Event—Adult Education

Around Midnight, Circa 1937: The Parisian Demi-Monde in Jean Rhys and Djuna Barnes


Explore two novels—Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys and Nightwood by Djuna Barnes—that center people and lifestyles traditionally found on the margins of society.

Djuna Barnes. Source: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Class Description

In Good Morning, Midnight (1937), Jean Rhys memorializes a Paris of the demi-monde almost on the eve of World War II. Djuna Barnes, in her thorny and brilliant novel Nightwood (1936), also explores that scene. Though both had in common a group of drifters, con artists, expatriates, alcoholics, illicit lovers, and artists, the world of Nightwood encompasses gays, lesbians, cross-dressers, converted Jews, lapsed Catholics, and circus performers, while Good Morning, Midnight depicts prostitutes, gigolos, live mannequins, alcoholics, and an unmarried woman aging in anguish.

One novel focuses more on what would later be called “alternative lifestyles,” the other on the near-impossibility of getting by as a poor, single woman in a world that worships youth and material goods. Both take place largely in the dark hours (as the dark hour of Fascism loomed), and feature exiled protagonists unlucky in love.

In this class, we will read both novels along with biographies of the two writers.

Natania Rosenfeld is a writer, independent scholar, and Professor Emerita of English at Knox College. She has published two books of poetry; a scholarly book, Outsiders Together: Virginia and Leonard Woolf (Princeton 2000); and an essay chapbook, She and I.

Materials List


First Reading:

  • Please read Part 1 and Part 2 of Good Morning, Midnight

Cost and Registration

Six sessions, $255 ($230 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.


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