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Definition: Nin, Anaïs from Philip's Encyclopedia

US novelist and diarist, b. France. She was part of the 'Lost Generation' of US expatriate writers in Paris during the 1920s. A student of Carl Jung, her novels are psychological studies. They include The House of Incest (1936) and Winter of Artifice (1939). Her diaries (Journals, 1966-80) aroused admiration and controversy. She is best-known for her erotic fiction, including Delta of Venus: Erotica (1977).

Summary Article: Nin, Anais
From Encyclopedia of Feminist Literary Theory

The author of short stories, novels, journals, and erotic literature, Anais Nin encouraged early feminists to claim a distinctly female experience of the world, especially of sexuality. She believed that including the erotic in literature was “like life itself” and validated early feminist interest in female literary characters who claimed their own power and desires.

While living in Paris in the 1920s, Nin began to write erotica at a dollar per page for an unknown patron. Later published under the titles Delta of Venus and Little Birds, Nin’s erotica form the center of her literary canon and explicitly depict women in the active pursuit and achievement of sexual satisfaction. Her journals, too, which she kept from the time she was thirteen until the day she died, are considered among her most significant writing because they document, in great detail, the course of a woman’s life. Two of these journals, published posthumously at Nin’s request, reinforce her assertion that sexuality can never be “abnormal.” Henry and June (1986) describes her adulterous affair with the writer Henry Miller, and her bisexual relationship with his wife, June. Incest (1992), Nin’s last journal, records her sexual relationship with her own father, a man she had been separated from since she began her journals decades earlier. Nin’s fiction, which she valued more than either the erotica or the journals as her most serious writing, also depicts female sexual experience but probes the psychological relationships between men and women as well. Nin has been criticized for her stilted literary style, her idealization of an essential feminine nature, and her self-conscious construction of the persona Anais Nin. The erotica are also problematic because they frequently rely on the exploitative use of the racial or classed Other to create sexual arousal. Nonetheless, Nin was a pioneer in the feminist project of claiming and writing about women’s experience and desire.

  • Nin, Anais. The Delta of Venus. New York: Bantam, 1977.
  • Nin, Anais. D.H.Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study. Chicago: Swallow, 1964.
  • Nin, Anais. The Diary of Anais Nin: Volumes I-VII. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966-1980.
  • Nin, Anais. Henry and June. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986.
  • Nin, Anais. Incest. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.
  • Nin, Anais. Ladders to Fire. Chicago: Swallow, 1959.
  • Nin, Anais. Little Birds. New York: Bantam, 1979.
  • Nin, Anais. A Spy in the House of Love. Chicago: Swallow, 1954.
  • Sara E. Quay
    © 1996, 2009 Elizabeth Kowaleski Wallace

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