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Fictions of AutonomyModernism from Wilde to de Man$
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Andrew Goldstone

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199861125

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199861125.001.0001

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Expatriation as Autonomy

Expatriation as Autonomy

Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, and Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism

(p.110) 3. Expatriation as Autonomy
Fictions of Autonomy

Djuna Barnes

James Joyce

Oxford University Press

This chapter reconsiders artistic expatriation. In the work of the American expatriate Djuna Barnes, expatriation does not lead automatically to autonomous literary production; instead, Barnes seeks autonomy both from her home nation and from the Parisian expatriate community itself. In Nightwood, Barnes refracts herself through each of her Parisian expatriate characters, yet keeps her distance with an elusive point of view. Her depiction of aesthetes abroad emphasizes the alienation from other people experienced by the transnational writer trying to use expatriate displacement as the basis for an autonomous literary position. This analysis of literary expatriation contributes to ongoing debates over modernist cosmopolitanism as a stylistic, political, and ethical stance. Though she is a cosmopolitan modernist, Barnes depicts her cosmopolitan style as inimical to political community. This argument leads to a reflection on James Joyce’s status as an iconic modernist exile and “semicolonial” writer. Barnes’s writing, including her writing on Joyce, makes visible the ways in which he, too, challenges the notion that techniques for aesthetic distance could be good models for political commitment. As in Barnes’s works, in Ulysses it is when autonomous aesthetic practice becomes a lifestyle that artists must withdraw from communal solidarity.

Keywords:   Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, expatriation, exile, paris in literature, critical cosmopolitanism, nightwood

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