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Jean Gallagher
I am not a critic.To me, criticism is so often nothing more than the
eye garrulously denouncing the shape of the peephole that gives
access to hidden treasure.
Djuna Barnes, "The ongs of ynge"
In !"!#, t$enty years %efore the pu%lication of Nightwood, Djuna
Barnes characteri&ed criticism as mista'enly concerning itself $ith the
visual aperture rather than the ostensi%le o%ject of vision. (o$ever,
Barnes)s !"*+ novel suggests that despite this early disavo$al of the
critical act, Nightwood does indeed offer a criti,ue not only of "the shape
of the peephole" %ut of the entire "peephole" model of seeing that plays
such an important role in the visual culture of modernity, especially
through the technologies of vision associated $ith the camera. This
criti,ue of the "peephole" is accomplished through the novel)s repre-
sentation of $hat Barnes called the "peculiarly se.ed" %ody /, 0lum%
1*23 and its construction of the reader)s relation to that %ody. In its
turn from representing $omen $ithin heterose.ual conte.ts to repre-
senting same-se. desire and transgendered su%jects, Nightwood repeat-
45 Modern Fiction tudies,6olume 7#, num%er 1, ummer 122!. 8opyright 9 for the 0urdue :esearch
5oundation %y the Johns (op'ins ;niversity 0ress. <ll rights to reproduction in any form reserved.
1=2 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
edly attempts to unsettle its readers from a position outside the visual
field and to locate them instead $ithin a circumscri%ed visual field shared
$ith the variously gendered and se.uali&ed %odies that inha%it the novel.
everal readers of Nightwood have identified the novel)s narrator
and, %y e.tension, its reader as vie$ers at a peephole, particularly the
vie$finder of a camera or the voyeur)s 'eyhole. 8arolyn <llen uses the
film camera to descri%e Barnes)s narrative techni,ue of placing the reader
"at one remove," o%serving that Barnes)s fre,uent use of "a ver% of
o%servation in the passive voice," such as "he had %een seen," allo$s
Nightwood's reader to "see >...? the characters at a distance, much as if a
camera $ere filming a scene from an anonymous %ut personal vie$-
point" /"Dressing" ! !23. Dianne 8hisholm has recently claimed that
Nightwood posits a privileged, disem%odied spectator, %oth "omniscient"
and voyeuristic@ "$ith Barnes)s omniscient third-person narrator $e en-
ter the various chambres coucher of her characters, tuning into their
most intimate negotiations as if playing the role of voeur!voants" /!=23.
4y reading o# Nightwood points to$ard a different model of the reading-
vie$ing su%ject. Ahile the novel %egins %y offering its readers a de-
tached vie$ing positionreminiscent of the voyeur at the 'eyhole, the
photographer at the camera)s vie$finder, or the spectator of classical
cinemathis model of the o%server at the peephole is su%se,uently
and repeatedly challenged throughout the te.t.
Nightwood's challenge to the voyeuristic "peephole" model of vi-
sion is accomplished through its use of t$o contrasting %ut often over-
lapping se.ological tropes for same-se. desire, "inversion" and "homo-
Developed as a medical category, "inversion" came to
represent a range of se.ual practices and gendered su%ject positions,
including same-se. love relations, cross-dressing, androgyny, and trans-
se.ual desires. Nightwood's Dr. B)8onnor identifies the condition as
that of "the girl $ho should have %een a %oy and the %oy $ho should
have %een a girl" /!7=3 or "the prince-princess in point laceneither
once and half the other" /!*+3.
4y suggestion is that in its representa-
tion of the "inverted" characters of :o%in 6ote and Dr. B)8onnor,
Nightwood also attempts to model an "inverted" o%server $ho is, as the
etymology of the $ord suggests, "turned in" to the novel)s visual field
rather than occupying a privileged, transcendent, voyeuristic position
outside of it, suggesting ho$, in Caja ilverman)s $ords, the eye might %e
Gallagher 1=!
"sho$n to loo' not from a site e.terior to the field of vision, %ut from
one fully inside" /!713. (o$ever,the te.t also gestures to$ard the some-
$hat later concept of "homose.uality," $hich depends not on the no-
tion of or crossing genders $ithin an individual su%ject %ut rather
on the radical separation of genders. e.ologists developing the dis-
course of "homose.uality" emphasi&ed the "sameness %et$een partners,"
creating "a permanent avenue of potential slippage >...? %et$een >...?
identification and desire" /edg$ic' !D"3. In its representations of the
central les%ian relationship %et$een :o%in and Eora 5lood, Nightwood
uses voca%ulary and images associated $ith the discourse of "homo-
se.uality" to suggest a comple. relationship %et$een les%ian desire and
photographic visuality. Fve Cosofs'y edg$ic' has o%served that the
discourse of "homose.uality" developed after, %ut did not necessarily
supersede, the notion of "inversion" in early-t$entieth-century culture
/7#3G in a similar $ay, Nightwood dra$s on %oth models to e.plore the
relationship %et$een visuality and se.uality. <s I $ill e.plore to$ard the
end of this essay, the novel)s use of these t$o se.ological categories to
challenge the voyeuristic "peephole" model of vision allies Nightwood
$ith an o%serva%le pattern $ithin the visual culture of $hat hari
Benstoc' has termed "apphic modernism."
Ahile for many film or visual theorists the attempt to place a
vie$er in the interior of the visual field is seen as a desira%le freeing of
the eye from an illusory "epistemological mastery,"
the "inversion" or
leading in of Nightwood's readers is represented in the te.t as anything
%ut li%eratory.
In its reflection and modification of $hat 4artin Jay has
identified as the "antiocularcentric" trend in t$entieth-century 5rench
Nightwood positions its characters and readers $ithin a visual
field characteri&ed %y a drastic, menacing, and unavoida%le constraint or
entrapmentG this entrapment serves as a trope for the novel)s struggle
$ith the limits and constraints of modern visuality in relation to the
%ody of the "se.ual invert" and the homose.ual %ody.
< fe$ $ords are needed here to define the "visual field" as it
emerges $ithin a literary te.t. Defining "image" generally as "li'eness,"
"resem%lance," or "similitude,"A.J.T. Mitchell has o%served five "%ranches"
in "the family of images"@ graphic images such as paintings or photo-
graphsG optical images such as those seen in a mirrorG perceptual images
gained from sensory dataG mental images such as dreams, visual memo-
1=1 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
ries,and ideasGand ver%al images, chiefly metaphors and descriptions /"
!23. Ahile this essay is concerned primarily $ith "ver%al images," it is
also concerned $ith the novel)s linguistic representations of other
"%ranches" of images, as presented %y the narrator)s descriptions of the
visual e.periences of the novel)s characters.
