In the late nineteenth century, a number of critics and historians have observed, the family and the traditional gender relations undergirding it became a central concern of authors working out their relation to modernity. Henry Adams, for example, wrote that the American man "could not run his machine and a woman too." The outcome of men's accelerated pursuit of modernity was that women strayed from their natural "axis": "The woman's force had counted as inertia of rotation, and her axis of rotation had been the cradle and the family. . . . [I]t was surely true that, if her force were to be diverted from its axis, it must find a new field, and the family must pay for it. So far as she succeeded, she must become sexless like the bees." Other artists, however, would draw on this same symbolic cluster to define a more positive relation to modernity. Thus Baudelaire, as Walter Benjamin notes, affirmed such "anti-natural" figures as the impotent male and the barren woman, as well as the androgyne, the lesbian, and the prostitute. Benjamin relates these figures to Baudelaire's affirmation of urban life: "The renunciation of the 'natural' should be dealt with first in relation to the metropolis as the subject of the poem."
Elsewhere Benjamin suggests a broader provenance for this revaluation of nonreproductive sexual forms: "The basic motif of Jugendstil is
that of the transfiguration of sterility. The body is depicted predominantly in those forms which precede sexual maturity. This thought is to be linked with that of the regressive interpretation of technology" (42-43). For Baudelaire, the figure of the lesbian is likewise a recognition of modernity and a protest against technology (39)- The modernity of lesbianism rests in its abstraction of love and elimination of woman's "natural" function of reproduction: "The Lesbian woman carries spiritualization (Vergeistigung ) into even the womb. There she plants the lily-banner of 'pure' love, which knows neither pregnancy nor family" (43). At the same time, however, Baudelaire refuses to recognize any relation between his lesbian figure and the emancipation of women in such public professions as journalism or in factory work. He thus gives "a purely sexual accent to this evolving tendency in women" (39).
On the leading edge of Anglo-American modernism, Gertrude Stein's family epic, The Making of Americans , for example, stylistically enacts the antinomy of family and modernity. Over the course of its hundreds of pages, Stein's new, experimental style emerges as the family's history dissipates its authority as a narrative source. In her retrospective lecture, "The Gradual Making of the Making of Americans," she likened—or perhaps attributed—this progressive radicalizing of style to an entropic slowing of the generational wheel: "In writing The Making of Americans [the years] rolled around less quickly. In writing A Long Gay Book, they did not roll around at all, and therefore it did not go on it led to Tender Buttons and many other things. It may even have led to war but that is of no importance."
Barnes's stylistic demolition of rigidly chronological genres like the chronicle (Ryder ) and the almanac (Ladies Almanack ) reveals an analogous confrontation between modernity and genealogically grounded duration. Like her symbolist and decadent forerunners and her modernist compeers, she also ambivalently embraces modernity through an ostentatious use of "anti-natural" figures, including the lesbian, the vampire, the nomadic Jew, the hermaphrodite, and the transvestite. Nevertheless, she dissipates any redemptive aura invested in these figures by earlier writers. In what follows, I discuss the implications of Barnes's engagement with issues of filiation and her "denaturing" of gender. I concentrate on her two major books preceding Nightwood, Ryder and Ladies Almanack , then discuss Nightwood in the latter half of the chapter.
Ryder , published in 1928, seems at first glance to suggest the neat filial order of the family chronicle, but it delivers nothing of the sort.
Instead, it presents a heterogeneous set of short texts, poached from a variety of period styles and genres and loosely organized around the irregular Ryder clan and its friends and neighbors. While the passage of time can be discerned through its discontinuous chapters, the narrative careens wildly between parable and bawdy tale, satire and homily, folk-talc and mock-epistle. Louis Kannenstine suggests that Ryder stages "the death of the social or domestic novel of generations that had dominated the nineteenth century." Yet while it is certainly true that Ryder dismantles the domestic novel's conventions, its formal principle lies ultimately neither with a modernist genealogical myth (as with Faulkner) nor with ironic, self-critical allusion to a traditional genre. Ryder is formally distinct from more integrated modernist works by its loose, "choric articulation"—the nonsymbolic couplings and breaks that make of the Ryder cosmos a "riant spaciousness," a hilarious machinery of conflicting desire and drives (see chapter 2 above).
