Towards Gothic Modernism

  • Avril Horner
  • Sue Zlosnik


Both George du Maurier’s Trilby (1894) and Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood (1936) focus on Paris as an arena in which identities in process can be played out. As a quintessentially ‘modern’ European city, Paris became, from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, associated with metamorphosis and experimentation. It is thus an appropriate setting for the plots of these two novels which, in their depiction of gender, national identity, urban space and a godless world, indicate a movement into the late phase of modernity. However, whereas du Maurier’s text anticipates the vital importance of such issues for the twentieth century (despite setting them back in time in the 1850s), Barnes’s novel deals with their outcome on the eve of the Second World War. Both texts use Gothic tropes and devices to represent the anxieties associated with twentieth-century Europe; both use the comic Gothic turn as a means of engaging with such anxieties in a more ambivalent manner than ‘horror’ Gothic; both are written on the cusp of important social, political and cultural historical moments; both present the city space as a place of liberation in its embrace of the flâneur and the bohemian.


Late Modernity Ambiguous Representation City Space Conventional Society Terminal Decline 
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Copyright information

© Avril M. Horner and Susan H. Zlosnik 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Avril Horner
  • Sue Zlosnik

There are no affiliations available

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