"Crisis-Ridden Heteronormativity and Homonormativity in Djuna Barnes's Nightwood." Eds. Bast, Florian; Esch, Linda; Kartheus, Wiebke; Lück, Paul; Richter, Anna; Schmidt, Annalisa; Schoppmeier, Sören; Schumacher, Patricia Isabella; Simon, Paul; Vatonne, Silane.
Nightwood transgresses and undermines binary conceptions of gender and with them the distinction between hetero- and homosexual relationships. I seek to determine whether the failure of the relationships in the novel can be viewed as a criticism of the heteronormative constraints that are shown to permeate both the heterosexual and the homosexual partnerships in the novel. Consequently, it is argued that the failure of these relationships signifies the failure of the underlying heteronormative structures. The novel reveals not only the constructed nature of this system but also the limiting and ultimately destructive effects that it has on the relationships of those who try to live up to its stipulations. To illustrate this, I utilize the concepts of heteronormativity and homonormativity in conjunction with Judith Butler’s conception of gender performance. Using these concepts, I demonstrate not only that all of the relationships in the novel reproduce the same heteronormative structures but also that this has disastrous effects on those relationships, which in turn is shown to reveal the failure of the heteronormative order.