“And all the windows, great and small”. Finestre in Nightwood di Djuna Barnes

  • Francesca Chiappini Università degli Studi di Milano


As a recurring subject and powerful symbol, the window dominates the female literary and artistic imagery of the twentieth century. It has been developed into mirror, photograph or painting, according to the writer’s needs, yet the basic shape of the frame is always retraceable. Among late modernist and postmodernist women writers, Djuna Barnes explores in detail the structural resources of this literary device. Although she already understands the potential of the frame in her early career as a journalist, she mostly challenges its extents of versatility in Nightwood (1936). Its crucial moments – either flashing epiphanies or missed catharsis – involve the physical presence of a window, which embodies a powerful narrative agent; more than mere symbol, it is active at several levels. Thematically, doors and windows, pictures and mirrors, play an important cohesive role. At a deeper stage of analysis, the structure of the novel itself is shored up by doors and windows, since the setting is essentially organized into indoors and outdoors scenes; windows and doors allow the characters to move between these two dimensions. On the metaphorical level, windows and doors represent a communicative channel; a room-door opening suggests the access to one’s inner life, whereas a shut window denies any chance of dialogue. However, all the characters seem to be too absorbed by their obsessions to realize such communicative potential, and rather meander uselessly in their mental frames.

Biografia autore

Francesca Chiappini, Università degli Studi di Milano

Francesca Chiappini è dottoranda di ricerca dal 2012 presso l’Università degli Studi di Milano. Scopo del suo progetto è individuare le simmetrie tra tecniche narrative e figurative nell’opera di alcune artiste e scrittrici di tardo modernismo e postmodernismo. Sta attualmente lavorando alla revisione di interventi presentati ai convegni internazionali in vista delle pubblicazioni degli atti. Ha fatto parte del comitato organizzativo delle giornate di studi dottorali “Finestre: sguardi e riflessi, trasparenze e opacità” tenutesi in data 1-2 ottobre presso l’Università degli Studi di Milano.

Come citare
Chiappini, Francesca. 2015. «“And All the Windows, Great and small”. Finestre in Nightwood Di Djuna Barnes». Altre Modernità, gennaio, 379-95. https://doi.org/10.13130/2035-7680/4655.