The artists and writers of the surrealist movement were creating their work as a direct response to the traumatic events of the world around them. I think the question of “How could artists and novelists create anything meaningful in a world so bitter and damaged?” is quite fitting for the current state of the world. By also embracing the world’s chaos and irrationality, let’s pretend like surrealism is our only answer in recovering from the traumatic events that wreak havoc on our world. Your short story can be a reaction to an event (the pandemic, police brutality, just to list a few examples) in the world or it can be a reaction to a personal traumatic event (like Leonora Carrington which is uploaded as a pdf below).
Also: Please study the link I have provided below before writing:
*You must include a short introduction explaining what conventions of the genre you are pulling from and using. In doing this, you will provide specific examples from your own story and information from the lecture. This intro should be on a separate page from the short story. *
Story Requirements: Times New Roman, 12 point font, 1 inch margins all the way around, 2-3 pages single spaced, and it must be marvelously bizarre.
When asked to describe the circumstances of her birth, the
Surrealist painter and writer Leonora Carrington liked to tell
people that she had not been born; she had been made. One
melancholy day, her mother, bloated by chocolate truffles,
oyster purée, and cold pheasant, feeling fat and listless and
undesirable, had lain on top of a machine. The machine was a
marvellous contraption, designed to extract hundreds of
gallons of semen from animals—pigs, cockerels, stallions,
urchins, bats, ducks—and, one can imagine, bring its user to
the most spectacular orgasm, turning her whole sad, sick
being inside out and upside down. From this communion of
human, animal, and machine, Leonora was conceived. When
she emerged, on April 6, 1917, “England shook.”
The success of a creation story hangs on how richly it seeds the life to come. Carrington’s encompasses all the elements of her life and her art. There is her decadence and indelicate sense of fancy; her fascination with animals and with bodies, both otherworldly and profane. Above all, there is her high- spirited, baroque sense of humor, mating the artificial to the natural, and recalling Henri Bergson’s claim that the essence of comedy is the image of “something mechanical encrusted upon the living. ” Her humor and its offspring —two novels, a memoir, a delightfully macabre collection of stories, along with hundreds of paintings, sculptures, and objets—have been unearthed on several occasions since her death, in 2011. Each time her work is reborn, it seems more prescient, her comedy more finely tuned to our growing consciousness of the nonhuman world and the forces that inhabit it.
Though it was a movement dominated by men—and
often regarded as outright sexist (it was)—several
talented women made inroads, if only briefly, into
Breton’s tight-knit circle. Many of the women had close,
usually intimate, relationships with the male artists, but
they also flourished artistically. The torchbearers of
surrealism were not “forward-looking when it came to
women and their place in the world.” To understand the
macho, egocentric nature of Surrealism and the eliding
of women artists of this time, we will look at the fiercely
imaginative and belatedly recognized artist Leonora
Carrington, an essential member of the Surrealist group.
When it comes to surrealism, women had a much
different experience, and she rewrote the surrealist
narrative for women. Born in 1917 to an overbearing,
well-to-do family in Lancashire, England, Carrington
entered Surrealist circles upon falling in love with the
revered artist Max Ernst, who was 26 years her senior.
While it’s notable that many women participated in Surrealism, albeit on the sidelines, the movement was
sexist even as it pretended to exalt women and encourage their liberation. Woman is the key to man’s
search, the surrealists cried. The great secret of nature, the incarnation of man’s subconscious destiny.
Women are manipulative muses, sweet and innocent of their mysterious powers. Women are the answer.