Ryder's solidly patronymic title marks, one discovers by the fourth chapter, not paternal authority, but rather interruption and conscious rejection of patrilinearity. Wendell Ryder's mother, Sophia, "gave him no father's name but stayed by her own" (R , 17). One reason, so she claims, was that her son was conceived immaculately in a dream, when the astral body of Beethoven passed through her own—the birth of the grotesque out of the spirit of music. The other is "that she had learned to dislike John Peel," her husband of that time (R , 17). Resembling at once Barnes's own grandmother and Dame Evangeline Musset in Ladies Almanack , Sophia Ryder is a worldly and unconventional woman who has married several times; as her name indicates she "is wise to" the ways of men. Outside of the normative family, she plays the indulgent "Mother" to all—to her own prodigal son, Wendell, to the men from whom she begs money to support her brood, and to the fallen women she takes under her protecting wing. In her rejection of patriarchal authority and her affiliative conception of motherhood, Sophia embodies the decadence of filial genealogy and the rise of a new, independent womanhood. 
At the same time, however, she symbolizes a breakup of the ability of cultural tradition to provide bearings for the modern individual. The walls of her bedroom, on which she hangs pictures, prints, and eventually newspaper clippings, form the image of a historical process in which tradition is effaced and scattered by the rise of information. Barnes recounts in order the images matting Sophia's walls. First are the women
of history and culture she admires: George Eliot, Brontë, Elizabeth Stanton, Ouida, Catherine the Great, Beatrice Cenci, Lotta Crabtree, and several spirit-visitants identified only by allegorical epithets. Then the men she admires: a railroad magnate, Savonarola, a Samoan chief, Dante, and Oscar Wilde among them—free of any chronological succession and, in any case, hardly the model of a tight-knit family line! Then images of death and suffering, which include among pictures of torture, murder, and capital punishment that of pregnancy: "the filling of the belly, known as the Extreme Agony" (R , 13). At a certain point in her youth, these pictures began to be obscured by those of her Swedish lover, Alex, which eventually filled the whole wall. Barnes pauses here to comment:
Sophia's walls, like the telltale rings of the oak, gave up her conditions, as anyone might have discovered an they had taken a bucket of water to it, for she never removed, she covered over.
At forty these pictures were an inch deep, at sixty, a good two inches from the wall; the originals were, as she herself was, nothing erased but much submerged. (R , 13)
Barnes's metaphor of the slow-growing oak would seem to imply that Sophia is a deep source of tradition, surveying the longue durée of history. Yet as with modernity itself, each new fashion of her heart and intellect is discontinuous with the previous one, consigning it to her "heap of broken images." One can discern here a satirical depiction of technically reproduced memory analogous to Lewis's more elaborate gramophonic-cinematic "utopia," in which the family picnic can be reenacted on sound film, complete with bawling children and pesky mosquitoes, while political heroes of the past repeat their famous speeches; both Ryder and Time and Western Man appeared within a year of one another and offered a vision of history flattened into images and recomposed. The final stage of Sophia's image archive is reached when the cultural canon is definitively submerged by the tide of information, mass culture, and journalism:
Even Alex had gone, he, who had for so long held sway, slowly ebbed, and in his stead rose that last tide, clippings from newspapers. For in the end this was her court,—false prophet, false general, the pretty girl untimely raped, some woman aptly killed, some captain who claimed discovery of the North Pole, some Jack who had climbed a steeply top; all in a conglomerate juxtaposition, and under all, smiling in forlorn inevitability, Beatrice Cenci, Shakespeare and the Divine Dante. (R , 14)
Sophia's cultural canon ends in a Rauschenberg-like pastiche of degraded fragments, selected and arranged idiosyncratically, and connected only by their spatial contiguity.
On Sophia's wall, culture has itself become the idiosyncratic body Horkheimer and Adorno discuss in Dialectic of Enlightenment , which stiffens and is assimilated to its surroundings—as the gallery of photos has become like an oak tree in the forest of information. As I suggested in chapter z, however, this same mimetic assimilation to space is integral to the dynamics of laughter. Sophia's picture collection disaggregates images from their contextual and chronological position and reassembles them in a riotous, riant spaciousness. In a world where Savonarola lies down with Oscar Wilde—no postmillennial reconciliation of lion and lamb, only the everyday cosmos of technically reproducible images—the canon of culture has become salvageable only at the expense of making it subjectively configured, idiosyncratic, laughable.
