The following abstracts may be downloaded and used for educational purposes. The authors ask that proper citations be used in any publication of this material. For access to the full versions of these papers contact the author at:



The Wandering Queer: Race and Culture in Djuna Barnes' Nightwood

The purpose of this paper is to examine the performativity of Nightwood as a means by which Barnes subverts received notions of homosexuality. Blurring the boundaries of the self through performativity, Barnes depicts the victimization and transcendence of identity constructions that are culturally inscribed. She does this by racializing homosexual identity, aligning the Semitic experience of alienation prior to World War II with a corresponding experience felt by homosexuals at that time. Barnes manipulates cultural constructions of identity such that the stigma relegated to Jews by society, and the abandonment of Jews by society, coincides with that of the homosexual. In doing so, traditional perceptions of Jewish and homosexual identity are overturned - each replacing or duplicating the other in an attempt to satisfy individual desire - producing a cultural identity that is derived from and irrevocably linked to race. For this reason my approach to the text begins with a New Historical look at the similarities between Jewish and homosexual oppression in pre-war Europe.

From here, the analysis focuses on wandering as a prevalent theme in Nightwood and, I argue, is one way Barnes transforms queerness into race. Identity wanders across conventional social and racial boundaries such that it becomes difficult to discern who or what is the "true" self (if there is such a concept). Much of the paper's argument is rooted in the theory of Walter Benn Michael's Our America. Michaels contends that "without race, culture could be nothing more than one's actual practices and therefore could never be lost or recovered, defended or betrayed . . . if it were nothing but race, it could also not be lost or recovered; it could only be a fact, never a project" (141 ). Hence, by racializing homosexuality Barnes situates difference as the product of a selfhood that is both racial and cultural, a cultural identity based on and tied to race. This establishment of homosexuality as race makes queerness more, rather than less, alienated in its juxtaposition with an outcast minority. Intensifying the alienation of "Otherness," Barnes specifies and reclaims its significance, a valorization of difference that Michaels calls "pluralism." Some of the central texts used in my analysis include Foucault's The History of Sexuality (1978), Gunter Grau's Hidden Holocaust? (1995), and Jane Marcus's article "Laughing Leviticus" (1987).

Laura Fletcher



From spartakiades to forming of the open crowd - 1996/'97 protest in Belgrade

Serbia is a world in which the economies of history are real. Historicity is tangible. A four month long event: the protest 1996/97 in Belgrade was mobile in its tactics and contingent upon a coinciding of multiplicities both human (and social) and historic. At its foundation it had a desire for and an understanding of the idea of a free, democratic society. It was a performative process on several levels. This is true given that we understand the performative process as creative at its every point. It was also (creatively) adaptive to the changes in the outside parameters whether these were social, political or hard-city ones. In order to describe the difference between the performed script and a creative performative we can focus on the difference between the crowd formation (where formation is a noun) in the hard(er) totalitarian time and the crowd formation (where formation is a verb) of the protest. In Gilles Deleuze's terms this is described as the main difference between a "trace" and a "map." Foucault might say that everything is performed, that everything is constructed, that power is only practiced, it does not just exist in the ether. But, then, how do we actually perform ourselves; or, how could social phenomena play themselves out without following someone else's abstract or concrete diagram? Where is the space of creating novelty, difference; or where is the space of Lyotard's rusing but in the act of performing. Foucault locates it in the more resistance based - transgression.

The city was not merely a stage for the demonstrations; it was enabling them. In the same process it (the city) was continuously reconfigured through the micro and macro events of the protest. This was possible mainly because the crowd engaged the every day city life; it engaged the city in time and in territory. The protest crowd was an expression of bodies which constituted it.

The evolution of the possibility of realizing a specific crowd formation to the possibility of forming a crowd is both part of the historic development of the role of the crowd in Belgrade and also the only way to understand the performative of the protest - in relationship to the mere realization of an abstract pattern. Both formation and forming occur on at least two scales simultaneously - that of pattern and that of the bodies. The crowd formation on the stadium or a police cordon do embody - on the scale of the pattern - the indiscrete control mechanism of the totalitarian techniques. Politics as a technique "sought to implement the mechanism of the perfect army, of the disciplined mass, of the docile, useful troop, of the regiment in camp and in the field, on maneuvers and on exercises" (Foucault in Rabinow ed.; 185). Marcel Mauss says in his "Techniques of the Body" that "Every technique, properly so called, has its own form." Therefore, the difference in the crowd techniques corresponds directly to the changes in the relationship between the government and its people. In the "mass ornament" of the totalitarian time, as a product of micro economics of power, the individual is only a mathematical point in space, or a succession of instants in time. The pattern is apriori any of the individualities that create it. When they create it they are realizing a pattern, a possibility, without actualizing themselves. The Protest crowd on the other hand is an assemblage of bodies whose corporeality is effectively influencing the crowd pattern - they are realized and so is the crowd.

The first protest in Belgrade took place on the 21st of November when it became clear that even the Belgrade election results were threatened: "After gathering in the central square, the crowd of 50,000 marched past the City Council building to a planned rally near the Parliament. But because the police had confiscated three sound systems, the rally was delayed, and the marchers moved through the streets in a large circle, returning to the center of town where they were addressed from a working sound system at Zajedno headquarters. This then has become a daily ritual, with the numbers growing larger with each passing day" (Balkan Peace Team).