The range of images that
cro$d Nightwood are repeatedly descri%ed as if placed or contained $ithin
yet another "ver%al image"@ the %ounded, constraining space that charac-
teri&es the nature of visuality as it is represented in the novel. This
image of a limited, constraining space is $hat constitutes the "visual
field" in Nightwood$ 4y goal here is to e.plore not only ho$ that visual
field is constructed $ithin the te.t, %ut ho$ Nightwood's characters and
readers are located in relation to the visual field and to the "inverted"
%odies inscri%ed on that field.
The novel)s title and t$o of its chapter titles /"Eight Aatch" and
"Aatchman,Ahat of the EightH"3 underscore the visual an.ieties asso-
ciated $ith "night," $hich, among other things, can %e defined as a con-
dition of limited visi%ility. Ii'e theorists discussing visuality,
Eora and
Dr. B)8onnor, t$o of the novel)s homose.ual characters, treat "night" as
a su%ject of an.ious scrutiny /"tell me everything you 'no$ a%out the
night" >#"?3G as something $ith a comple. cultural history /"(ave you
thought of the night, no$, in other times, in foreign countries, in 0arisH >.
..?Jou should, for the night has %een going on for a longtime" >=1?3G and
as an agent $hich affects and transforms su%jectivity /"no$ I see that the
night does something to a person)s identity" >=!?3. Nightwood might,
then, %e read as a site for e.amining the limited and an.iety-laden condi-
tions of visi%ility for the ne$ly emerging gender identities of the mod-
ernist period, $hich Eancy <rmstrong has recently called "a culture de-
fined %y se.ology" /#23.
Upon That Field
The novel)s opening sentences depict a woman dying in
childbirth pon an inten!ely circm!cribed "i!al #ield$ They also
construct a reader $ho occupies the position of a detached,
disem%odied o%server of that field@
Farly in !==2, in spite of a $ell-founded suspicion as to the
advisa%ility of perpetuating that race $hich has the sanction
Gallagher 1=*
of the Iord and the disapproval of the people, (edvig
6ol'%eina 6iennese $oman of great strength and military
%eauty, lying upon a canopied %ed of a rich spectacular crim-
son, the valance stamped $ith the %ifurcated $ings of the
(ouse of (aps%urg,the feather coverlet an envelope of satin
on $hich, in massive and tarnished gold threads, stood the
6ol'%ein armsgave %irth, at the age of forty-five, to an only
child, a son, seven days after her physician predicted that she
$ould %e ta'en.
Turning upon that field, $hich shoo' to the clatter of
morning horses in the street %eyond,$ith the gross splendour
of a general saluting a flag, she named him 5eli., thrust him
from her, and died. /!3
In the first sentence, the su%ject /(edvig 6ol'%ein3 and its ver% /gave
%irth3 are separated %y a long series of appositional and prepositional
phrases set %et$een dashes.
! These phrases, descri%ing %oth (edvig
and the %ed upon $hich she lies, locate the gravid, dying $oman among
a set of visual signs associated $ith Furopean empire and aristocracy.
These imperial signs, $hich occupy so much of the center of the long
opening sentence, are se$n and stamped into the material surfaces of
(edvig)s %ed. They dra$ the reader)s attention to the %ed as much as to
the figure on the %ed, rendering (edvig part of the "spectacular" visual
surface itself.
The impression that (edvig is placed upon, and is a constitutive
element in, this flattened visual field is reinforced in the first phrase of
the second sentence, "turning upon that field." The O%#ord &ng'ish Dictio!
nar provides one definition of "field" as "the surface on $hich some-
thing is portrayed" or "the ground$or' of a picture." (edvig is the
foregrounded image or figure on the picture plane, set at a distance %y
the demonstrative pronoun "that." In a more specific e.tension of this
definition,a "field" in heraldry is the %ac'ground upon $hich the picture,
also 'no$n as the "charge" or the "%earing," is placed. The presence of
the "6ol'%ein arms" and the "$ings of the house of (aps%urg" as $ell as
a later description of (edvig dancing /"The feather in her hat had %een
'nife-clean and ,uivering as if in a heraldic $ind" >7?3 support a reading
of (edvig as part of a coded heraldic image. Giving %irth and dying on
this field, (edvig is as much a "charge" or "%earing"that $hich is %orne,
1=7 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
charged, received, upon the visual fieldas the e.plicitly heraldic "6ol'%ein
arms" and the $ings of the house of (aps%urg.
< "field" is also defined in the O%#ord &ng'ish Dictionar as "the space
or range $ithin $hich o%jects are visi%le through an optical instrument
in any one position" and the space to $hich o%servation etc. is limited."
Ii'e many of the te.tually rendered visual fields in Nightwood, the %ed in
this passage is an e.tremely limited sphere of vision and action. This
field, $hich %ears the coded mar's of family and empire, a site of intense,
and intensely gendered, physical pain and danger, underscores the sense
of physical constraint to $hich the gravid $oman is su%ject.Thi!
circm!cribed% menacing "i!al #ield i! what ma&e! 'ed"ig
("i!ible( to reader! who are po!itioned a! e)ternal% detached
The reader of these opening sentences, immediately positioned at
the "peephole," is constructed in $ays similar to the spectator $ithin
perspectivalism or of classical cinema
@ disem%odied, detached, atemporal,
and e.ternal to the field of vision. (o$ever, this seeing su%ject inscri%ed
in Nightwood's first t$o sentences is thereafter repeatedly challenged %y
an "inverted" model of reading and vie$ing.
A Doble *on#!ion
This challenge first appears in the novel)s second chapter and its
!econd repre!entation o# a #emale body on a bed pre!ented a! a
con!training "i!al #ield. ;nli'e in the opening passage, $ith its
disem%odied vie$ing position, the loo' in this scene is em%odied %y a
character, 5eli. 6ol'%ein, $hose %irth is descri%ed in the novel)s
opening sentences. :evising a concept introduced %y GKrard Genette,
4ie'e Bal uses the term "focali&ation""a narrative mechanism that
spreads %efore the )mental eye) of the reader a vision of the narrative
content" /"73to descri%e this directing of the reader)s imagined
"vie$" of ver%ally descri%ed events and o%jects.
5eli., the "focali&er" in
this scene, accompanies Dr. B)8onnor to a hotel room in $hich, they
learn, "a lady >...? had fainted and couldn)t %e %rought out of it" /**3.
