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Surrealism & Non-Normative Sexualities

Dawn Ades
University of Essex

Jonathan Katz
Clark Institute

David Lomas
University of Manchester

The omnipotence of desire is surrealism's sole article of faith – so contended André Breton. Surrealism claimed to emancipate human desire and wasted no opportunity to express its contempt for the church, state, and family. Such rhetoric sounds hollow alongside Breton's notorious tirades against homosexuality and other non-normative sexual identities and practices, raising important questions about the nature of avant-garde experimentation, its claims to liberation and radical critique. Despite Breton's strictures, surrealism did include a considerable number of queer artists, writers and filmmakers who were demonstrably connected with its cultural reception in Britain, the USA, Spain, and Mexico. Within the French group, Salvador Dalí's espousal of a surrealism of the polymorphously perverse implied a less censorious stance toward non-normative sexualities. Desirous not merely to recuperate a welter of alternative desires at play in surrealism but also to push at entrenched theoretical paradigms, the session (among other questions) will ask what new perspectives on surrealism can emerge from an intersection with queer theory. We welcome proposals from scholars working on any aspect of surrealism and non-normative sexualities who are interested in redressing the inattention and fragmentation of this important topic, including proposals that seek to track a queer surrealist inheritance in contemporary body or performance practice.