The only way we can really think of the protest crowd both on the scale of bodies and on the scale of the changing pattern of the crowd is through their affectivity and the two kinds of memories, recollection of events and spaces and as "the form of a contraction of matter that makes quality appear". In his essay "The Reenchantment of the Concrete" Francisco Varela argues for the embodied and enacted cognitive systems: "At the very center of this emerging view is the belief that the proper units of knowledge are primarily concrete, embodied, incorporated, lived. This unique, concrete knowledge, its historicity and context, is not 'noise' that occludes the brighter pattern to be captured in its true essence, an abstraction, nor is it a step toward something else: it is how we arrive and where we stay" (Varela, 320).

If we agreed that it might be possible to talk about incorporated and embodied knowledge without entering deeply into the realm of cognitive sciences then the protest '96 /'97 functioned precisely in those terms, and on several scales. As it unfolded into a historic event within the context of history and politics the protest integrated the human life forces - physical and affective bodies and attitudes into a crowd that was an effective social and a tactical organization. On another scale it was based in embodiment of attitudes, of concrete experiences of the city and the actions of the regime in power.

Ana Miljacki


This paper considers the modes, aims and implications of the performance of self by the heroines of The House of Mirth and Sister Carrie. Both protagonists, Lily Bart and Carrie Meeber, respectively, deploy the performance of self in the pursuit of socioeconomic aims, but while Carrie quickly translates her performances into financial gain, Lily vacillates between sustaining a performance that will provide economic security and living with the consequences of performing a more genuine self.

Throughout, Lily Bart's performances of self attempt to mediate between the "marriageable self" that her mother has shaped and the more central self that Lily desires. Lily wishes to develop and express a self that is not shaped primarily by economic necessity, but finds that she can do so only by masquerading as a "marriageable self." By participating in the very mechanisms of society that minimize or efface female selfhood, Lily dooms her attempt at more genuine self-definition.

By contrast to Lily's dynamic script, Carrie follows a simple mimetic approach in her performance of self. Since Carrie's aim is to become a full participant in her consumer economy, she worries less about the consequences of that participation and more about whether she can successfully become the characters she sees around her.

As Lily and Carrie participate in a "tableau vivant" and the play, "Under the Gaslight," respectively, they reveal the primary differences in their performances of self. In her performance, Lily experiences a profound self-expression commingled with the objectification of self. Carrie, though, undergoes a dissolution of self from what she was before the play into her adopted "self" of Laura, whose character she fully adopts.

Ultimately, the performances that prevent the expression of a genuine self create self-confliction and isolation from others. While the vacuity of self in Carrie allows her to adopt any self offered to her without harming a central "Carrie," Lily's instinct to protect a central self, even as she performs an objectifying self, leads to her death.

Colin Moody

Judith Butler makes several very well-considered critiques of Julia Kristeva's Revolution in Poetic Language. However, her comments center around an attack that may be more valid in Butler's political environment than in Kristeva's linguistic realm: Butler considers Kristeva's revolution a failure, because Kristeva considers the semiotic incapable of overthrowing the symbolic. In Kristeva's poetic sense, however, they are necessarily intertwined.

The literary text presents an interesting forum for the interplay of these issues; a text immersed in, yet unconscious of, their discourses could function as a semiotic, under articulated arbiter of Butler and Kristeva's conflict. Djuna Barnes's Nightwood demonstrates the necessary involvement in both Kristeva and Butler's concerns. Robin, Felix, and Matthew O'Connor reflect Kristeva's conceptions of the semiotic, symbolic, and enunciating poetic subject with startling accuracy. And Barnes's unusual methods of character description implicitly attack constructions of identity. In combination with Matthew O'Connor's gender confusion, this attack shows Nightwood's awareness of the limitations of gender definition. It is these limitations which concern Butler and spur her desire to overturn the symbolic.

Examining Nightwood, we find that it leans towards Kristeva's view. Despite the text's awareness of constructed identity as limiting, the characters and narrative format intentionally intertwine the symbolic and semiotic, rather than rejecting the symbolic.

Jody Rowan


Nobody's History:

Materiality, Individuality, and Narrativity in Little Dorrit

This essay considers three interrelated questions concerning the role of individual agency in nineteenth-century intellectual history as explored in Charles Dickens's novel, Little Dorrit:

1. the question of who or what determines history - the individual or some kind of external force or "ism," such as "historical materialism," "historical idealism," or "social determinism

2. the question of what exactly constitutes the self - an essential identity or some socially, economically and ideologically constructed identity.

3. and, finally, how a writer like Dickens, interested in producing narratives which produce social change, answers these questions in a way which allows for his own text to act as an agent of history.

Thus, the paper seeks to illuminate the types of historical discourse available to the nineteenth-century intellectual and the cultural metaphors and representations of "Nobody" as featured in the novel. Characterization, imagery and moments of self-reflexive narrativity are the primary areas of analysis. Particularly of interest is the dichotomy in the novel between bodily materiality and hypostatization.

Corie Schweitzer

Return to the Literary Theory Page

Return to English 599: Politics and Literary Theory Page

Return to Home Page of Wesley Morris

Revised: 20 January, 1998