Reading Claude Cahun's Disavowals: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Reading Claude Cahun's Disavowals

1st Edition

By Jennifer L. Shaw


246 pages

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Hardback: 9781409407874
pub: 2013-12-20
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The first monograph on a Surrealist cult classic, Reading Claude Cahun's Disavowals offers a comprehensive account of Cahun's most important published work, Aveux non avenus (Disavowals), 1930. Jennifer L. Shaw provides an encompassing interpretation of this groundbreaking work, paying careful attention to the complex interrelationship between the photomontages and writings of Aveux non avenus. This study argues that the texts and images of Aveux non avenus not only explore Cahun's own subjectivity, they formulate a trenchant social and cultural critique. Shaw explores how Cahun's work both calls into question the dominant culture of interwar France - with its traditional gender roles, religious conservatism, and pronatalism - and takes to task the era's artistic avant-garde and in particular its models of desire. This volume cuts across the disciplinary boundaries of interwar art studies, demonstrating how one artist's personal exploration intervened in wider contemporary debates about the purpose of art, the role of women in French culture, and the status of homosexuality, in the aftermath of World War I.


'Reading Claude Cahun’s Disavowals nous permet ainsi de recadrer le mouvement surréaliste, de mieux comprendre ses répercussions au cours de l’histoire, et de mieux mesurer son ampleur.' Contemporary French Civilization

'Shaw contributes to our understanding of a text that appears at times intriguingly exploratory, at others frustratingly elliptical. The strength of her study lies in the detailed analyses of the photo-montages and their relations to the text, which order Cahun's multiple voices as a coherent whole.' French Studies

'Shaw’s book, with its detailed and meticulous contextualized readings of both the photomontages and texts in Disavowals, will be a major addition to the slim list of in-depth studies of photographic books.' CAA Reviews

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: exist otherwise; Refiguring romance; Narcissus and the magic mirror; Reimagining art and (homo)sexuality: against idealization; Mirrors of femininity, sensuality, and desire; Games, dreams, and Surrealism; Conclusion: after Disavowals; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Jennifer L. Shaw is Professor of Art History in the Department of Art and Art History at Sonoma State University, USA.

About the Series

Studies in Surrealism

Studies in Surrealism
With scholarly interest in Surrealism greater than ever, the Studies in Surrealism series serves as a forum for key areas of Surrealist inquiry today. This series extends the ongoing academic and popular interest in Surrealism, evident in recent studies that have rethought established areas of Surrealist activity and engagement, including those of politics, the object, photography, crime, and modern physics. Expanding and adding various lines of inquiry, books in the series examine Surrealism's intersections with philosophical, social, artistic, and literary themes. Potential subjects to be examined in the context of Surrealism include but are not limited to: nature; queer studies; humor and play; science; theory in the 1950s and 1960s; the New Novel; Surrealist activities beyond Paris. Proposals are welcomed for both monographs and essay collections dealing with the above subjects or with discussions of Surrealism in other aspects and genres. Monographic writings on artists and writers who have been generally overlooked by English-language scholarship (for instance, Victor Brauner, Toyen, Jorge Camacho) would also fall within the scope of this series.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)
ART / History / Contemporary (1945-)