Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Surreal Bodies
In this class, we’ll look at representations of the body, both visual and textual, from the heyday of the Western surrealist movement. In doing so, we’ll explore how the body came to function as a site for both enacting and resisting gender expectations — both within the movement and in the larger European cultural context. We’ll be looking at visual work by both male and female artists from the period, including Max Ernst, Man Ray, Lee Miller, Hans Bellmer, and Leonora Carrington. Since surrealism explicitly blurs the line between image and text, we’ll also be reading novels and poems by core members of the movement, such as André Breton, as well as female figures on the fringe, such as Gisèle Prassinos and Unica Zürn. Secondary work by surrealism scholars like Whitney Chadwick, Penelope Rosemont, Susan Suleiman will inform our understanding of gender politics and corporality in these works.
This class will incorporate regular writing and critical thinking exercises. Students should come prepared to dedicate considerable time and effort to their reading and composition skills, as well as to their study of art history.