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In the surrealist revolt against the state, the Church, and the family, the mother figure became a key target, both as custodian of bourgeois-patriarchal values and as symbol of Catholic doctrine. In works such as Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye (1928), Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel’s L’age d’or (1930), and Joyce Mansour’s Jules César (1955), mothers are attacked and violated, suffering a fate similar to those of the detested mother figures in the fiction of the Marquis de Sade. Yet not all mothers in surrealist art and literature are portrayed in such unequivocally negative terms. Focusing on Leonor Fini’s Mourmour, conte pour enfants velus (1976) and Dorothea Tanning’s Chasm: A Weekend (2004), this chapter traces an alternative history of surrealist representations of the mother, one in which this figure is rendered more ambiguous and at times even invested with revolutionary potential. These novels, the chapter suggests, elaborate representations of maternity in critical dialogue with Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis. As such they resonate to some extent with the (largely contemporaneous) work of French feminist theorists such as Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, and Hélène Cixous, in which the concept of maternity becomes configured as an alternative to the phallocentric symbolic order.
The introduction to the volume situates surrealism in relation to theories and historiographies of the novel, noting ways in which the surrealist novel both fits into and diverges from these, and addresses tensions and contradictions generated by the surrealist use of the novel form. It provides a historical context to the development of the surrealist novel across the globe, and discusses the ways in which the surrealist novel has influenced literary forms and styles such as the nouveau roman, the postmodern, as well as the magical realist novel. Moreover, the introduction provides a rationale for the structure of the volume, and a general discussion of notable themes, techniques, and formal specificities of the surrealist novel.
A History of the Surrealist Novel offers a rich, long, and elastic historiography of the surrealist novel, taking into consideration an abundance of texts previously left out of critical accounts. Its twenty thematically organized chapters examine surrealist prose texts written in French, English, Spanish, German, Greek, and Japanese, from the emergence of the surrealist movement in the 1920s and 1930s, through the post-war and postmodern periods, and up to the contemporary moment. This approach extends received narratives regarding surrealism's geographical locations and considers its transnational movement and modes of circulation. Moreover, it challenges critical biases that have defined surrealism in predominantly masculine terms, and which tie the movement to the interwar or early post-war years. This book will appeal both to scholars and students of surrealism and its legacies, modernist literature, and the history of the novel.
This chapter explores the genealogies between Surrealism’s quest to express or represent the unconscious unrestrained by rational thought, and the pursuit in 1970s avant-garde feminism of a new language – an “écriture féminine” – that would be uncontaminated by phallocentric logic. Through a reading of selected works by two figures situated at the intersection of these two aesthetic and theoretical movements – feminist theorist Xavière Gauthier and artist and writer Dorothea Tanning – the chapter demonstrates that these links are not unidirectional but a dynamic dialogue. This dialogue signals not only an allegiance to Surrealism at the heart of poststructuralist/psychoanalytic feminism but also a germinal feminist poetics in historical Surrealism – that would come to full fruition in 1970s Surrealist activity.
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