Barnes leaves ironically unresolved the positive and negative aspects of Sophia's modernistic revolt. The ambivalence of Barnes's attitude to the freedom Sophia assumes is concentrated, above all, in the figure of Wendell. He is, she suggests, in more ways than just the biological, the dubious result of Sophia's choice· While casting himself as biblical patriarch and natural man, Wendell unwittingly embodies the indiscriminate release of productive forces that are part and parcel of the most advanced Americanism and technological modernity. Through Barnes's mocking pseudo-Chaucerian depiction of Wendell can be discerned a deformed representative of Max Weber's "Protestant Ethos," who justifies frugality by reference to religious calling. Likewise Barnes's black humor sets in contiguity images of baby making and meat-packing, natural propagation and slaughter for market:
Then Wendell worked his other wits as well . . .
How bread from bran he mightë roll and bake,
That child and cattle fodder from one bin,
For kine, he held, were kith, and infants kin.
And other ways he'd twist to save a coin;
While spendeth he most lavish of his loin
Most saving was of gold and silver bright,
. . . Thus he did preach:
"Store every sacking strong, for shirt and breech,
For hams come diapered as babes y-clout,
Yes, what y-ham wears in, y-babe wears out." ( R , 55)
Not for nothing was Ryder published on the brink of a worldwide depression; overproduction—of children, guns, or butter—must end in bankruptcy and violence. Yet Wendell's dearest wish is to reproduce himself indefinitely, perpetually remaking the world over in his image. As three incidents recounted in the late pages of Ryder clearly suggest, this multiplicative drive is self-consuming, holding the seeds of its own demise.
The first of these portentous incidents is recounted in the chapter entitled "Ryder—His Race." Barnes preludes her narration with a "treatise on carnivora," noting, "Of all carnivora man holds woman most dear" (R , 205). Juxtaposing women who are the object of men's love to women who devour the flesh of animals, Barnes employs a Rabelaisian technique for generating grotesque effects by crossing two distant semantic series. This "treatise" on carnivora prepares the defeat of Wendell's heroic propagation recounted later in the chapter, the "exposé of much nothing" (R , 205) in the barren body of the elderly Lady Bridesleep. It allegorizes the flaw in Wendell's narcissistic vision, in which—like the male modernist artist—he asserts his creative mastery while failing to recognize his total dependence on the women who surround him—mother, wives, daughters, and mistresses. This dependence leads him to "conquer" yet more women, which further gnaws away at his autonomy: a self-renewing yet self-defeating process. If Wendell is like an American Noah, presiding over the repopulation of a new world, then Barnes presents his women as hunkered down in the hold of the ark, polishing off the flesh of some irreplaceable species.
Wendell comes one day to Lady Terrance Bridesleep, proposing to sleep with her. She accepts: "Who was she at sixty that upon the turnspit of her attraction a man should baste and be a man for all that.>" (R, 208). Before the momentous event takes place, Wendell offers a weighty rationale for his sexual conquests:
I, my love, am to be Father of All Things. For this was I created, and to this will I cleave. Now this is the Race that shall be Ryder— those who can sing like the lark, coo like the dove, moo like the cow, buzz like the bee, cheep like the cricket, bark like the dog, mew like the cat, neigh like the stallion, roar like the bull, crow like the cock, bray like the ass, sob like the owl, bleat like the lamb, growl like the lion, whine like the seal, to say nothing of screeching like the parrots and all sundry cryings, wailings, belchings, gnashing, sighing, sobbing, screaming, such as one hears the world over, but from a thousand several throats. . . . Some shall be prophets, some sophists, some scoundrels, some virgins, some bawds, some priests, some
doxies, some vassals, some freemen, some slaves, some mongers, some pamphleteers, some eunuchs, some hermaphrodites, some nobles, some pussy-winks, some panders, some jades, some lawyers, some doctors, some presidents, some thieves; pro and con, for and against, though never one bourgeois or like to other men as we now know them, but at the fertile pitch of genius. (R , 210)
Like a manic Whitman, Wendell envisions a total and simultaneous mastery of all means of expression—an overcoming of the ordinary bourgeois existence in the fiat lux of genius. Here, more clearly than anywhere else in Ryder , Barnes satirically underscores the unhappy analogy of Wendell to the modernist artist, thrown back on the "fertility" of his own subjective invention.
In Lady Bridesleep, however, Wendell meets the exasperation of his design:
In the dawn, where Wendell lay crowing like a cock, and most extraordinarily pleased, Lady Terrance arose, and turned to him smiling. "What shall we call him?" inquired Wendell in huge pride.
