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
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.