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FR3120 Wanton Women: Artists and Writers of the French Avant-Garde

2018-9 Terms 1 & 2

Convenor: Dr Ruth Hemus


Formative piece: 0%

Oral Presentation: 20%

Essay: 80% (3,000-3,500 words).


This course highlights the interventions of women writers and artists in Dada and Surrealism during the early decades of the 20th Century in France. The first half of the course will introduce ideas around feminism, women in art, and women’s writing, with an aim to equip you with a foundation in theory. Selected key readings, available on Moodle, will provide the basis for class discussions. In the second half of the course, you will have chance to look in detail at work by individual women artists and writers, including literary texts (poems, narratives and manifestos) and artworks (collages, paintings and photographs). Because it draws on recent scholarship, and because many of these women are little-known, the topic leaves considerable scope for original comment and research. By the end of the course, you should have developed further you analytical skills and critical approaches to the literary text and artwork. They should also have an increased awareness of the place of gender in cultural production and reception.

Key Bibliography:

No single text is essential for purchase for this course. Key weekly readings will be provided on Moodle. The following are highly recommended:

Patricia Allmer, Angels of Anarchy. (Munich: Prestel, 2009).

Mary Ann Caws, Rudolf E. Kuenzli, and Gwen Raaberg, eds, Surrealism and Women. (Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 1991).

Whitney Chadwick, Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism and Self-representation. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998); Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement. (London: Thames & Hudson, 1991).

Ruth Hemus, Dada’s Women. (London & New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).

Penelope Rosemont, Surrealist Women: An International Anthology. (London: Athlone Press, 1998).

Nadia Sawelson-Gorse, ed., Women in Dada: Essays on Sex, Gender and Identity. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001).

N.B. The required key reading(s) for each week will be made available wherever possible via Moodle.

Selected Further Reading:

Colville, Georgiana, ed., Scandaleusement d’elles. Trente-quatre femmes surréalistes. (Paris: Jean-Michel Place, 1999).

Conley, Katharine, Automatic Woman : the representation of woman in Surrealism. London : University of Nebraska Press, c 1996.

Hopkins, David, Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. [N.B. Available as an e-book].

Hubert, Renée Riese, Magnifying Mirrors: Women, Surrealism and Partnership. (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1994).

Mélusine no. 33, Autoreprésentation féminine. (Paris: L’Age d’Homme, 2012).

Suleiman, Susan Rubin, Subversive Intent: Gender, Politics and the Avant-Garde. (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1990).

You do not need to buy or read all of these texts. Your lecturer will refer to them and you will make use of them for further reading and to undertake research for your essay questions. An expanded bibliography, as well as bibliographies on individual artists and writers, will be made available to you on Moodle.  



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