The Surrealists were fascinated by women: beautiful women, mad women, young women (under the age of
about 25), or preferably all three conjoined in the ideal figure,— the femme enfant, or woman-child —
whose mystical, erotic, and naïve spirit bewitched and aided men in channeling their irrational side. Breton
famously proclaimed in his second Surrealist manifesto in 1929, that, “The problem of woman is the most
marvelous and disturbing problem in all the world.” For the femme enfant, “the element of instability, often
bordering on madness was as much a part of her image as was her naiveté.” Breton believed that insanity in
a woman gave her visionary power, becoming even more transporting and mythical in men’s eyes. Breton
rendered the mad woman “a subject for scientific and poetic inquiry,” where she in turn was “passive,
powerless, and at the mercy of the unconscious.” Breton’s commentary sums up much of Surrealism’s
chauvinism and pompousness, as it shamelessly regarded women artists as muses.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surrealist_Manifesto
Carrington could’ve been the perfect profile for a femme enfant: in
her early twenties, beautiful, eccentric, and subject to a bout of
insanity. But Carrington avidly rejected the label of a femme enfant.
As she put it in 1983, “I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse… I was
too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.”
Many of Carrington’s stories are themselves a subversive retort to the
male surrealists’ view of women; they have a “fuck you” quality to
them, which sits nicely alongside their sheer dreamlike weirdness.
The majority of women artists associated with Surrealism did not
identify with it — they were uninterested in unleashing the
subconscious through illogical, uncanny compositions. Rather, they
articulated their work in much more personal and purposeful terms,
often grounded in autobiography. Even Carrington stated that every
piece of writing she ever did was autobiographical. What we see as
fantasy, Carrington experienced as real. “Even though you won’t
believe me / my story is beautiful,” she writes in a coda to a story.
The images in her stories are striking and visceral, and for Carrington,
at the time, they were not metaphors. This was her reality, and there
was no immediate way out of it.
In her memoir and fiction — and, in her visual art as well — Carrington
strives to understand people’s “systems;” to peer into them and visualize all
their beautiful or ugly selves, often through animal incarnations (as in
fables). She advises, “We have to listen to the soul … and to know when it’s a
soul. … Each soul has a daemon.” Both her writing and visual art takes up
this very exercise — a kind of study of the human soul.
Carrington, like other female surrealist writers, wasn’t interested in simply
letting the mind go and seeing where it might wander, but rather wanted to
probe and question it more deeply. She considered this gift specific to the
artist, whom she described as a kind of magician — though her magic wasn’t
used to bewitch men, but to give her independence. “A soul is very
important… You have to own your soul as far as it’s possible… To hand it
over to some half-assed male — I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Surrealist art, with its convulsive, outlandish juxtapositions, showed
Carrington how to discern the folly of the humans she knew. It also
invited her to cavort with nonhuman creatures, drawing on their beauty
and suffering to make tame ideas about character and plot more
porous, elastic, and gloriously unhinged. The distinctions between
human and animal, animal and machine, flicker in and out of focus in
her early stories, but the fiction she wrote in the nineteen-fifties and
sixties dissolves them lavishly.
In Carrington’s writing, the critic Janet Lyon has observed, the appearance of an
ordinary human always feels like an aberration, a harbinger of death. Ordinary
humans, when confronted with Carrington’s creatures, brandish their superior
rationality and industry. For Carrington, humanity was a seductive costume donned
by dummies. To step out of the costume risked deranging the self that one
unthinkingly inhabited, courting madness, the dissolution of the belief in the
human world as the arbiter of reality. But it was also to draw closer to Great
Nature, in the quest for a new, liberating art.
The woman artist of “Pigeon, Fly!” has been partially
erased, but she isn’t dead yet. And the narrator of “The
Oval Lady” is not Lucretia but her playmate, who sticks
her fingers in her ears in order to block out the “frightful
neighing” of Tartar’s incineration. In their art, the
Surrealists used women as symbols of volatility, but the
minority of women Surrealists suggested that
changeableness itself could be a source of power. These
women tapped into a long line of mythic female figures—
the nymph, the witch, the fairy, the crone—who have
used metamorphosis in order to outwit, and outpace,
their more solid, and literal, male kin. Maybe this is why
Carrington identified so closely with horses: because she
could imagine herself, like them, being used as a vehicle.