Abstract

This essay examines Djuna Barnes's transformation of the figure of the Jew in Nightwood from a racial and religious category into a narratological category. I argue that this transformation loosens Jewishness from Nightwood's actual Jewish characters, establishing a paradoxical equivalence between the statements "Jewishness is everywhere" and "Jews are nowhere," a paradox that is crucial to the structure of Nightwood itself. Drawing on letters that Barnes wrote to her friend and fellow writer, Emily Coleman, I show how this alteration reflects a complex convergence between essentialist and anti-essentialist conceptions of Jews in Barnes's work, and in modernism more generally.

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