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The Wallflower Avant-GardeModernism, Sexuality, and Queer Ekphrasis$
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Brian Glavey

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190202651

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190202651.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 September 2021

The Ekphrastic Vice

The Ekphrastic Vice

Djuna Barnes’s Spatial Form

(p.49) { 2 } The Ekphrastic Vice
The Wallflower Avant-Garde

Brian Glavey

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that the organizing trope of Nightwood is an ekphrastic notion of still-movement. This trope explains Nightwood’s role in the formulation of Joseph Frank’s influential theory of spatial form. Barnes adopts this trope in two ways, figuring desire as a performative process that cycles through symbolic and imaginary representations in an attempt to turn recalcitrant images into stories. Barnes shows how stigmatized subjects become trapped by these processes. Nightwood counterbalances this process, however, with a vision of form that offers a limited reprieve, giving shape to suffering in a fashion that makes it possible at moments to “dazzle estrangement.” Barnes’s spatial form offers a precarious balance between too much and too little a sense of identity and, in so doing, occupies the middle register between negative and utopian conceptions of queer theory.

Keywords:   Djuna Barnes, ekphrasis, spatial form, queer theory, Nightwood

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