"Nothing and Never," said Lady Terrance sweetly. "He shall accomplish all the others leave undone. You need No Child also, my good man, all fathers have one. On him you shall hang that part of your ambition too heavy for mortal. And now," she said to the maid, who answered her ring, "bring me the calf's head that you'll find on the ice." (R , 211)
Barnes returns to the image of carnivorous woman, devouring the world's creatures as they puncture the pride of men. Wendell must, in Lady Bridesleep, confront the allegorical representative of time and death—the oblivion against which his modernistic dream will founder. She presages the fate of his projected revolution of the word, as the multitudinous sounds of his "race" recede into a background of deathly silence. The chapter concludes with Wendell's stunned response, a rare spasm of reticence in this loquacious text bearing his name: "Wendell opened his mouth, but no sound came" (R , 211).
The other two incidents can be dealt with more briefly. In the chapter "Fine Bitches All, and Molly Dance," Barnes illustrates an inverted world, in which animals are strictly bred according to genealogical order while humans rut like the beasts of the field. Molly Dance, a dog breeder, is a female likeness of Wendell Ryder, with her numerous children, her sexual promiscuity, and her revisionary cosmology. She takes her pleasure as it comes and makes no attempt to determine the paternity of her children. Wendell, troubled by this loss of distinction, offers
her a figment of certainty: he will sire her next child, then she will know its father. Wendell, like the modernist artist, seeks, through his conscious act of creation, to reconstitute a symbolic order against the featureless face of chaos. Unfortunately for Wendell, his plans once again come to naught. For Molly reveals the power of female promiscuity to unravel the symbolic order of patrimony:
"Well," said Molly. . ., "how shall she, or I, or you, or another know but that Dan, the corner policeman, be he? For not two nights ago he had the same idea, and that only goes to show you," she added, "that one man's thoughts are not worth much more than another's." (R , 199)
Wendell, the would-be author of a homemade world, is reduced to an interchangeable part in a hetaeric, maternal cosmos.
Wendell's genealogical vision will, unbeknownst to him, suffer a third blow. In the chapter entitled, significantly, "Three Great Moments of History," Dr. Matthew O'Connor catches a boy who has stolen a jar of honey. He sits him down and treats him to a typically oblique O'Connor speech, which in its course brings up the name of Wendell Ryder. The boy reveals that he is one of Ryder's bastard children and that in reaction to his father's thoughtless promiscuity, he has foresworn having anything to do with women. The chapter ends with the implication that Matthew O'Connor will initiate the youth into gay love:
"This," said Doctor Matthew O'Connor, "changes the whole aspect of the argument. To love thy fellowmen is also a necessity." And with that he did gently put an arm around the lad as, with the other hand, he turned the pot right side up, to save what little there was left of a sweet matter. (R , 236)
As the tender eroticism of O'Connor's metaphorical righting the overturned honey pot conveys, this initiation is the afterimage of Wendell's mechanical (re)productivity.
Ryder ends on a note of impasse, with what, in spite of its pastoral setting, can be understood as the ironic revenge of modernity on the "creator" who too closely identifies himself with its innovative impulse. As Wendell's world crumbles around him—his mother dying, his wives preparing to leave him, his children turned against him, the money gone—he goes out into the night and sits in the fields amid the animals. The book ends with a mimetic regression, a collapse of the distinction between Wendell and his surroundings:
And everything and its shape became clear in the dark, by tens and tens they ranged, and lifted the lids and looked at him; in the air and in the trees and
on the earth and from under the earth, and regarded him long, and he forbore to hide his face. They seemed close ranged, and now they seemed far ranged, and they moved now near, now far, as a wave comes and goes, and they lifted their lids and regarded him, and spoke not in their many tongues, and they went a far way, and there was a little rest, and they came close, and there was none. Closing in about him nearer, and swinging out wide and from him far, and came in near and near, and as a wave, closed over him, and he drowned, and arose while he yet might go. And whom should he disappoint? (R , 242)
The extraordinary beauty of this ending, reminiscent of the pantheistic climax of Flaubert's The Temptation of Saint Antony , should not obscure the satiric harshness of Barnes's conclusion: Wendell's complete identification of himself with the innovative impulse of modernism, his "perpetual extinction of personality" in the (pro)creative act, is literally realized in madness.
Ladies Almanack , which appeared contemporaneously with Ryder , takes up a number of the same themes and images, while likewise rummaging the ragbag of literary styles for its models. Presenting itself as "the book all ladies should carry" (LA , motto of the second illustration), Ladies Almanack combines a salacious roman à clef, satirizing the members of the lesbian salon of Barnes's friend Natalie Barney, with an experiment in literary parody. Barnes herself described it as "a mild satire on the somewhat shoddy 'loves' of present day Sapho's [sic ]." Each month of the "almanack" introduces a different character or mode of discourse, but the course of the "year" refers to the life span of the head "lads,," Dame Evangeline Musset (representing Natalie Barney, a grande dame of both lesbian and French modernist salon culture). In twelve months, it illustrates Dame Musset's various "rescue" missions out "upon that exceedingly thin ice to which it has pleased god, more and more to call frail woman, there so conducting herself that none were put to the chagrin of sinking for the third time!" (LA , frontispiece).