The unconscious o%ject of 5eli.)s /and the reader)s3 fascinated loo' is
:o%in, $ho later marries 5eli., %ears a child %y him, and eventually
leaves him to enter a relationship $ith Eora. :eaders discover later in
the novel that :o%in is, according to the doctor, "the girl $ho should
have %een a %oy," %ut at
Gallagher 1=D
this point in the narrative, !he appear! only a! the ob+ect o# the
de!iring% hetero!e)al male ga,e% embodied in Feli).
In a manner similar to the novel)s opening passage, the sentence
that descri%es the reader)s and 5eli.)s first loo' at :o%in sets up a com-
ple. visual field through a series of appositional phrases and relative
clauses %efore arriving at its main su%ject and ver%@
Bn the %ed, surrounded %y a confusion of potted plants, e.-
otic palms, and cut flo$ers, faintly oversung %y the notes of
unseen %irds, $hich seemed to have %een forgottenleft $ith-
out the usual silencing cover,$hich, li'e cloa's on funeral urns,
are cast over their cages at night %y good house$iveshalf
flung off the support of the cushions from $hich, in a moment
of threatened consciousness she had turned her head, lay the
young $oman, heavy and dishevelled. /*73
The sentence)s delayed arrival at its main ver% and su%ject /"lay the young
$oman"3 emphasi&es the visual and aural surroundings $hich frame :o%in,
$hose prone %ody is the final focus of the sentence.
The narrative
underscores the flat, planar ,uality of this initial presentation of :o%in
%y e)plicitly comparing Robin her!el# to a painting@ "Ii'e a painting
%y the douanier :ousseau, she seemed to lie in a jungle trapped in a
dra$ing room /in the apprehension of $hich the $alls have made their
escape3 thro$n in among the carnivorous flo$ers as their rationG the
set, the property of an unseen dom(teur, half lord, half promoter"
/*D3. This visual scene, replete $ith a high degree of artifice, constructs
a sense of a heavily circumscri%ed and constructed visual field /"a jungle
trapped in a dra$ing room"3 containing a profusion of visual detail
surrounding the ostensi%le su%ject of the sentence and of the reader)s
Ahile :o%in is e.plicitly compared to a moderni!t painting,
the te.t)s presentation of her to the vie$er also recalls t$o other
modes of figuration in modernist visual culture, the cla!!ical #ilm image
and the !till photograph$
:ead as a classical cinematic image, the
scene places the reader, li'e 5eli., outside the visual field% while Robin
occpie! the po!ition o# the woman/a!/!pectacle$ (o$ever, unli'e
the classical spectator or the "unseen dom(teur" $ho is reminiscent of
the detached vie$er of Nightwood's opening sentences, 5eli. occupies a
particular place on the margin of the visual field@ "5eli., out of delicacy,
stepped %ehind the palms"
1=+ 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
/*D3. 5eli.)s "delicate" vie$ing position is that of the voyeur, since his
screened o%servation post does not prevent him from "loo'ing >. . .?
intently" at the young $oman prone on the %ed /*#3. Bn the other
hand, even though 5eli. is himself ostensi%ly screened from sight %y his
step %ehind the palms, his "delicacy" also suggests an a$areness of the
possi%ility of %eing seen. This suggestion that the voyeur is at least po-
tentially su%ject to o%servation is consonant $ith ilverman)s definition
of the e.perience of specularity in $hich the voyeur)s "e.perience of
himself as )pure) loo', e.terior to the field of vision, gives $ay to the
dis,uieting reali&ation that he is himself immanently in that field, )on
vie$)" /!+73.
5eli.)s position as a vie$er $ithin, rather than e.ternal to, the vi-
sual field is emphasi&ed in a !entence that de!cribe! the !pectacle
o# Robin0! body a! a !till photographic image1 "The $oman $ho
presents herself to the spectator as a )picture) forever arranged is, for
the contemplative mind, the chiefest danger" /*#3. This self-
presentation as a fi.ed image "forever arranged" strongly suggests the
"pose" ta'en %y a person a%out to %e photographed, descri%ed this $ay
%y 8raig B$ens@ "$hen I pose for a photograph, I free&e >...? as if
anticipating the still I am a%out to %ecomeG mimic'ing its opacity, its
stillnessG inscri%ing,across the surface of my %ody, photography)s
)mortification) of the flesh" /,td. in ilverman 1213. (o$ever, the
narrator indicates that :o%in)s pose not only articulates her o$n
position $ithin visuality %ut also constitutes a "danger" to her
"contemplative" vie$er. The "danger" to $hich 5eli. is su%ject in this
scene may stem from his very position of seeming visual mastery over
the fi.ed image of the spectacular female %ody. ilverman suggests that
the act of posing creates a "photographic" field of vision $hich
encompasses everything around the posed %ody@ "The representational
force $hich the pose e.erts is so great that it radiates out$ard, and
transforms the space around the %ody and everything $hich comes into
contact $ith it into an imaginary photograph" /12*3. If, as $e have
seen, 5eli. is already a$are of himself as potentially under the ga&e, :o%in)s
"photographic" pose even more emphatically opens to the camera-li'e
ga&e the visual field in $hich 5eli. is located.
This scene in $hich the voyeur is %oth hidden from vie$ and su%-
ject to a specular, decentering ga&e offers yet another and related distur-
%ance in the visual field@
Gallagher 1=#
F.periencing a dou%le confusion, 5eli. no$ sa$ the doctor,
partially hidden %y the screen %eside the %ed, ma'e the move-
ments common to the "dum%founder," or man of magicG the
gestures of one $ho, in preparing the audience for a miracle,
must pretend that there is nothing to hideG the $hole pur-
pose that of ma'ing the %ac' and el%o$s move in a series of
"honesties," $hile in reality the most flagrant part of the hoa.
is %eing prepared.
5eli. sa$ that this $as for the purpose of snatching a
fe$ drops from a perfume %ottle pic'ed up from the night
ta%leG of dusting his dar'ly %ristled chin $ith a puff, and dra$-
ing a line of rouge across his lips, his upper lip compressed on
his lo$er, in order to have it seem that their sudden em%el-
lishment $as a visitation of natureG still thin'ing himself uno%-
served, as if the $hole fa%ric of magic had %egun to decom-
pose, as if the mechanics of machination $ere indeed out of
control and $ere simplifying themselves %ac' to their origin,
the doctor)s hand reached out and covered a loose hundred
franc note on the ta%le. /*D*+3
If the source of one half of 5eli.)s "dou%le confusion" is his displacement
from a position of visual mastery as he ga&es at the posed $oman, the
other half is his $itnessing of the scene of gender inversion, signified %y
the doctor)s appropriation of feminine accessories, the fetishi&ed "de-
tacha%le part>s?" $hich, as 4arjorie Gar%er demonstrates, are so cen-
tral to cross-dressing /!7=3. The doctor)s "machination," $hich empha-
si&es the process of imperfect transformation, reflects Gar%er)s claim
for the "deconstructive nature of the transvestite performance," $hich
is "al$ays undoing itself as part of its process of self-enactment" /!7"3.
