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Library of Texts, Artwork, and Contextual Information


Barnes's August 1956 "Cautionary Note" to The Antiphon

As a misreading of The Antiphon is not impossible, it might be well to keep in mind that Jack is breezy; not raffish; that Augusta is by turns timid and imperious; that Miranda, although indentured to ordeal, can rise to impassioned fury--but, never between the two women is there any sluttish whining. Their familiarity is their estrangement. They do not scold or bicker. Their duel is in hiatus, and should be waged with style



Barnes's Comments on Censorship in her Foreward to Ryder, Paris, 8 August 1927.

   This book, owing to censorship, which has a vogue in America as indiscriminate as all such enforcements of law must be, has been expurgated. Where such measures have been though necessary, asterisks have been employed, thus making it matter for no speculation where sense, continuity, and beauty have been damaged.

  That the public may, in our time, see at least a part of the face of creation (which it is not allowed to view as a whole) it has been thought the better part of valour, by both author and publisher, to make this departure, showing plainly where the war, so blindly waged on the writted word, has left its mark.

   Hithertofore the public has been offered literature only after it was no longer literature. Or so murdered and so discreetly bound in linens that those regarding it have seldom, if ever, been aware, or discovered, that that which they took for an original was indeed a reconstruction.

   In the case of Ryder they are permitted to see the havoc of this nicety, and what its effects are on the work of imagination.

Barnes's rendering of her fictional counterpart Julie Ryder in her semiautobiographical novel Ryder (1928).
A drawing by Barnes from Ryder. Many of Ryder's illustrations originally were censored by Barnes's editors and publishers due to their violent and sexual content. The 1990 edition of Ryder restores the novel to its original form by including all of Barnes's drawings. See Barnes's Forward to Ryder to read her reaction to this censorship.
Another sketch from Ryder. Ryder is a mock family chronicle that loosely follows Barnes's own family life, including implications of psychosexual abuse by her father Henry Budington "Wald" Barnes and her grandmother Zadel Barnes as well as her father's marital infidelities.
The Book of Repulsive Women (1915) is a collection of eight poems and five drawings by Barnes. Like many of her other books, it mainly concerns women's sexuality. It explores this topic through portraitures of "repulsive" women, including a prostitute, a cabaret dancer, and a suicidal woman.
Ladies Almanack (1928) is Barnes's satire of Victorian ladies' handbooks and eighteenth century medical manuals. This text's subversiveness lies within its open representation of a lesbian community through its explicit drawings and text.
Barnes drew this "baby vamp" for a feature entitled "Vampire Women: Eight Pen Portraits, from Life" in a 1915 volume of Vanity Fair. In the article, she was named one of the eight "greatest vampire specialists in America." The "hokku" (haiku) underneath the sketch was written by occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) under the pseudonym Kwaw Li Ya.
Barnes's drawing of James Joyce that she included with her April 1922 interview with Joyce (Interviews 291).

Miscellaneous Quotations

"Suffering for love is how I have learned practically everything I know, love of grandmother up and on."

     --Djuna Barnes to Emily Holmes Coleman, February 2, 1934

"It is a dreadful fact about parenthood that after maturity the child does not need the parent, but the parent continues to need the child--I ought to live with him, but I never will."

     --Emily Holmes Coleman to Djuna Barnes, August 27, 1936

"I must have been very young at twenty-nine when I met [Thelma Wood]! Much younger than her nineteen, for her years were aged in sensuality and its consequent need of craft--I was a (truly) virgin yokel looking for lost sheep, and mistook her wolf's blood."

     --Djuna Barnes in a 1937 letter to Emily Holmes Coleman (found in Phillip Herring's Djuna: The Life and Work of Djuna Barnes. New York: Viking, 1995. 156.)

"There is always more surface to a shattered object than a whole."

     --Djuna Barnes

"I have to tell you of the great, deep beauty of your Nightwood . . . . A woman rarely writes as a woman, as she feels, but you have."

     --Anais Nin to Djuna Barnes

"Of course I think of the past and of Paris, what else is there to remember?"

     --Djuna Barnes in a 1960s letter to Natalie Barney (found in Andrea Weiss's Paris Was a Woman. London: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 1995. 173.)

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