Djuna Barnes’s novel Nightwood, contrary to what is advanced in most critical accounts, does not so much represent alternatives to patriarchal language and social roles as it stages what psychoanalysts Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok call “psychic crypts” and “phantoms”: internalized love-objects and the secret, affect-charged words associated with them. Read through psychoanalytic theories of fetishism and language, Nightwood’s suspended images, enigmatic phrases, and bizarre character behaviors suggest encrypted words and scenes from Barnes’s personal history, perhaps her sexualized relationship with her grandmother, Zadel Barnes Gustafson.
"Ghost Words: Nightwood's Cryptic Imperatives,"
Criticism: Vol. 57
, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol57/iss1/6