The doctor)s movements, displaying the usually hidden processes that
create the visi%le surface of gender, %elie the certainty or naturalness of
The "confusion" and "dis,uiet" /*+3 occasioned in 5eli. %y this
image of gender am%iguity resonates $ith Jac,ueline :ose)s assertion
that "uncertain se.ual identity muddies the plane of the image so that
the spectator does not 'no$ $here she or he stands in relationship to
the picture. < confusion at the level of se.uality %rings $ith it a distur-
%ance in the visual field" /11+3.
1== 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
The "dou%le confusion" that 5eli. e.periences in loo'ing at :o%in
and the doctor%oth of $hom are characteri&ed %y the doctor later in
the novel as "inverts"is $rought %y this scene)s lin'ing of insta%ilities
in visual mastery and gender %oundaries. Dra$n into the visual field, the
vie$er of this scene is e.posed not only to the specular ga&e that dis-
rupts his voyeuristic loo' at the spectacular female %ody %ut also to the
%rea'do$n of gender sta%ility itself. The dual image of the $oman as a
dangerous "picture" and the doctor)s gender machinations help to un-
dermine the "peephole" model of vision, $hich no longer ensures the
contemplative spectator)s sta%ility in relation to the visual field.
The Di!order that Met 'er Eye!
Nightwood's fifth chapter, "Aatchman, Ahat of the EightH" again
represents a %edroom as the site of inversion, %oth as a se.ual-gender
practice and as a model of seeing and reading. <s the chapter title sug-
gests, the te.t engages the pro%lems of visuality and 'no$ledge, and
Eora e.plicitly announces her information-see'ing mission to the doc-
tor $hen she ma'es a late-night visit to his room@ "I have come to as'
you tell me everything you 'no$ a%out the night" /#"3. <lthough the
chapter consists primarily of a long dialogue, ostensi%ly a%out "the night"
/$hich might %e read here as the limited conditions of visi%ility $hich
construct the terms of homose.ual desire3, Eora %egins to encounter
ans$ers to ,uestions a%out visuality and inversion %efore a $ord is spo-
'en through the te.t)s description of the inten!ely (di!ordered(
"i!al #ield o# the doctor0! room, $hich e.tends the "confusion"
$hich characteri&es the earlier scene in :o%in)s hotel room@
he opened the door and for one second hesitated, so in-
credi%le $as the disorder that met her eyes. The room $as
so small that it $as just possi%le to $al' side$ays up to the
%edG it $as as if %eing condemned to the grave the doctor had
decided to occupy it $ith the utmost a%andon.
< pile of medical %oo's,and volumes of a miscellaneous
order, reached almost to the ceiling, $aterstained and cov-
ered $ith dust. Just a%ove them $as a very small %arred $in-
do$, the only ventilation. Bn a maple dresser, certainly not of
Furopean ma'e, lay a rusty pair of forceps, a %ro'en scalpel,
Gallagher 1="
half a do&en odd instruments that she could not place, a cath-
eter, some t$enty perfume %ottles, almost empty, pomades,
creams, rouges, po$der and puffs. 5rom the half-open
dra$ers of this chiffonier hung laces ri%ands, stoc'ings, ladies)
underclothing and an a%dominal %race, $hich gave the im-
pression that the feminine finery had suffered venery. < s$ill
pail stood at the head of the %ed, %rimming $ith a%omina-
tions. There $as something appallingly degraded a%out the
room, li'e the rooms in %rothels, $hich give even the most
innocent a sensation of having %een accompliceGyet this room
$as also muscular, a cross %et$een a chambre ) coucher and a training camp. There is a certain %elligerence in a
room in $hich a $oman has never set footG every o%ject seems
to %e %attling its o$n compressionand there is a metallic
odour, as of %eaten iron in a smithy.
In the narro$ iron %ed, $ith its heavy and dirty linen
sheets, lay the doctor in a $oman)s flannel nightgo$n.
The doctor)s head, $ith its over-large %lac' eyes, its full
gun-metal chee's and chin, $as framed in the golden semi-
circle of a $ig $ith long pendant curls that touched his shoul-
ders, and falling %ac' against the pillo$, turned up the shad-
o$y interiors of their cylinders. (e $as heavily rouged and
his lashes painted. /#=-#"3.
<lthough the iconographic details of the scene differ from those that
descri%e (edvig)s and :o%in)s %edrooms, the structuring of the reader)s
visual perceptions is similar. The te.t provides a long series of sentences
representing the dense array of o%jects in the room /most of them re-
lated to the signs of the doctor)s "inversion" or his surpassing "interest
in gynaecology" >!7?3,
finally arriving at the image of the doctor in %ed.
(o$ever, unli'e the disem%odied vie$er of (edvig)s imperial %edroom
or the reader $ho vie$s :o%in via 5eli.)s position as the hidden voyeur,
the reader of this scene, through Eora as "focali&er," is identified as an
"accomplice" to the cro$ded field of images. By remar'ing that a $oman
had never %efore set foot in the compression cham%er of the doctor)s
room, the te.t underscores Eora)s physical entrance into the "invert)s"
visual field, littered $ith the "pieces" that are part of the transvestite
performance. Just as 5eli.)s entrance into the "inverted" visual field is
1"2 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
mar'ed %y "confusion," so here, the field of vision that contains %oth the
se.ually inverted %ody and its o%server is characteri&ed %y intense "dis-
In addition to this emphasis on the em%odied and disordered na-
ture of Eora)s entrance into thi! "i!al #ield% the pa!!age
metaphorically !trctre! Nora0! loo& arond the room a! i# !he
were photographing it$ This is emphasi&ed %y the $ay te.t presents
Eora)s entry into the room not once, %ut t$ice. Immediately after the
long passage ,uoted a%ove, the te.t says, "It flashed into Eora)s head@
)God, children 'no$ something they can)t tellGthey li'e :ed :iding
(ood and the $olf in %edL) But this thought, $hich $as only the
sensation of a thought, $as of %ut a second)s duration as she opened
the doorG in the ne.t, the doctor had snatched the $ig from his head"
/#"3. In the earlier and lengthier representation of Eora)s loo' around
the room, each o%ject in the long list of o%jects is vie$ed as if in a
series of still photographs. The second representation of Eora)s
entrance into the room suggests the actual moment in $hich a
photograph is ta'en@ a one-second duration and a flash, reminiscent of
the one that accompanies the clic'ing of a camera)s shutter.
