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Modernist ObjectsLiterature, Art, Culture$
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Noëlle Cuny and Xavier Kalck

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781949979503

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781949979503.001.0001

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From Eggbeaters and Alcohol to Gryphons, Dolls, and Puppets

From Eggbeaters and Alcohol to Gryphons, Dolls, and Puppets

The Affective Mobilities of Djuna Barnes’s Objects

(p.63) Chapter Three From Eggbeaters and Alcohol to Gryphons, Dolls, and Puppets
Modernist Objects

Pavlina Radia

Liverpool University Press

For modernists like Djuna Barnes, objects mark, but also frequently mobilize, the very conflict that exists between the characters who are depersonalized by their sense of racial, cultural, class, and gender difference, but who also desperately seek some magical reconnection with the prelapsarian—be it through their relationships and object-attachments or through their nomadic positionality. This chapter explores Barnes’s use of objects not only as the markers of the impersonal, but also as affective spaces upon which the characters various desires and socio-political, ethical, gender, and racial conflicts are projected and (re)negotiated. Although the essay’s focus is primarily on Barnes’s Nightwood, her novel is also discussed in relation to her early work, as well as her last and frequently underestimated play, The Antiphon. Drawing on the work of Sara Ahmed, the essay examines the ways in which Barnes deploys objects as “affective economies of difference” that mobilize the characters’ sense of displacement while simultaneously providing a temporary respite from its very realities.

Keywords:   mass production, commodification, Djuna Barnes, depersonalization, displacement, the affect, Sara Ahmed

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