Literature and Theatre

A critical exploration
Editor: Anna Watz

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 critical theory.

Tightrope of hope
Kara M. Rabbitt

This chapter explores Suzanne Césaire’s engagement with surrealism in her essays published between 1941 and 1945 in the journal Tropiques, which employ surrealism as a literary, cultural, and political tool with which to construct a distinctly Martinican cultural identity. This chapter demonstrates not only Césaire’s immense importance as a cultural figure in Martinique but also how her anti-imperialist writings constitute some of the most sustained engagements with surrealism produced in the Caribbean context.

in Surrealist women’s writing
Stuart women as role models for Victorian and Edwardian girls and young women
Rosemary Mitchell

Recent scholarship has demonstrated that historical women were habitually used as gender role models for Victorian and Edwardian girls and young women, frequently in the attempt to promote domestic ideology and ‘traditional’ gender roles to middle-class audiences. This chapter explores how two Stuart women – Queen Henrietta Maria and Rachel Russell – were appropriated to this purpose, using biographies, individual and collective, and articles from magazines and periodicals, often exclusively aimed at girls and young women, as the key primary sources. It highlights the tensions – arising from their religious allegiances, political participation, and national identities – which underpinned representations of these two Stuart women as domestic role models.

in Pasts at play
Children’s ‘tour books’, 1740–1850
M. O. Grenby

From the mid-eighteenth century books designed to communicate historical, geographical and antiquarian information formed an important part of the emerging market in children’s books. These publications fitted into a long tradition of literature giving advice on travel, and were in some respects similar to those published for adults. However, as authors and publishers refined their aims and methods, the ‘children’s tour book’ came to form a coherent, significant, but almost entirely overlooked, sub-genre of early children’s literature. Drawing on more than seventy books, chiefly published between 1740 and 1850, as well as unpublished editorial correspondence, this essay chapter taxonomises and analyses the children’s tour book. Most offered domestic tours of Britain, its constituent regions, or individual cities, principally London, but they did so in increasingly sophisticated and effective ways. They presented the nation’s history in terms of its material remains, laid out in geographical space, linking these vestiges of the past with the reader’ present and an optimistic national future. The essay chapter argues that, fundamentally, children’s tour books were designed to function less as guidebooks for actual travellers and more as an exercise in nation-building.

in Pasts at play
Michael Goodrum and Philip Smith

This chapter argues that horror comics present a counter-narrative to dominant forward-looking narratives of economic and scientific progress. They present, instead, a world in which the white male hegemony is under threat from both social change and the horrors of war.

in Printing terror
The philosophic narcissism of Claude Cahun’s essay-poetry
Felicity Gee

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.

in Surrealist women’s writing
Michael Goodrum and Philip Smith

This chapter returns to the theme of war, arguing that the rise of the monster kid and the televised violence of the Vietnam War created a shift in the genre – while 1950s horror generally revolves around white male victim and Othered monster, in the 1970s horror increasingly occurs at the hands of white male perpetrators. At the same time, however, the genre shifted to ongoing storylines featuring evolving and somewhat emotionally complex characters, inviting sympathy for the monster.

in Printing terror
Michael Goodrum and Philip Smith

While white men had become available as a source of horror in comics of the 1970s there was no corresponding access to victimhood for women or people of colour. As this chapter demonstrates, despite absorbing some of the rhetoric of the feminist movement, the majority of horror comics continued to present women as sources of horror and titillation. The comic Vampirella, with a scantily clad horror hostess who flirts with readers and featured a series of misogynistic storylines, exemplifies the genre at the time.

in Printing terror
Michael Goodrum and Philip Smith

This chapter shows that while people of colour were given limited access to heroic roles in horror comics of the 1970s, they were not given access to fear. Victimhood remained the province of white men and monstrosity continued to be linked to race. Empowered black characters such as Blade and Brother Voodoo were presented as, at best, allies and protectors of white characters, or as deriving their power from ‘white society’ in some way, and, at worst, as immune to pain and likely to revert to savagery.

in Printing terror
Robin Hood and Wat Tyler in late Victorian penny periodicals
Stephen Basdeo

Previous studies of post-medieval representations of Robin Hood and Wat Tyler have generally focused upon the works of Romantic poets and novelists such as Walter Scott, Robert Southey, Thomas Love Peacock and Pierce Egan the Younger in the early to mid-nineteenth century. For Tyler, furthermore, expensive late Victorian socialist writings are often privileged in studies of his post-medieval history while cheaper fictional works aimed at youths are often overlooked. This chapter remedies this by providing a commentary on late nineteenth-century stories of the two heroes which featured in penny periodicals; through textual analyses and an examination of reviewer reception, it shows that, while authors strove to present young readers with a conservative vision of the past, the magazines were still considered controversial and subversive by contemporary commentators and the ideology of the text mattered little.

in Pasts at play