Subversive Intent: Gender, Politics, and the Avant-Garde

Subversive Intent: Gender, Politics, and the Avant-Garde

by Susan Rubin Suleiman


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Subversive Intent: Gender, Politics, and the Avant-Garde by Susan Rubin Suleiman

With this important new book, Susan Suleiman lays the foundation for a postmodern feminist poetics and theory of the avant-garde. She shows how the figure of Woman, as fantasy, myth, or metaphor, has functioned in the work of male avant-garde writers and artists of this century. Focusing also on women's avant-garde artistic practices, Suleiman demonstrates how to read difficult modern works in a way that reveals their political as well as their aesthetic impact.

Suleiman directly addresses the subversive intent of avant-garde movements from Surrealism to postmodernism. Through her detailed readings of provocatively transgressive works by André Breton, Georges Bataille, Roland Barthes, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and others, Suleiman demonstrates the central role of the female body in the male erotic imagination and illuminates the extent to which masculinist assumptions have influenced modern art and theory. By examining the work of contemporary women avantgarde artists and theorists—including Hélène Cixous, Marguerite Duras, Monique Wittig, Luce Irigaray, Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, Leonora Carrington, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, and Cindy Sherman—Suleiman shows the political power of feminist critiques of patriarchal ideology, and especially emphasizes the power of feminist humor and parody.

Central to Suleiman's revisionary theory of the avant-garde is the figure of the playful, laughing mother. True to the radically irreverent spirit of the historical avant-gardes and their postmodernist successors, Suleiman's laughing mother embodies the need for a link between symbolic innovation and political and social change.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674853843
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 03/28/1992
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 296
Product dimensions: 5.96(w) x 9.22(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

Susan Rubin Suleiman is the Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University.

Table of Contents


Prologue: Playing and Modernity

Pleasures of Theory
Metapolylogue: On Playing and Modernity

A Double Margin: Women Writers and the Avant-Garde in France

Of Margins and Avant-Gardes
The Surrealist Subject
Women in the History of Surrealism

Aggressions and Counteraggressions: Readability in Avant-Garde Fiction

Reading and Rupture
Robbe-Grillet, or, the Readability of Transgression
Maurice Roche: Paradigm Lost and Found
Self-Reflexive Afterthought

Reading Robbe-Grillet: Sadism and Text in Projet pour une révolution à New York

Transgression and the Avant-Garde: Bataille's Histoire de l'oeil

Pornography as Textuality
Pornography as "Reality"
Feminist Poetics and the Pornographic Imagination

Love Stories: Women, Madness, and Narrative

Mastery and Transference: The Significance of Dora
Breton, Charcot, and the Spectacle of Female Otherness
Duras/Lacan: Not Knowing as Entanglement

The Politics and Poetics of Female Eroticism

Equal Rights, or, Telling It with Four-Letter Words
Celebrating Difference, or, Writing (and Reading) Otherwise
Dreaming beyond the Number Two

Feminist Intertextuality and the Laugh of the Mother

Parody and Politics
Parody, Perversion, Collage: Surrealists at Play
Daughters Playing: Some Feminist Rewritings and the Mother
The Hearing Trumpet: Marian Leatherby and the Holy Grail
The Laugh of the Mother

Feminism and Postmodernism: In Lieu of an Ending

Une Histoire Bien Postmoderne
Discourses on the Postmodern and the Emergence of Feminist Postmodernism
Opposition in Babel? The Political Status of Postmodern Intertextuality
To Market, to Market: Oppositional Art in Mass Culture
Of Cyborgs and (Other) "Women": The Politics of Decentered Subjects

Selected Bibliography

What People are Saying About This

Gerald Prince

Suleiman shows the qualities that have long been associated with her work: theoretical power and tactfulness, scrupulous critical attention to the formal and the thematic, lucidity, balance, and sober delight in her engagement with her material, and splendid readability, Subversive Intent is an outstanding performance.

Nancy K. Miller

Subversive Intent is an original, innovative, wonderfully written, consistently intelligent, and unflappably smart book. It is a major contribution to feminist literary studies and to studies in twentieth-century literature.

Marjorie Perloff

These revisionist essays on the writing, particularly the écriture feminine, associated with the French avant-garde are a model of lucidity and good sense. Susan Suleiman is a marvelous critic--lively, energetic, incisive--and never less than interesting.

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