With this important new book, Susan Suleiman lays the foundation
for a postmodern feminist poetics and theory of the avant-garde.
She shows how the figure of Woman, as fantasy, myth, or metaphor,
has functioned in the work of male avant-garde writers and artists
of this century. Focusing also on women's avant-garde artistic
practices, Suleiman demonstrates how to read difficult modern works
in a way that reveals their political as well as their aesthetic
Suleiman directly addresses the subversive intent of avant-garde
movements from Surrealism to postmodernism. Through her detailed
readings of provocatively transgressive works by Andre Breton,
Georges Bataille, Roland Barthes, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marcel
Duchamp, Max Ernst, and others, Suleiman demonstrates the central
role of the female body in the male erotic imagination and
illuminates the extent to which masculinist assumptions have
influenced modern art and theory. By examining the work of
contemporary women avantgarde artists and theorists--including
Helene Cixous, Marguerite Duras, Monique Wittig, Luce Irigaray,
Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, Leonora Carrington, Barbara
Kruger, Jenny Holzer, and Cindy Sherman--Suleiman shows the
political power of feminist critiques of patriarchal ideology, and
especially emphasizes the power of feminist humor and parody.
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 the
need for a link between symbolic innovation and political and
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