-- We will begin our discussion of Barnes' Nightwood. We will begin discussing the novel in general terms, and set its elements into context of both Barnes as well as the time of the novel's publication (1936).
E-mail assignment #4 (Due by WEDNESDAY midnight):(200-300 words, and no padding, waffling, or b.s.ing) respond to any one of the topics listed below. Send to my own e-mail, email@example.com, with the subject line of your last name and Response #4. In your response, indicate to which topic you respond, by number.
1) Many critics focus on the part played in Nightwood by
wandering and figures of wanderers: e.g. the "somnambule," the
Wandering Jew, the Flying Dutchman, etc. Just as motion was a primary
motif in both 1919 and As I Lay Dying, so motion functions in
Barnes' novel. Yet the motion we observe through the novel differs from that in
the previous two we read. How might we think the novel through motion? What kinds
of motion do we encounter?
2) As in 1919, but not in the same way, Nightwood presents us with history, through direct historical reference, indirect allusions, fragments anmd remnants. History becomes a tool for some characters; for others, it becomes almost a curse. We also see history deliberately manipulated, or even falsified. Knowledge of history thereby becomes untenable, unstable, and subjective. How do you read the issue of history as treated in Nightwood? How might we read Nightwood not as a text about history, but rather as an exploration of the part that "history" or knowledge of history plays in individual self-construction?
3) Almost all critical commentaries focus on the character of Matthew O'Connor, particularly on his loquacity (because that's the easiest element to zero in on). Others focus on O'Connor's transvestitism, and discuss him as an example of the Freudian concept of the "sexual invert." Rather than either of these elements, I'd like you to consider the matter of O'Connor's speeches in Nightwood. How do you read his weaving of elements? What kind of speaker does it take to spin out such monologues--and what kind of reader is required to follow them? What effect do those monologues have even if you don't recognize all the references?
-- we will continue, and hopefully conclude, our discussion of Nightwood today. Expect a quiz.