism and interpretation

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