How Djuna Barnes Joined the Lost Generation
This Week on the History of Literature Podcast
with Jacke Wilson
For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been using fictional devices to shape their worlds and communicate with one another. Four thousand years ago they began writing down these stories, and a great flourishing of human achievement began. We know it today as literature, a term broad enough to encompass everything from ancient epic poetry to contemporary novels. How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today? Hosted by Jacke Wilson, an amateur scholar with a lifelong passion for literature, The History of Literature takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known.
Djuna Barnes (1892-1982) was a journalist, an author, an artist, a poetic novelist, a beacon of modernism, an icon, and an iconoclast. She was also a pioneer; a famous wit; an expatriate in Paris in the 1920s (where she befriended James Joyce and became one of the key members of the Lost Generation); a fixture of Greenwich Village both in the 1910s and in the decades after World War II; an early avatar of queer literature; and above all, a genius. In today’s episode, Jacke looks at Djuna Barnes’s life and works, focusing in particular on her journalism, her plays, her account of meeting James Joyce, and of course, the modernist masterpiece Nightwood (1936).