Whilst many women surrealists worked across different media such as painting,
sculpture, photography, and writing, contemporary historiographies have tended
to foreground the visual aspects of this oeuvre. Featuring original essays by
leading scholars of surrealism, Surrealist Women’s Writing: A Critical
Exploration offers the first sustained critical inquiry into the writing of
women associated with surrealism. The volume aims to demonstrate the
extensiveness and the historical, linguistic, and culturally contextual breadth
of this writing, as well as to highlight how the specifically surrealist poetics
and politics that characterise these writers’ work intersect with and contribute
to contemporary debates on, for example, gender, sexuality, subjectivity,
xenophobia, anthropocentrism, and the environment. Drawing on a variety of
innovative theoretical approaches, the essays in the volume focus on the writing
of a number of women surrealists, many of whom have hitherto mainly been known
for their visual rather than their literary production: Claude Cahun, Leonora
Carrington, Kay Sage, Colette Peignot, Suzanne Césaire, Unica Zürn, Ithell
Colquhoun, Leonor Fini, Dorothea Tanning and Rikki Ducornet. Surrealist
Women’s Writing: A Critical Exploration offers an important resource for
scholars and students across the fields of modernist literature, the historical
avant-garde, literary and visual surrealism and its legacies, feminism, and
influential book Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement , which introduced to the anglophone public the visual work of, amongst others, Eileen Agar, Leonora Carrington, Ithell Colquhoun, Nusch Éluard, Leonor Fini, Valentine Hugo, Dora Maar, Lee Miller, Meret Oppenheim, Valentine Penrose, Kay Sage, Dorothea Tanning, Toyen, and Remedios Varo.
The 1990s saw an upsurge in scholarly work on surrealistwomen's art – a trend that is still not showing any signs of waning. Indeed, art by women surrealists is still an immensely
. B.’ rather than a
full name, as was the case with most of the other texts by men, although
Renée Gauthier’s dream narration in the same issue bears
her full name.
In SurrealistWomen: An International
Anthology Penelope Rosemont noted that Simone Breton was
‘an enthusiastic player of surrealist games’, such as the
cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse), but added that
Simone’s role in the surrealism of the 1920s, before her divorce
from André Breton in 1929, was in large part a relational one
Rikki Ducornet, ‘Brightfellow’, Powell's (5 July 2016), www.powells.com/post/original-essays/brightfellow , accessed 27 June 2018.
Penelope Rosemont (ed.), SurrealistWomen: An International Anthology (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998
mechanism to move beyond the trap of the tropical that she so powerfully refuted in her writings about Martinique. And Suzanne Césaire's essays, filled with parataxic leaps and the pirouettes of an active mind freeing its thoughts from argumentative forms, demonstrate as much as or more than many of the journal's poetic texts the power of surrealism's liberatory possibilities. Including this mid-century Caribbean essayist in a collection on surrealistwomen could be viewed, however, as ceding her fully to the surrealist camp, as Tracy Sharpley-Whiting warned against in
, Surrealism and the Politics of Eros ; Parkinson, Futures of Surrealism ; Löwy, Morning Star ; Kelley, Freedom Dreams ; Harris, ‘The Surrealist Movement since the 1940s’.
23 Parkinson, Surrealism, Art, and Modern Science ; Sebbag, Potence avec paratonnerre ; Roberts, ‘The Ecological Imperative’; Eburne, Surrealism and the Art of Crime ; Susik, Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work ; Susik and King, ‘Surrealism as Radicalism’; Bauduin, Ferentinou, and Zamani, Surrealism, Occultism and Politics ; Rosemont, SurrealistWomen ; Rosemont and Kelley, Black, Brown
Nelly Kaplan, Jan Švankmajer, and the revolt of animals
of the Cross’, 159.
72 Breton, ‘Prolegomena to a Third Surrealist Manifesto or Not’, 293; Godfrey-Smith, The Philosophy of Biology , 5.
73 Breton, ‘On Surrealism in Its Living Works’, 304.
74 See Noheden, ‘The Grail and the Bees’, 249–50.
75 Koepfinger, ‘“Freedom Is Becoming the Only Theme”’.
76 Quoted in Johnson, Jan Švankmajer , 156.
‘All Creation is Androgynous: An Interview’. In SurrealistWomen: An International Anthology , edited by Penelope Rosemont , 300–3 . Austin, TX : University of Texas
This chapter was first presented by invitation from editor Anna Watz for her ‘SurrealistWomen's Writing in the Later 20th Century’ panel at the Modernist Studies Association (MSA) conference in Amsterdam (August 2017). The author would like to thank Anna Watz and Pamela S. Johnson for their comments on the manuscript, and Mimi Johnson for her support.
Dorothea Tanning, ‘Some Parallels in Words and Pictures’, Pequod: A Journal of
The philosophic narcissism of Claude Cahun’s essay-poetry
Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art’, p. 215.
Claude Cahun, ‘Beware of Domestic Objects’, trans. Guy Ducornet, in Penelope Rosemont (ed.), SurrealistWomen: An International Anthology (London: Athlone Press, 1998), p. 60. Cahun contributed three objects to the exhibition, since lost, including Un air de famille and the arresting sculpture now known as ‘Object’. See Jill Shaw, ‘Notable
take the features of a woman
[which] marks the culmination of this quest?’57 One thing that she is, and less
marvellously so, is an embodiment of art historian Mary Ann Caws’s lament
that the Surrealistwomen are ‘shot and painted, so stressed and dismembered,
punctured and severed …,’ stacked, found, and claimed in the city.58
Landscape Manual, the magazine that initiated the ensuing discourse of
the ‘defeatured landscape’ in the first place, is not without a theatrical erotic
experience that can be compared to that found in Portfolio of Piles. In two