Affective bodies : nonhuman and human agencies in Djuna Barnes s fiction
Djuna Barnes s work is an intriguing example of the ways fiction makes its readers face the nonhuman as having potential for agency, and shows the entanglements be-tween human and nonhuman. In the stories, objects tend to steal the attention from the main characters and become agents in their own right. At the same time, a lot of Barnes s human ... characters remain unreadable, and thing-like or animal-like; as such, nonhuman themselves.This article asks why readers become engaged with such texts and how we make sense of them. Drawing on new materialist and posthumanist conceptions of distrib-uted agency and affect, I explore the entangled human and nonhuman agencies that contribute to the action of the narratives and, arguably, to their affective appeal, the two being closely intertwined. To discuss the reading processes the texts invite, I employ embodied cognitive approaches to the process of reading fiction. Based on the analysis of Barnes s novel Nightwood and her less researched short fiction, I propose that reading these texts is largely a process of affective, embodied sense-making that pertains equally to human and nonhuman fictional agents, revealing their mutual dependence and their equal capacity to affect.
Original publication in
On_culture: the open journal for the study of culture 2 (2016)