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Djuna Barnes Biography

(1892–1982), The Dial, Vanity Fair, The Book of Repulsive Women, Three from the Earth

American novelist, poet, short-story writer, and playwright, born in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, educated at the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn and the Arts Student League, New York. She worked as a journalist and also published some stories in The Dial and Vanity Fair. Her first collection of poems and stories appeared in The Book of Repulsive Women (1915), which satirized the stereotypes of female sexuality. Her first play, Three from the Earth (1919), was followed by Kurzy of the Sea (1919), An Irish Triangle (1919), To the Dogs (1923), The Dove (1923), and She Tells Her Daughters (1923). In 1920 she left for Paris where she lived for twelve years, during which time she enjoyed a high reputation as a writer and moved in the artistic circles of Mina Loy and Gertrude Stein. Her work of this period includes A Book (1923), later reissued in an extended version entitled A Night among the Horses (1929); Ryder (1928), a bestseller which exposed the sufferings of women under patriarchy in a brilliant stylistic parody; and Ladies' Almanack (1928), which celebrated female sexuality and mocked eighteenth-century language. She achieved fame with the publication of Nightwood (1936), edited and introduced by T. S. Eliot. A novel about complex and difficult relationships set in homosexual Paris in the 1920s, she again explores women's position within patriarchy. After settling in Greenwich Village in 1937, a long period of virtual silence followed, broken in 1958 by the publication of the blank-verse play The Antiphon, in which a mother and daughter act out their tense relationship in the family. Spillway (1962), a collection of stories, was followed by two essays based on Paris in the 1920s in Vagaries Malicieux (1975). Early and previously uncollected work appeared in Smoke and Other Early Stories (1982), and later, in Alyce Barry's edition I Could never Be Lonely without a Husband: Interviews by Djuna Barnes (1985).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Houston A. Baker (Houston Alfred to Sally Beauman Biography