While the intersections with Ryder are numerous, there are significant differences between the two books. Most obvious is the shift from the largely male-centered cosmos of Ryder (however pseudopatronymic it might be) to the exclusively female world of Ladies Almanack . With this shift the focus changes from the family to lesbian affiliation and nonreproductive sexuality. Moreover, the books' publication took different forms. Whereas Ryder was issued under Barnes's own name by Horace Liveright, Ladies Almanack was privately printed with author-
ship attributed only to "A Lady of Fashion." Barnes's use of a pseudonym for Ladies Almanack can be plausibly explained by her uneasiness with being identified with Natalie Barney's lesbian salon and hence as a lesbian herself. Yet Barnes's particular choice of pseudonyms ("A Lady of Fashion") implies not just a dissimilating veil but also a tightly woven tissue of themes.
Fashion, as Baudelaire noted, is intimately connected with modernity and hence with the artworks of modernism. In his famous essay on Constantin Guys, "The Painter of Modern Life," Baudelaire defined modern art as the distillation of fashion. The modern artist "makes it his business to extract from fashion whatever element it may contain of poetry within history, to distill the eternal from the transitory." Later in the same essay, Baudelaire takes up the question of fashion again, discovering in it a utopian impulse to improve on nature and everyday life: "Fashion should . . . be considered as a symptom of the taste for the ideal which floats on the surface of all the crude, terrestrial and loathsome bric-á-brac that the natural life accumulates in the human brain: as a sublime deformation of Nature, or rather a permanent and repeated attempt at her reformation " (32-33)- For Apollinaire, a beloved figure among the pre-World War I expatriates in Paris, fashion had a close kinship to a new stylistic freedom in modernist writing. In a hilarious passage in The Poet Assassinated , the character Tristouse Ballerinette describes the year's fashion:
"This year," said Tristouse, "fashions are bizarre and common, simple and full of fantasy. Any material from nature's domain can now be introduced into the composition of women's clothes. . . . Fish bones are being worn a lot on hats. . . . Steel, wool, sandstone, and the file have made an abrupt entry into the vestmentary arts. . . . Feathers now decorate not only hats, but shoes, gloves, and next year they'll be on umbrellas. . . . Notice that they're beginning to dress in live animals. . . . Dresses embellished with coffee beans, cloves, cloves of garlic, onions, and bunches of raisins, these will be perfect for social calls. Fashion . . . no longer looks down on anything. It ennobles everything. It does for materials what the Romantics did for words."
Despite its humorous form, Apollinaire's "fashion report" asserts an important equation: modern literature's ability to incorporate the fanciful and bizarre alongside the common and even abject is akin to fashion's magical power to "ennoble everything."
Fashion does have its down side, however: it is short-lived. Nothing is more obsolete than last year's fashion, nothing more quaint than the
fashion of past decades. Similarly, modernism's absolute commitment to "the New" had as its corollary that yesterday's artistic rage could be tomorrow's old hat. Fashion binds together in one image the newest newness and its double, the always already obsolete. Its radiance and melancholy are the Janus face of modernity, and modernism reflects first one, then the other visage. In Ladies Almanack , "fashion" satirically refers to a modernist mode of enunciation, in which (as in Joyce and Pound) styles may be tried on as a lady tries on a dress. Moreover, Barnes is crucially concerned in this work to view lesbian community through the dual temporal optic of fashion: its modernistic aura of newness, its beauty and flamboyance; and its potential fragility and ephemerality. Lesbian community, like fashion, constitutes for Barnes the very scene of modernity.
Barnes suggests—in a rather backhanded way—that lesbianism has recently become fashionable, in the pejorative sense of "trendy." Thus Dame Musset (representing the senior Amazon Natalie Barney), whose very look bespeaks her immunity to fashion, complains:
"In my day," said Dame Musset, and at once the look of the Pope, which she carried about with her as a Habit waned a little, and there was seen to shine forth the Cunning of a Monk in Holy Orders, in some country too old for Tradition, "in my day I was a Pioneer and a Menace, it was not then as it is now, chic and pointless to a degree, but as daring as a Crusade, for where now it leaves a woman talkative, so that we have not a Secret among us, then it left her in Tears and Trepidation." (LA , 34)
Yet while Barnes may well take a swipe at the fashionable "ladies" of Barney's salon, she equally implicates the "lady of fashion" writing the book. For as part of the company of newcomers to this fashion, she is a betrayer of secrets, bearing the concomitant guilt of using community to make literature.