The ju.taposition of Eora)s photographic perception and her em-
%odied, physical entrance into the room /the narrative and visual space
of inversion3, suggests that one element of this visual field)s disorder is
its conflation of the photographic and the haptic, once again modifying
or challenging the "peephole" model of vision.
The description of the
room)s smell and the sense of intense physical enclosure /emphasi&ed %y
the small %arred $indo$ $hich provides the only ventilation and the
cro$ded space $hich allo$s Eora only "to $al' side$ays"3 suggest that
the "inverted" visual field$hich represents and contains the "inverted"
%ody and $hich "turns in" the reader-vie$er from a detached vie$ing
positionalso continually reinscri%es the physical, em%odied nature not
just of the o%ject of vision, %ut the su%ject as $ell, including the su%ject
situated metaphorically at the camera)s vie$finder.
Ob!er"able Space
< contrast very similar to the one $e have %een tracing %et$een
the disem%odied su%ject of "peephole" vision and the em%odied, "in-
Gallagher 1"!
verted" su%ject on the confusing, disordered, visual field of se.ual inver-
sion occurs in the descriptions of the central relationship in the novel,
that of :o%in and Eora. Before her relationship $ith :o%in shifts the
features of the visual field, Nora i! de!cribed in way! that recall the
!pectatorial !trctre! o# cla!!ical cinema. Ii'e (edvig, she is
represented as an o%ject of disem%odied, detached, monocular sight@
"There is a gap in )$orld pain) through $hich the singular falls
continually and foreverG a %ody falling in o%serva%le space, deprived of
the privacy of disappearanceG as if privacy, moving relentlessly a$ay, %y
the very sustaining po$er of its $ithdra$al 'ept the %ody eternally
moving do$n$ard, %ut in one place, and perpetually %efore the eye.
uch a singular $as Eora" /D!3.
Ii'e the %edroom scenes discussed a%ove, this passage relies on a
series of apposite phrases and relative clauses $hich inscri%e a visual
field %efore arriving at the central figure on that field /"uch a singular
$as Eora"3, although the field in $hich Eora appears is descri%ed in
$holly a%stract terms /$orld pain, o%serva%le space, the po$er of $ith-
dra$al, privacy3 and free of temporal limitations /"continually and for-
ever," "perpetually"3. The o%server or focali&er inscri%ed %y this passage
is once again reminiscent of the vie$er at the peephole@ a
di!embodied% !ingle% atemporal eye be#ore which Nora i!
(perpetally( in "iew$ Thi! de!cription o# Nora al!o re!emble! the
cla!!ical cinematic image2a mo"ing image continally be#ore the
eye o# the !pectator who!e ga,e i! aligned with the camera. /< fe$
pages later, the narrative descri%es Eora)s "singular" condition in another
$ay@ "The $orld and its history $ere to Eora li'e a ship in a %ottleG she
herself $as outside and unidentified, endlessly em%roiled in a
preoccupation $ithout a pro%lem. Then she met :o%in" /D*3. Eora,
previously descri%ed as the image under the classical cinematic ga&e,
no$ occupies the privileged vie$ing position, e.ternal to the visual field,
"outside and unidentified."3
*on"er!ely% Nora0! two (cinematic( po!ition! are
challenged by her meeting with Robin at a circ! per#ormance /a
shift already signaled %y the sentence, "Then she met :o%in"3@
>Eora? came into the circle of the ring, ta'ing her place in the
front ro$. >...? < girl sitting %eside Eora too' out a cigarette
and lit it. (er hands shoo' and Eora turned to loo' at herG
1"1 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
she loo'ed at her suddenly %ecause the animals,going around
and around the ring, all %ut clim%ed over at that point.They
did not seem to see the girl, %ut as their dusty eyes moved
past, the or%it of their light seemed to turn on her. <t that
moment Eora turned. >. . .? Then as one po$erful lioness
came to the turn of the %ars, e.actly opposite the girl, she
turned her furious great head $ith its yello$ eyes afire and
$ent do$n, her pa$s thrust through the %ars and, as she re-
garded the girl, as if a river $ere falling %ehind impassa%le
heat, her eyes flo$ed in tears that never reached the surface.
<t that the girl rose straight up. Eora too' her hand. "Iet)s
get out of hereL" the girl said, and still holding her hand Eora
too' her out. /D*-D73
This passage esta%lishes an enclosed field of vision $hose %oundaries
are dra$n not only %y the circular %uilt spaces /the dou%ly emphasi&ed
"circle of the ring" $ithin the larger round of the circus3 %ut also %y the
repeated and often com%ined physical gestures of turning and loo'ing.
Eora)s turning loo' is descri%ed three times /"Eora turned to loo' at
herG she loo'ed at her suddenly >...?. <t that moment Eora turned"3,
interrupting the narrative se,uence to foreground the gesture itself and
the circular trajectory of vision $hich the gesture ma'es possi%le.
Eora)s turning loo' is matched %y the visual circuit made %y the
movements of the circus animals, $ho are "going around and around the
ring," the "or%it" of their eyes) light "turning" on :o%in. The lion, reach-
ing the "turn of the %ars" repeats the gesture, "turning" her head to$ard
:o%in. This repeated circular trajectory of vision creates a tightly cir-
cumscri%ed set of concentric visual enclosures@ the turning loo' of the
animals seen $ithin Eora)s o$n turning ga&e $ithin the "circle of the
ring" of the circusderived from the Iatin for "circle."
Thi! pa!!age0!
repeated (trn!( e##ecti"ely place the reader 3"ia Nora a! #ocali,er4
within the (circle o# the ring( o# circlar loo&!% creating a
cla!trophobic enclo!re that Robin% perhap! li&e the reader%
wi!he! to e!cape 3(5et0! get ot o# here6(4$
This sense of enforced
enclosure is sustained even after :o%in and Eora leave the "circle of
the ring"@ "In the lo%%y >... :o%in? loo'ed a%out her distractedly. )I don)t
$ant to %e here)" /DD3. <s in the passage $hich descri%es Eora)s and
the reader)s entrance into the vi-
Gallagher 1"*
sual field of the doctor)s room, this circus scene infuses the visual field
$ith the haptic, emphasi&ing the physically em%odied status of the scene)s
"inverted" spectator $ithin a highly constricted visual field.
