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Saturday, November 3 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
6.E. Surrealist Renaissance

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PANEL. Surrealist Renaissance

“'Je suis ce chevalier qu’on dit de la charrette': Robert Desnos and Lancelot on the Edge of Life and Death”
Simon Rogghe
University of California, Berkeley

The influence of medieval literature on French surrealism is palpable in various surrealist works, from Eluard’s medieval anthology to Breton’s portrayal of the fay Mélusine, as well Aragon’s praise of Chrétien de Troyes and his Arthurian-inspired Brocéliande. This connection is more than an “influence,” however. As Breton puts it in the first Manifeste, the criterium for belonging to surrealism is that one has given oneself over, through automatism, to “la voix surréaliste.” This implies that the surrealist voice is not confined to the 20th century, as it was the same voice that shook “Cumes, Dodone et Delphes” (Breton, OC I 344-45). In this paper, I will explore how Lancelot, in Le Chevalier de la Charrette, can be seen as a surrealist figure similar to Desnos during the hypnotic sleep experiments. This juxtaposition not only casts this medieval text in a more surrealist light, but also accentuates aspects of Desnos that would otherwise have remained less visible. Looking more closely at Desnos’s drawings and aphorisms produced under hypnosis, I will show how both figures have the uncanny ability to cross over into the “other” realm—a realm that closely resembles death. While Desnos depicted the death of various members of the group under hypnosis, Lancelot comes upon a cemetery with the future graves of the Knights of the Round Table. Such a cemetery is also depicted in Desnos’s Nouvelles Hébrides, with the names of his fellow surrealists (among others) inscribed on the tombs. Drawing on these analogies, I will show how both Desnos and Lancelot can be seen as liminal figures bridging two previously separate realms of experience: life and death, waking and sleeping, reality and imagination.

Aimé Césaire and Renaissance Colonialism”
Kimberly Bressler
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Throughout the literary community, it has widely been debated that Aimé Césaire’s surrealist play, Une Tempête—a reworking of Shakespeare’s The Tempest—aims to bring to light the psychological and socio-political struggles faced by natives during the South African Apartheid of the 1960’s. Scholars, such as Joytsna Singh, contend that the characters of Caliban and Ariel within Césaire’s play are ideal representatives of the challenges faced by the populous during the Apartheid. Arguably, these scholars have not adequately addressed the ways in which Césaire’s surrealist perspective gives insight into the interpretation of Caliban’s character within Shakespeare’s play itself. My paper addresses this gap with special attention to Shakespeare’s design of Caliban as a monstrous creature who is less than human in nature compared to Césaire’s design, which presents him nearer to a black slave of the time of the South African Apartheid and a creature whose desires and language reflect the marvelous seen within surrealism. Specifically, I will analyze how this description and characterization of Caliban within Césaire’s play provides insight into the Caliban of Shakespeare’s production through a surrealist lens. Ultimately, I argue that Césaire’s perspective on colonization within his play gives much insight into the ideas surrounding colonialism during Shakespeare’s time period. In conclusion, by closely examining this postcolonial surrealist response to Shakespeare’s play, as well as the historical stages of the play, this project sheds new light on the rarely acknowledged issue of colonization during the Renaissance period through the use of Aimé Césaire’s Une Tempête.

"'Lunar’ Painters and ‘Sadist’ Engravers: The Surrealist Framing of Renaissance Masters in Minotaure"
Tessel Bauduin
Universiteit van Amsterdam

This paper’s starting point is the French art review Minotaure (1933-39), an interesting example of the surrealists’s move into the art field and the domains of art history/art criticism specifically. Remarkably, Minotaure managed to be both polyphonic and coherent, presenting a broad range of diverse subjects but maintaining consistency throughout each issue – achieved not least by an innovative visual-spatial organisation of images. Among the subjects discussed and reproduced in its pages are late-medieval and earlymodern masters Paolo Uccello, Piero di Cosimo, Urs Graff, and Lucas Cranach the Elder, among others. First I will establish Minotaure as a specifically surrealist periodical, positioning its editor Tériade’s views as stongly affiliated to surrealism. Subsequently I will move to my main argument, concerning the old masters and the particular way they are textually and visually framed in Minotaure. Offering a close-reading of selected essays and visual organisation of images, I will show how these artists were positioned within their time – the Renaissance, no less – then as out of time, even timeless, only to be drawn into the contemporary, their pastness being turned to presentness in the service of surrealism and surrealist aesthetics. Vasari figures conspicuously in the essays, indicating a surrealist revision of traditional (biography-based) art historical narratives. Drawing out parallels to Warburg’s Mnemosyne Bilderatlas and Riegl’s anti-heroic art history, I hope to make clear that in Minotaure the old masters were ‘surrealised’ to considerable extent and their art was repositioned as a forum for surrealist interventions in art historical discourse of the time.

Speakers
avatar for Tessel Bauduin

Tessel Bauduin

Universiteit van Amsterdam
KB

Kimberly Bressler

Indiana University of Pennsylvania
avatar for Simon Rogghe

Simon Rogghe

University of California, Berkeley

Chairs
avatar for Elliott King

Elliott King

Associate Professor of Art History, Washington & Lee


Saturday November 3, 2018 11:00am - 12:30pm
Room E. Bertrand Library: East Reading Room (second floor)