Automatic Woman: The representation of woman in surrealism

Katharine M Gingrass-Conley, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation proposes the term Automatic Woman to designate the function of Woman as a muse for surrealist writing, particularly automatic writing. I begin by specifying the portrayal of Woman in the work of Andre Breton. In the Introduction and the first two chapters, I define the notion of Automatic Woman and read Breton's major collaborative automatic writing texts, Les Champs magnetiques (1919) and L'Immaculee Conception (1930), as well as Nadja (1928), L'Amour fou (1937), and Arcane 17 (1947), for portraits of Woman and traces of the feminine, with attention also paid to Clair de terre (1923), Poisson soluble (1924) and Les Vases communicants (1932).^ Chapters Three and Four examine the ways in which Leonora Carrington and Unica Zurn's verbal portraits of themselves and Woman answer Breton's vision. In these two chapters, I focus on the autobiographical narratives in which Carrington, in En bas (1944), and Zurn, in L'Homme-Jasmin (1970), describe their experiences in mental institutions. In my conclusion, I argue that the composite Surrealist view of Woman--as it was developed by Breton and supported or transgressed by Carrington and Zurn--serves as a wellspring for the definition of Woman articulated by Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray. Both ecriture feminine and ecriture automatique act as vehicles for liberating self-expression, allowing the subject to articulate socially repressed aspects of her/himself. As an answer to l'ecriture automatique, l'ecriture feminine transforms Woman from "automatic" object into autonomous subject. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Literature, Germanic|Literature, Romance|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Gingrass-Conley, Katharine M, "Automatic Woman: The representation of woman in surrealism" (1992). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9227667.