Their Doble Regard
In its representation of Eora and :o%in)s relationship, Nightwood
restages its struggle $ith the "peephole" model of spectatorship, sug-
gesting that the novel)s criti,ue of the peephole is significantly compli-
cated %y its representation of les%ian desire. This is seen at the end of
the "Eight Aatch" chapter, $hich descri%es the years Eora and :o%in
live together in !"12s 0aris@
Ioo'ing out into the garden in the faint light of da$n, >Eora?
sa$ a dou%le shado$ falling from the statue, as if it $ere mul-
tiplying, and thin'ing perhaps this $as :o%in, she called and
$as not ans$ered. tanding motionless, straining her eyes,
she sa$ emerge from the dar'ness the light of :o%in)s eyes,
the fear in them developing their luminosity until, %y the in-
tensity of their dou%le regard, :o%in)s eyes and hers met. o
they ga&ed at each other. <s if that light had po$er to %ring
$hat $as dreaded into the &one of their catastrophe, Eora
sa$ the %ody of another $oman s$im up into the statue)s
o%scurity, $ith head hung do$n, that the added eyes might
not augment the illuminationG her arms a%out :o%in)s nec',
her %ody pressed to :o%in)s, her legs slac'ened in the hang of
the em%race. /+73
5i&e a #ilm !pectator o# a night !cene% Nora0! "iew ot the
window i! #ramed so that she is outside the field of vision, loo'ing at
and into a faintly lighted space from $hich the image of :o%in)s
luminous eyes emerges. (o$ever,the ga&e, in $hat is other$ise
structured as a primal scene /a se.ual encounter from $hich the
o%server is e.cluded3, is mutualG Eora is inscri%ed as %oth e.ternal
spectator of and participant in this "catastrophic" visual &one.
Ahen Eora manages to %rea' out of this visual frame$or', her
escape is descri%ed as an a violent accident rather than an act of $ill@
";na%le to turn her eyes a$ay >...? Eora fell to her 'nees, so that her
1"7 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
eyes $ere not $ithdra$n %y her volition, %ut dropped from their or%it
%y the falling of her %ody" /+73. The %rea'ing of this visual "or%it" does
not rupture the enclosures $hich characteri&e %oth visuality and "inver-
sion" in the novel, %ut instead reinscri%es those enclosures in the %ody
itselfnot any single %ody, %ut rather the anonymous %odies of uniden-
tified $omen@ "he closed her eyes, and at that moment she 'ne$ an
a$ful happiness. :o%in, li'e something dormant, $as protected, moved
out of death)s $ay %y the successive arms of $omen" /+73. The "succes-
sive arms of $omen"the continuing, physical enclosures of les%ian
desire, reminiscent of the concentric circles $hich structure Eora and
:o%in)s meeting at the circus%oth replace and e.tend the "or%it" of
vision $hich characteri&es the mutual ga&e %et$een these lovers.HHH
The !trctring o# thi! !cene again ca!t! Nora in the
po!ition not only o# the #ocali,er who go"ern! or "iew o# the
in"ert0! body bt al!o a! a photographer o# that body$ Nora0!
violent dropping from the framed visual field and the closing of her
eyes,follo$ed %y the multiple image of :o%in in the successive arms of
$omen $hich move her "out of death)s $ay," metaphorically stages a
photographic event@ the closing of the camera)s shutter $hich %oth
immortali&es and "mortifies" the person photographed. The fact that
Eora is %oth participant in and metaphoric photographer of the scene
she o%serves from the $indo$ once again indicates ho$ Nightwood
challenges the model of the detached vie$er at the peephole or
vie$finder, dra$ing that vie$er into the visual field oc cupied %y the
invert)s %ody.
This passage descri%ing Eora at the $indo$ also evo'es a later
step in the photographic process@ the reproduction of the image. Ceep-
ing in mind :oland Barthes) o%servation that ">$?hat the 0hotograph
reproduces to infinity has occurred only onceG the 0hotograph mechani-
cally repeats $hat could never %e repeated e.istentially" /73, I suggest
that the imagined "successive arms" can %e read as a te.tual analogue to
a photographic reproduction of the image that Eora has seen from the
$indo$an em%race already associated $ith a reproduced image
through the "multiplying" shado$s falling from the statue. (o$ever, this
reproduction is mar'ed %y difference as $ell as %y duplication, as these
are the successive arms of di##erent $omen, reflecting <llen)s claim that
">i?n Nightwood, the erotics emphasi&e sameness only in the conte.t of
the overlays of difference" /"Frotics" !"23.
Gallagher 1"D
The notion of a photographic image mar'ed %y %oth duplication
and difference recalls another of Barthes)s assertions a%out photogra -
phy and su%jectivity@ "the 0hotograph is the advent of myself as other"
/!13. < parallel to this conception of the photographic image is evident
in Nightwood in relation to les%ian desire $hen Eora, echoing the lan -
guage of "homose.uality" $ith its emphasis on the sameness of same-
se. desire, says of :o%in, "he is myself" /!1#3 and later asserts that ">a?
man is another person a $oman is yourself, caught as you turn in panicG
on her mouth you 'iss your o$n" /!7*3. :esponding to the parts of the
novel $hich seem to e,uate les%ianism $ith narcissism,<llen o%serves
that "early se.ology >...? pathologi&e>d? the same-se. erotic dynamic as
e.treme self-enclosure under the ru%ric of narcissism" /"Frotics" !="3.
he suggests, ho$ever, that Nightwood offers resistance to the narcissis-
tic model of homose.ual desire through the inscription of "dou%led su%-
jectivity"@ "Ahat >Eora? finds is not self-annihilating sameness, %ut cru -
cial resemb'ance, a relation of identity layered $ith figures of alterity"
In its participation in the dual discourse of "inversion" and "homo-
se.uality," particularly a "homose.uality" that relies on differential erotic
dou%ling, Nightwood participates in a recurring pattern in the visual cul -
ture of "apphic modernism." Bne instance of this visual discourse of
dou%ling, inversion, sameness, and difference is found in the genre of
"%inary portraiture," $hich Terry 8astle defines as "a type of fashiona%le
formal portrait >...? $ith t$o sitters posing as mirror opposites or as a
pair of overlapping, almost identical profiles" /1D3. 5ocusing on several
%inary portraits ta'en of the play$right EoMl 8o$ard and various les-
%ian or %ise.ual $omen colla%orators in the !"12s, 8astle notes that
";nli'e more conventional dou%le portraiture, such as the standard het-
erose.ual marriage portrait >. . .? the %inary portrait emphasi&ed the
sameness and e,uality of the t$o individuals portrayed." he claims that
these portraits,moreover,%y %lurring ">s?e.ual difference,including po$er
differences" /1#3 offered "a visual challenge to heterose.ual norms" /1=3.
8astle also notes the presence of "numerous les%ian )adaptations) of the
%inary portrait in the later )12s and )*2s" /*23, such as the !"*# Meda'!
'ion, a dual portrait of the artist and her lover %y the les%ian painter
Gluc' /see cover3. In this painting, the les%ian couple is represented in
overlapping profiles that emphasi&e similarity of facial features and a
Figure *$
8laude 8ahun, +ue Me,eu%!Tu-, !"1=. 0rivate 8ollection, 0aris.
shared trajectory of vision. These images enact in visual terms the trend
that <llen sees in the te.t of Nightwood. the production of "neither nar-
cissistic identification nor radical alterity, %ut a dou%led su%jectivity of
resem%lance" /"Frotics" !#"3.
<nother startling instance in apphic-modernist visual culture of
this tendency to$ard %oth the trope of gender inversion and "a dou%led
su%jectivity of resem%lance" can %e found in several of the 5rench surre -
alist 8laude 8ahun)s remar'a%le photographs, produced in 0aris in the
late !"12s and early !"*2s.
These photographs e.tend the les%ian
"%inary portrait" to $hat might %est %e called les%ian %inary self-portrai-
ture. 8ahun)s !"1= "Nue me veu.-tuH" /fig. !3 is a montage made from
t$o individual self-portraits. These t$o self-portraits, $hich each con -
tain "masculine" and "feminine" visual elements, immediately create in
the vie$er the 'ind of "dou%le confusion" e.perienced %y 5eli. in :o%in)s
hotel room. In one of these self-portraits /fig. 13, 8ahun)s closely shaved
head and masculine undershirt contrast $ith heavy eye ma'eup and lip -
stic'. In the other self-portrait /fig. *3, the shaved head is in star' con-
1"+ 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
Gallagher 1"#
Figure /$
8laude 8ahun, elf-portrait, !"1=. 8ollection 0remiere (eure, t. 8loud, 5rance.
Figure 0$
8laude 8ahun, elf-portrait, !"1=. 8ourtesy of the Jersey (eritage Trust.
1"= 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
trast to the unidentifia%le feminine garment around 8ahun)s mid-torso
and arms. The confusion occasioned %y these self-portraits is dou%led in
"+ue me veu%!tu-" $here the t$o figures are placed $ithin the same
frame so as to appear to %e in intimate dialogue and physical contact
through the reversing or inverting of one image and the tilting of the
other. The title, $ith its t$o pronouns, and the t$o heads in the image
suggest t$o separate figures and t$o separate individuals, $hile the over -
lapping and merging of the figures at shoulder level suggest a single shared
%ody in the space %eneath the lo$er edge of the frame. The dou%ling
and inversionthe literal inverting or turning of images of this am%igu-
ously gendered figurethat structure this photomontage are intensi-
fied yet again in a !"1"!"*2 photomontage /fig. 73 made %y 8ahun and
her lover and stepsister 4oore /u&anne 4alher%e3, $hich reuses and
again inverts /%y turning upside-do$n3 the dou%le image of "Nue me
8ahun)s photographs and the Nightwood passage descri%ing Eora
at the $indo$ are %oth engaged in revising the "shape of the peephole."
They also $or' to revise our understanding of les%ian desire in the age
of mechanical reproduction. The play of dou%ling, inversion, sameness,
and difference that characteri&es 8ahun)s images offers a strong visual
parallel to Nightwood's metaphoric association of les%ian desire $ith a
form of photographic reproduction mar'ed %y %oth duplication and dif -
ference. 4oreover, %oth Eora and 8ahun can %e read as photographers
$hose images not only represent the les%ian %ody %ut also depend on
the 'ind of visual inversion I have %een associating $ith Barnes)s criti,ue
of the "peephole" model of vision. Both 8ahun and Eora occupy posi -
tions simultaneously outside and inside the visual field@ 8ahun through
the self-portraiture that places heron either side ofthevie$finderGEora
through the intense mutual ga&e she shares $ith :o%in that renders her
%oth spectator and participant. Both as' us to imagine a photographic
order in $hich the vie$er is %oth at the peephole or vie$finder and
occupying a position $ithin the visual field under o%servation.
To$ard the end of Nightwood, Dr. B)8onnor articulates a meta-
phor for the te.t)s response to modern visuality@ ") I f you really $ant to
'no$ ho$ hard a pri&efighter hits,) he said, loo'ing around, )you have got
to $al' into the circle of his fury and %e carried out %y the heels, not %y
the count)" /!D=3. <n earlier version of this sentence reads@ "if you really
Gallagher 1""
Figure 1$
8laude 8ahun and 4oore, 8ollage from 2veu% non avenus, !"1"-*2. 0late I6. Fditions du
8arrefour, 0aris.
$ant to 'no$ ho$ hard a pri&efighter hits,ou must not be a (ri3e#ighter,
you must $al' into the circle of his fury as an on'oo4er, and get carried
out %y the heels, not %y the count" /,td. in 0lum% 1++G emphasis added3.
The deleted phrases emphasi&e ho$ Nightwood as's visual outsiders or
"onloo'ers" to a%andon their detached, voyeuristic position at the "peep-
hole" to enter a circumscri%ed, often menacing or distur%ing visual field
and there%y to enter the ,ueer spaces of modernist visuality.
!. <t the end of her essay, 8hisholm also revises her claims a%out Nightwood's
voyeuristic reader-vie$er, suggesting that "the pressures of a revolution-
ary nihilism" in the novel create "a crac' in 5oucault)s panopticon" /!"7
"D3. 5or other constructions of vision and visuality in Nightwood, see
Boone 7#2 n. "1 and 4arcus 17*-77.
1 5or a sustained argument on the difference %et$een "inversion" and "ho-
mose.uality" in se.ological discourse, see 0rosser, especially ! !+-12.
*22 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
0$ Bn theories of "se.ual inversion," see ymondsG Fllis !-1G 8hauncey ! !+G
8alhoun 11*-17G 5aderman 17*G6icinus 7=2-=!.