Barnes retains this ironic stance in representing Dame Musset's circle, expressing a deep ambivalence that goes beyond the barbed satire of the roman à clef. In a number of her positive traits—her openness, her freethinking, her frank sensuality, and her personal magnetism—Musset resembles both Sophia and Wendell Ryder. Her character suggests a possible synthesis of the best of their traits, an ideal of the modern character of which Sophia and Wendell were the damaged halves. I think the overall lighthearted tone of the book favors this view. Nevertheless, Barnes tempers her celebration with a sizable, if subtly presented, dose of skepticism. This can be seen in three aspects of the book.
The first is generic: the almanac format. As a calendar, it has a dual
temporal valency, referring on the one hand to the naturally regenerating cycles of nature, which renew the products of the past in the same form, on the other to the annual cycles of fashion, which obliterate them from memory. The passage of the year is either redemptive or catastrophic. Almanacs, moreover, tend to segment the year into a schedule of planting , to which other factors like weather are correlated. Yet given the affiliative nature of this community, the organic-generative connotations of that structuring of time stands in ironic tension with Barnes's implication, in a kind of sly genetic pun, that no seed will fall in this furrow. The implications of the almanac form waver back and forth between generativity and lack of issue, structure and destruction, continuity and the approach of a final end. The ambiguity of this generic allusion may then imply, as Barnes writes in her August chapter, that the satiric almanac offers no sure guidance, as it can represent "no settled State long enough to be either damned or transfigured" (LA , 48).
In addition to the popular and practical genre of the almanac, Ladies Almanack also has a clear relation to the tradition of pastoral literature. This, too, commonly made allegorical allusions to definite figures of the court, of literary and intellectual circles, or of coteries and salons. If Dame Musset's salon circle can be said to resemble a kind of idyllic pastoral community, then the specific literary analogy between Ladies Almanack and one evident model for Barnes's "pastoral," Spenser's The Shepheardes Calendar , suggests a more melancholy outlook than the playful tone would at first glance suggest. The vulnerability of the closed community to historical mutability and death is a dominant theme of Spenser's pastoral and the genre as a whole. I am not, of course, arguing that Barnes is merely serving up an old pastoral chestnut but rather suggesting that she allows the allusion to pastoral to collide with and perspectivize her more lighthearted intentions.
She underscores her doubts, introduced by the generic vehicle, through the explicit comments of the character Patience Scalpel (by the "key," Mina Loy). Significantly, Scalpel brings up the question of reproduction , calling in question the self-sufficiency of an all-women community. After a tirade against pairing "like to like," she pauses and asks, "Are good Mothers to supply them with Luxuries in the next Generation; for they themselves will have no Shes, unless some Her puts them forth! Well I'm not the Woman for it! They well have to pluck where they may. My Daughters shall go amarrying!" (LA , 13). Only if some women continue to give birth, argues Scalpel, will Dame Musset find new "ladies" to take under her wing.
In a subtle manipulation of typographic space and image-text relation, however, Barnes divides Scalpel's "cutting" words and places an image of the child Evangeline Musset emerging birthlike from the space between Scalpel's words. Below the icon of Musset is a banner that reads "Thus Evangeline Began Her Career." The folds of the banner open out, yard, and in conjunction with the frontal view of the child and the white space between the two halves of the text, suggest an abstracted image of a woman's spread legs; either Musset is emerging from the vagina (figured by the shadows above her left side) or she forms its outline. Barnes offers here a myth of origin, in a catastrophic confrontation of the filiative and affiliative ideals. Mobilizing the ordinarily "margin" elements of graphic and typographic design against the senses of the text—a discourse, dominant both materially (in the book format) and ideologically (in the book's social context)—Barnes literally opens the space from which the lesbian heroine will emerge. To put it in a formula: the heroine of modernistic affiliative (lesbian) community is born from the literal rupture of the filiative discourse that Patience Scalpel represents.
