BA Art History and English Literature

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Surrealism, Gender, Sexuality

Unit code AHCP23711
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Art History and Cultural Practices
Available as a free choice unit? Yes

Overview

This course addresses issues of gender and sexuality in surrealism and its legacies. Surrealism put sexual desire at the centre of its revolutionary practice. It can legitimately claim to have been the very avant-garde of the modern discourse of sexuality in France, pioneering the reception of psychoanalysis, while valorising sexual perversion and pathology. The heterosexist structure of orthodox surrealism is evident in its cult of ‘woman’, and its leader’s (selective) repudiation of male homosexuality. We will interrogate and critique that structure, considering its (and our own) historicity, while examining how surrealist visual and textual production put at risk or ‘queered’ normative masculinity. We will see how women artists and writers appropriated and critically redeployed surrealist tactics. In order to pursue these topics we will acquaint  ourselves more generally with the history and theory of gender and sexuality in modern Europe, making use of psychoanalytic, feminist, and queer-theoretical perspectives.

Aims

  • Analyse the history and theory of surrealism and its legacies
  • Introduce students to the history and theory of sexuality
  • Introduce students to the history and theory of gender

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be able:

Syllabus

1. Situating Surrealism in Histories of Gender and Sexuality

2. Surrealism and the Historical Discourse of Sexuality

3. The Gender Politics of Surrealism

4. Psychoanalysis and Surrealism

5. André Breton, Nadja and the Recherches sur la sexualité

6. Dissident Surrealism: ‘Perversion’ and Transgression

7. Gender and Sexuality in Surrealist Painting

8. Gender and Sexuality in Surrealist Photography

9. Gender and Sexuality in Surrealist Film

10. Gender and Sexuality in the Surrealist Object

11. Afterlives of Surrealism

Teaching and learning methods

Classes will take the form of seminars (2hrs per wk) and lectures (one hr per wk). The course unit text, images and powerpoint will be deposited on Blackboard.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this module, students will be able:

  • To account for key texts and artworks by artists, filmmakers, photographers and writers such as Eileen Agar, Georges Bataille, Louise Bourgeois, André Breton, Claude Cahun, Maya Deren, Max Ernst, Lee Miller, Dorothea Tanning
  • To discuss theories of gender and sexuality as they have been set out by such figures as Judith Butler, Michel Foucault and Sigmund Freud
  • To describe historical and cultural contexts for the emergence of surrealism and the discourse of sexuality
  • To analyse artworks and texts in relation to historical and theoretical discourses about sexuality and gender
  • To recount debates within art history about the function of sexuality and gender in the historical avant-garde

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse primary images and texts in the history and theory of surrealism and its legacies
  • Analyse scholarly texts about the history and theory of surrealism, gender, and sexuality
  • Articulate critical positions in relation to the history and theory of surrealism, gender and sexuality

Practical skills

  • Construct arguments in essay form
  • Comprehend challenging texts
  • Render images into discourse 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • High-level text and image analysis
  • Interpersonal and organisational skills
  • Planning and executing discursive argumentation
  • Participate constructively in seminar discussions
  • Specialised expertise in art, literature and theory 

Employability skills

Other
High-level text and image analysis Interpersonal and organisational skills Planning and executing discursive argumentation Develop and complete assessment to specified deadlines

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 40%
Report 20%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written

formative

Written

summative

 

Recommended reading

  • Patricia Allmer and Mary Ann Caws, Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism
  • Georges Bataille, Story of the Eye
  • Katharine Conley, Automatic Woman: The Representation of Women in Surrealism
  • Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Volume I: The Will to Knowledge
  • Amy Lyford, Surrealist Masculinities
  • Jennifer Mundy, ed., Surrealism: Desire Unbound
  • Jose Pierre, ed., Investigating Sex: Surrealist Research 1928-32
  • Susan Rubin Suleiman, Subversive Intent

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Charles Miller Unit coordinator

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