‘A detour of filthiness’
French fiction and Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood
in European Gothic
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This chapter argues that Djuna Barnes's famous work, Nightwood, engages with French literature in a number of ways in order to develop its own transatlantic Gothic agenda. It retrieves Nightwood as a Gothic text and, in so doing, traces its derivation from a French tradition of Gothic or quasi-Gothic writing. This tradition begins with the roman noir and the roman frenetique, which flourished respectively between 1790 and 1820 and between the 1820s and 1830s. The French 'detour' into 'filthiness' found its way across the Channel and the Atlantic via the 'Colonie americaine' in Paris. The Mysteries of Paris and Nightwood both portray Paris as an urban Gothic space in the sense defined by Alexandra Warwick: 'The city is seen as uncanny, constructed by people yet unknowable by the individual'.

European Gothic

A spirited exchange 1760-1960

Editor: Avril Horner

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