In its depiction of the "making of a lesbian" as a parodic simulacrum of birth, however, Barnes's drawing also subtly illustrates Patience Scalpel's argument: this community's progeny exists only on paper, as works of literature and art. In fact, Barnes views lesbianism as peculiarly tied to a "textualization" of desire, the mediation of social relations through eroticized acts of writing and reading—of which Ladies Almanack is itself a prime example. Already in Ladies Almanack the various aspects of same-sex love are linked by analogy to different modes of reading. These modes of reading are delineated on a "horizontal" axis, along which there are qualitative differences, even contradictions: the different "months" of the calendar, representing as they do diverse figures in the Barney circle and diverse facets of lesbian community, and some presented by Barnes more positively than others. At the same time, Barnes also implies a "vertical" axis of reading, by overlaying her narrative line (the life of Dame Musset) on an abstract, spatialized grid (the calendar or zodiacal form, which allows side-by-side comparisons); her allegorical representations of stylized "ladies" on the referential allusions to a coterie; her textual depictions on the pictorial and typographical images. Each of these laminations may lead to conflicts of interpretation. Each new thickening of the text arrests the identifications of readers, blocking their curiosity to know "what lesbianism is," barring their investment of desire in "the" meaning of lesbian sociabil-
Starry Eyes aloft, where a Peewit was yet content to mate it hot among the Branches, making for himself a Covey in the olden Formula, "they love the striking Hour, nor would breed the Moments that go to it. Sluts !" she said pleasantly after a little thought, "Are good Mothers to supply them with luxuries in the next Generation; for they themselves will have no Shes, unless some Her puts them forth! Well I'm not the Woman for it! They well have to pluck where they may. My Daughters shall go amarrying!"
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ity, as if such a thing existed, in the singular. As I will suggest in the following section, Nightwood amplifies the analogy between lesbianism and reading and self-reflexively interrogates it, to the point of refusing the entanglements of textuality and desire, the costs of "reading" the other and of imputing meanings to her story.
Finally, and perhaps most subtly, Barnes also embeds temporal irony in the linguistic texture of the work. Obvious to any reader is the unusual, archaic diction of Ladies Almanack . What is perhaps less obvious is that the overwhelming majority of the truly arcane words—words for which the typical reader must appeal to the wisdom of the Oxford English Dictionary —refer to items of clothing or fabrics. Ensconced in Ladies Almanack are scores of uncommon words of "fashion" (along with many other familiar clothing terms). "Blister," "belcher," "tippet" (7), "dimity" (12), "bugles" (15), "riband" (19), "four-in-hand," "Busby" (31), "gusset" (43), "plackets" (47), "underkirtel" (66), "duvet" (67), and "snood" (69) are some of the more flamboyantly strange.
Barnes manages three things with this diction. She highlights the gendering of language through its reference to sex-specific spheres of social life. Since sewing, clothing, and fashion were traditionally women's spheres, the language that refers to them can be used as an exclusive code by women. To be a "lady of fashion" is, from this perspective, to be privy to secrets (the same ones that as a lady of fashion one must betray). At the same time, she suggests the temporal backdrop that shadows this community of women. For a number of these words, many of which refer to specialized Renaissance and nineteenth-century garments, must have been obscure even to Barnes's female contemporaries. These words are pointedly outmoded , designating fashions long past and forgotten, hence also evoking the temporal predicament of the "ladies of fashion," doomed to aging and mortality.
Finally, such words satirically conjure an analogy between extravagant rhetoric and grotesque display of the body. They suggest the body's prosthesis by strange, inanimate appendages (a metonymic substitution) and its deformation though aging, which renders its parts as ostentatiously unfunctional as arcane and outmoded words (a metaphoric substitution). As the Oxford English Dictionary indicates, the earliest use of the word prosthesis , in a 1553 book of rhetorics, had a grammatical and rhetorical sense: "The addition of a letter or syllable at the beginning of a word." An example from the nineteenth century, points to the normative bias against such apparently superfluous, non-standardized usage: " 'Prosthesis' belongs to a . . . class of terms . . . denoting arbitrary processes, whose intrusion into the realm of language should be viewed with . . . suspicion." In the context of standard, modern spelling, the extra "k" of "almanack" can be read as an exemplary instance of this phenomenon. Like the monocle sported by the Natalie Barney devotee Una Troubridge or the painter Romaine Brook's stylish top hat, this supplementary letter in the title announces a whole perverse body of linguistic excesses hidden between the cover of Barnes's little book, pointing ultimately to that "suspicious" excess of the female body when it is unbound from its reproductive functions and untamed by norms of filiative culture.
