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This chapter considers the writing of Claude Cahun, and in particular Disavowals (1930), as a philosophical testing of the boundaries both of the written word and of the self. Adopting Pierre Mac Orlan’s designation of the textual fragments in Disavowals as ‘poem-essays and essay-poems’, the chapter demonstrates how Cahun’s work dialectically engages the realms of the poetic and the philosophical in order to provide a radical commentary on the intimately personal as well as on aspects of society, politics, culture, and gender in the early twentieth century – a commentary that still holds relevance for the twenty-first-century reader.
This chapter explores the imaginative play of Leonora Carrington’s writings in the context of her collaboration with the Mexican film-maker Juan López Moctezuma. Carrington acted as art director and costume designer for his film The Mansion of Madness (1972), based loosely on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether’ (1845). The mise-en-scène is resplendent with recognisable iconography from both her stories and paintings. Moctezuma considered the camera a magical instrument that allowed for the creation of other worlds, and The Mansion of Madness enters a marvellous asylum through the fairy-tale trope of the mysterious forest. Carrington took a playful role in the creation of this world, populating it with her signature ideas in the form of objects, and advising on innovatively staged and choreographed scenes that trouble the male gaze. The temporal, spatial, and physical aspects of this collaboration are of interest to studies in film and surrealism, as the film serves as both real and virtual archive of Carrington’s creative practice. This chapter considers how Carrington’s cinematic adventures cast a new light on the recurring fears and desires in her wider work.