Surrealism, Feminism, Psychoanalysis
How did women Surrealists such as Leonora Carrington and Claude Cahun take up the question of female identity in terms of their own aesthetic and intellectual practice? What was the response of women analysts such as Joan Riviere to Freud's psychoanalytic construction of femininity? These are among the questions that Natalya Lusty brings to her sophisticated and theoretically informed investigation into the appropriation of 'the feminine' by the Surrealist movement. Combining biographical and textual methods of analysis with historically specific discussions of related cultural sites such as women's magazines, fashion, debutante culture, sexology, modernist lesbian subculture, pornography, and female criminality, the book examines the ambiguities and blind spots that haunt the work of more central figures such as André Breton, Georges Bataille, Jacques Lacan, Walter Benjamin, and the Surrealist photographer Hans Bellmer. Lusty's examination of a series of psychoanalytic Surrealist themes, including narcissism, fantasy, masquerade, perversion, and 'the double', illuminates a modernist preoccupation with the crisis of subjectivity and representation and its ongoing relevance to more recent work by Cindy Sherman and Judith Butler. Her book is an important contribution to modernist studies that will appeal to scholars and students working across a diverse range of fields, including literary studies, gender studies, visual culture, cultural studies, and cultural history.
'In a compelling manner, Natalya Lusty delineates the tropes, ambiguities, and blind spots that haunt Surrealism by pitting the claims of canonical artists such as Breton against the praxis of their female counterparts, notably Leonora Carrington and Claude Cahun. Intelligently positioned in relation to the critical feminist debate surrounding the Surrealist Movement, Lusty's thoughtful and original book shows us what we can learn today from and through the utopian imaginary of revolutionary paradigms such as surrealism and feminism.' Elisabeth Bronfen, University of Zurich, Switzerland.