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Djuna Barnes
Life Span: Born 12th June 1892, Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York; died 1982, New York
Star Sign: Taurus
Famous As: U.S. journalist, author, illustrator, and playwright

Childhood: Barnes' mother was an English woman Elizabeth Chappell. Her father, Wald Barnes, was an unsuccessful writer, dilettante artist and polygamist, whose wife, mistress and their children all lived in the same household, supported by his indulgent and equally free-thinking mother Zadel. Djuna's childhood was greatly influenced by her grandmother, who was also a journalist. This unconventional, sexually open family life was often made reference to in Barnes' work, most notably the emotional repercussions of her parents' decision to humiliatingly arrange her sexual initiation.
The family split up in 1912 when Barnes' parents separated, meaning the children had to move to Brooklyn with their mother.

Education and early career: Having received little formal schooling until this point, Barnes now studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, soon enrolling at the Arts Students League.
She began her career as a reporter and illustrator for magazines, under pseudonyms such as Lydia Steptoe, and Gunga Duhl the Pen Performer. In 1913, in an effort to support her mother and brothers, she began working as a reporter and interviewer for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and New York World.
She then became a writer of one-act plays and short stories.
She wrote three experimental plays Three from the Earth, An Irish Triangle, and Kurzy and the Sea which were produced in 1919-20 by the Provincetown Players. Barnes dismissed her early writings as ephemeral juvenilia, written to pay the rent and to satisfy the interests and demands of her young and middle-class urban readership.

Work: Soon after this, Barnes began to write articles about the culture of New York society at the beginning of the century, and also started to produce fictional work. This began with The Book of Repulsive Women (1915), a series of poems and Beardsleyesque drawings of women in states of physical and moral degeneration, presents a striking contrast to the slender and stylish images of women depicted by contemporary advertising.
Increasingly, however, the centre of American literary modernism was shifting from New York to Paris, drawn by the aesthetic allure of the expatriate Stein and Pound, and the financial enticement of the strength of the dollar in Europe. Barnes was sent to Paris in 1921, on an assignment for the magazine McCall's, and would remain intermittently for the following fifteen years, when breakdown and chronic alcoholism forced her return to New York.
Djuna Barnes went to England in 1931. She stayed at Peggy Guggenheim's rented country manor, Hayford Hall, along with writers Emily Coleman and Antonia White, and critic John Ferrar Holms. It was here that she wrote her best known work Nightwood, (1936).
Ill health and financial insolvency forced Barnes' return to New York in 1940, where she lived reclusively for the rest of her life in Greenwich Village. She wrote one other substantial work, The Antiphon, a drama of family incest, bitterness and retribution that was published in 1958. She died in 1982, six days after her ninetieth birthday.

Friends and Relat ionships: While in Paris, she had a relationship with the sculptor and silverpoint artist, Thelma Wood. Barnes was a member of the influential coterie of mostly lesbian women that included Natalie Barney and Janet Flanner. However throughout her life she was to insist, 'I'm not a lesbian, I just loved Thelma'.

Greatest Achievement: 'Nightwood' (1936). Bertha Harris regarded Djuna Barnes's work as "practically the only available espression of lesbian culture we have in the modern western world" since Sappho.

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