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Never at Home in the City: Economic and Romantic Exchanges in Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, and Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood

By: AMRITA CHAKRABORTI

In this paper I would like to discuss two famous Modernist lesbian novels- Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928) and Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood (1936). As is well known, both novels use interwar Paris as a setting for the depiction of same-sex love. I would like to explore the patterns of consumption that queer characters engage in,and the economic prerogatives they enjoy or are denied, in the context of the city and the homes they build in the city. Through this analysis,I will attempt to trace the power dynamics between queer individualsand the capitalist market, as well as within relationships of romantic love between women.

Feminist theorists have frequently pointed out the paradoxical nature of how urban spaces treat people who do not fit the norm of the heterosexual male citizen. As Gillian Rose writes, in contrast to the ’feeling of spatial freedom which only white heterosexual men usually
enjoy’,’sexual attacks warn women everyday that their bodies are not meant to be in certain spaces, and racist and homophobic violence delimits the spaces of black, lesbian and gay communities.’ On the other hand, as Elizabeth Wilson has pointed out, the city also offers women the chance for independence, flânerie, same-sex bonding and a chance to explore one’s sexuality without the threat of familial or
community-based policing.


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