Barnes may have found inspiration for this figural-prosthetic conception of fashion in the flamboyant but increasingly pathetic figure of her Greenwich Village friend Baroness Elsa yon Freytag-Loringhoven (the baroness committed suicide in 1927, and Barnes unsuccessfully tried to edit her poetry and write her biography). In her sartorial sense, the baroness was a walking translation of the Apollinaire passage
quoted above. Summing up various accounts of her eccentric outfits, Steven Watson reports:
Her head was often shaved—or half-shaved—and then shellacked or painted vermillion. She alternately adorned her head with a coal scuttle, a French soldier's helmet, ice cream spoons, or even a lit birthday cake crowning a face smeared with yellow powder and black lipstick. Her wardrobe included a bolero jacket, a loud Scottish kilt, and a patchy fur coat, but these served merely as a base. An adept seamstress, she applied to her costume Kewpie dolls and stuffed birds, flattened tin cans, cigarette premiums, and chandelier pendants. On her bustle she installed an electric taillight. Friends of the baroness were often startled to find their own possessions turning up in her attire.
Yet if she embodied in real life the poetic miracle of Apollinaire's idea of fashion, the baroness also gave it a dadaistic spin, shifting the extravagances of fashion from a metaphor of the poetic qualities of the modern to a literal enactment of its underlying logic: the magical, and potentially monstrous, supplanting of the female body by things. The ribald humor of the baroness's fashion sense poised her sartorial gesture between a utopian celebration of the poetic transfiguration of the body and satiric protest over its reification as commodity and device, an ambiguity seen also in Hugo Bali's machine-man costumes in the dada nights at Zurich's Cabaret Voltaire, though with differently gendered overtones. In her very person, on the one hand, von Freytag-Loringhoven anticipated the profane illumination of the urban world, the technological interpenetration of body and image that Walter Benjamin celebrated at the end of his "Surrealism" essay. At the same time, however, an undeniable note of hysteria lurked in her gestures, rising at times to the pitch of madness. The very freedom of her poetic sense in reinventing her appearance revealed an underlying eclipse of the self, a will to self-extirpation that would be definitively consummated by her suicide. In his critique of surrealist freedom, Theodor Adorno aptly summed up the Janus face of that anarchistic revolt by which the baroness lived and died: "In the face of total reification, which throws it back upon itself and upon its protest, a subject that has become absolute, that has full control of itself and is free of all consideration of the empirical world, reveals itself to be inanimate, something virtually dead."
In Ladies Almanack , Barnes takes this double optic on fashion another step toward the cancellation of its utopian side. Unlike Apollinaire, who plays up the sheer formal inventiveness of the nearest fashion as the double of modernist art, Barnes treats the extravagance of
outmoded fashion as akin to a dismembered or grotesque body, reassembled pastichelike into the body of the beloved. Barnes's illustration for October, which comically literalizes the blazon of traditional love poetry, presents in turn the ideal single parts of the woman's body for praise: "The Eye Of The Scullion / The Legs Of Moll / Whose Buttocks Were A Girls / But The Hand Of Queen Ann / The Breasts of Haughty," reads the caption from top to bottom and left to right. The textual context, however, is Dame Musset's complaint that women's body's are put together by chance, not assembled piecemeal as would, in her view, be ideal:
"Oh monstrous Pot!" she sighed, "oh heinous Potter, oh refined, refined, refined Joke, that once smashed to bits it must go a go-going, and when once concocted must eternally be another's Whim! We should be able to order our Ladies as we would, and not as they come. Could any haphazard be as choice as I could pick and prefer, if this Dearing were left scattered about at Leg-counter and Head-rack?" (LA , 67)
It is from the clash of two connotative fields—dismemberment and desire—that Barnes's satiric image emerges. A further sense of "a lady of fashion" suggests itself here, its genitive taken in the strongest sense: the idealized lady constructed by desire is wholly "of" fashion, fashioned out of corporeal pieces, themselves individually fashioned in excess of any unified body, then fitted and bought like items of designer wear from "Leg-counter" and "Head-rack?'
Barnes's gesture is ambiguous. Playfully, she asserts an aesthetics and erotics of lesbian love. Yet by framing all-women community in the language of fashion, the idiom of the lady of fashion who has authored and illustrated the text, she also registers its somber predicament. Barnes confronts the positive affiliative relation, which reflects modernity's welcome erosion of patriarchal, filiative authority, with the melancholy time-consciousness that is modernity's shadow. This time-consciousness is registered above all in images of the fragile, mortal, idiosyncratic female body, denatured by cosmetic and technical pros-theses and subject to satiric deformation and dismemberment.