Image, text and the female body : René Magritte and the surrealist publications
Author(s)Greeley, Robin Adèle
René Magritte and the surrealist publications
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture.
Anne Middleton Wagner.
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In 1935, Andre Breton published his speech Qu'est-ce que le Surrealisme? with Rene Magritte's drawing, "Le Viol" (The Rape) on its cover. The image, a view of a woman's head in which her facial features have been replaced by her torso, was meant to shock the viewer out of complacent acceptance of present reality into "surreality," that liberated state of being which would foster revolutionary social change. Because "Le Viol" is such a violently charged image and because of the claims made for it by Magritte for its revolutionary potential, the drawing has been the subject of many arguments, both for and against its effectiveness. The feminist community has had a particular interest in this image (and in Magritte's work as a whole) not only because of the controversial treatment of the female subject in "Le Viol," but also because of the ways in which our culture has been so easily able to strip surrealist images of their political content and subsume them back into mainstream culture for use in those very categories of social practice which Surrealism wanted to eradicate. The reincorporation of surrealist works has been especially noticeable and damaging in the case of images of women, as feminists like Susan Gubar and Mary Ann Caws have pointed out Against those claims made against "Le Viol" as an image which affirms phallocentric language and discourse rather than disrupting them, I argue in this paper that the drawing in fact exposes the mechanisms by which female sexuality is formed and controlled within phallocentric language. In exposing these constructions, "Le Viol" forces the viewer to realize them as ideological positions which maintain women as Other, as unable to gain access to coherent meaning within that language. In performing this function, Magritte's picture undermines that process through which women are deprived of a coherent self-image and of the material power which comes with that image in the social realm. To substantiate my arguments, I trace the relationship between several of Magritte's images and the surrealist texts in which they were published, in order to provide a complex understanding of the interrelationships between word and image to which the artist directed much of his work. My use of the theoretical positions of deconstruction, feminism and psychoanalysis allows me to take the observations made onto the terrain of sexuality. These positions provide an understanding of how language and representation operate with respect to each other, and how the human subject (particularly the female) is formed through language.
Thesis (M.S.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Architecture, 1988.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 66-73).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology