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


Suleiman S. Subversive Intent: Gender,Politics, and the Avant-Garde. Harvard University Press; 1990 pp. 294.
Subversive Intent: Gender,Politics, and the Avant-Garde


In this important book, re-issued in 2012, noted Harvard scholar Susan Suleiman explores the politics as well as the aesthetics of modern and postmodern writing and art, from Dada and Surrealism to the present. Through her detailed readings of works by avant-garde writers and artists like André Breton, Georges Bataille, Roland Barthes, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst, Suleiman demonstrates the central role of the female body in the male artistic imagination and the extent to which masculinist assumptions have shaped modern art and theory. She asks: What place do women artists and writers have in the avant-garde? Suleiman discusses works by Hélène Cixous, Marguerite Duras, Monique Wittig, Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, Leonora Carrington, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Cindy Sherman and others, showing how feminist avant-garde art provides a powerful, often humorous or parodic critique of patriarchal ideologies. 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 one possible link between symbolic innovation and political and social change.

Last updated on 07/31/2013