1$ By "apphic 4odernism," I mean a modernist art practice that not only
represents aspects of les%ian erotics %ut also is formally or structurally
impacted %y that representation. It is an art $hich is, as Fric 8arlston
puts it, "hypersensitiv>e? to se.uality in, and as, the aesthetic and the po
litical" /+3. ee Benstoc' !=*-=DG !"+-"#G and 8arlston +-".
5$ The li%eratory model $hich denigrates the mastering eye and the struc
tures of the 0latonic eidos may %e traced %ac' to the $riting of (enri
Bergson, $hom 4artin Jay identifies as "the first modern philosopher
any$here to dispute the no%ility of sight" /!=+3.
6$ 8hisholm finds an analogous suspicion in Barnes)s resistance to "the ten
dency that animated her ama&onian contemporaries to ela%orate and
glorify )inversion)G instead, she flaunts a ,ueer scepticism concerning se.ual
li%eration and its %ohemian milieu." /!#+3.
7$ ee the introduction to Downcast &es$
8$ <llen has o%served the novel)s repeated use of enclosed spaces, noting
that ">e?ven the outdoor places are )interior.)" he also suggests that
">e?nclosure as a condition of emotional pressure e.emplifies the meta-
phoric method %y $hich Barnes $rites indirectly ratherthan directly a%out
her su%jects" /"Dressing" !2"3.
9$ ee Bal "!-"7 and 1+! n. != for a discussion of 4itchell)s "family of im
ages" and for her claim that :a ;echerche %oth represents and themati&es
all five %ranches of this family of images.
*<$ 8arolyn <llen has also identified Nightwood "as a theoretical fiction, or as
a fiction of theorya narrative that produced theory as $ell as story"
/"Frotics" !=!3. :ecent edited volumes dealing $ith the issues of visuality
and visual culture include 5osterG 4elville and :eadingsG Brennan and JayG
Jen'sGand Bryson, 4o.ey, and (olly.
I !. <llen suggests that Nightwood's recurring use of apposition, as $ell as of
analogy and metaphor, indicates language)s representational failures@ "It is
as if a single description $ere insufficient and that several attempts are
need to convey the meaning" /"Dressing" ! !+3.
!1. This cinematic mode relies on an "invisi%le" camera and the "a%sence of
>the vie$ing? su%ject from the narrated scene" /(ansen =!3.
I *. Genette)s definition of "focali&ation" differs from Bal)s on the ,uestion of
$hether a fictional character can act as a "focali&er." 5or Genette, "there
Gallagher *2!
is no focali&ing or focali&ed character@ #oca'i3ed can %e applied only to the
narrative itself" /#*3. Genette)s definition of "focali&ation" is, unli'e Bal)s,
not concerned $ith the representation of visual e.perience, although he
does use the visual metaphor of the "field" to define the concept@ "%y
focali&ation I certainly mean a restriction of)field)actually, that is, a se-
lection of narrative information $ith respect to $hat $as traditionally
called omniscience" /#73.
!7. <llen ma'es a similar o%servation in reading this scene, $hich she calls "a
ta%leau" /"Dressing" ! !23.
!D. <llen descri%es Nightwood's distance-inducing "ta%leau." in photographic
terms, comparing them to a camera stopped "on a particular frame"
/"Dressing" ! !23. Cannenstine also o%serves that many of Nightwood's
images constitute "essentially a ver%al e,uivalent of the photographic im-
age" /"23.
!+. <ndrea I. (arris claims that this undermining of the "natural" foundation
of gender identity is one of the primary tendencies of Nightwood as a
$hole /1*7-*D3.
!#. 5or other readings of this scene, see 4arcus 1** and (arris 172.
!=. ee Jennifer 5isher)s paper, $hich e.plores ho$ several pieces of contem
porary art com%ine the visual and haptic orders.
!". e.ologists often used the $ord "turn" or other $ords using the latinate
ending "-vert" to define "inversion." Fllis defined inversion as "se.ual in
stinct turned %y in%orn constitutional a%normality to$ard persons of the
same se." /!3G ymonds descri%ed it as "the se.ual instinct diverted from
its normal channel" /*3. Cenneth Bur'e also o%serves the repeated use of
the $ord "turn" in the novel, especially in the passage descri%ing :o%in
and Eora)s meeting at the circus, $hich he reads as "Eora)s conversion
to perversion or inversion" /17*3.
12. Boone descri%es the novel)s entire structure as "series of concentric
circles" in $hich "each chapter dra$s the reader closer and closer to the
)still heart) of the novel, the >...? cluster of chapters that replay the cata
strophic severance of :o%in and Eora from different angles" /7+" n. "!3.
1!. Barnes)s representation of the circus as a space of containment runs
counter to the li%eratory model of circus found in other modernist $rit
ers such as 5ilippo 4arinetti and the German play$right 5ran'Aede'indG
see (am !D2. Iaura Ain'iel offers a different reading of the circus in
Nightwood as the site of a lost utopia, a "heterogenous, participatory, local
form of pu%lic culture that is ,uic'ly vanishing" /=3 replaced %y the isolat
ing, alienated spaces of "mass culture spectacle" /123.
*21 6ision and Inversion in Nightwood
11. If :o%in is rendered as a cinematic image, her loo' at Eora here recalls
not so much the "classical" film actor as the actor of "primitive" or early
cinema, $ho often loo'ed %ac' at the spectator. ee Gunning += and
(ansen *#.
1*. 5or other discussions of "mirroring" and "dou%ling" in 8ahun)s photo
graphs and in her $ritten $or', see 8a$s "D-! !"G Crauss 17D2G
IichtensteinG DeanG Iasalle and olomon-Godeau.
17. 8ahun)s familiarity $ith se.ology and $ith the voca%ulary of "inversion"
is evidenced %y the fact that she translated into 5rench one of (aveloc'
Fllis)s essays on female se.uality /"Ia femme dans la sociKtK," Mercure de
France, !"1"G cited in <nder and nau$aert .lv3 and %y her participation in
a poll sponsored %y the journal Inversions, the first e.plicitly homose.ual
revue in 5rance, pu%lished in !"17 /Dean #D3.
1D. Boone suggests that "the term =ueer in its current usage comes close >...?
to providing an appropriate theoretical medium for ma'ing sense of the
realm of polymorphous desire that circulates among Nightwood's $ander
ing community of outsiders, outcasts, and orphans" /1*73. 8hisholm uses
the term ",ueer" in another $ay in her reading of the novel@ "to distin
guish Barnes)s antagonistic se.uality and se.ual nihilism from )les%ian) se.u
ality and its positive historical and utopian instances of identity and soli
darity" /!"# n. !23.
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