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Title: 'Some parallels in words and pictures' : Dorothea Tanning and visual intertextuality
Author: McAra, Catriona Fay
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2012
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In 1989 the American Surrealist associated painter, sculptor, and writer Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) suggested an intermedial dimension to her multifaceted œuvre in her essay ‘Some Parallels in Word and Pictures.’ Taking this essay as a critical point of departure, this thesis offers an intertextual theorisation of Tanning’s practice. It concerns the role of narrative in her work, and the way in which she borrows from the histories of art and literature as source materials. The thesis presented here is that Tanning’s work from the context of Surrealism and beyond makes reference to the fairy tales and other, more extensive works of literature which she read in her youth whilst at work in her public library in Galesburg, Illinois, whether implicitly in visual references or explicitly in her works’ titles. Throughout, the library is read as a key source of inspiration. This is true too of the impact which Tanning’s belated visit to the Louvre had on her post-Surrealist stylistic development. Broadly, this thesis aims to rethink the methodologies used to interpret Surrealism, and reunite the literary and visual aspects upon which the Surrealist movement was initially founded. This interdisciplinary approach contributes fresh perspectives by marrying the history of Surrealism with that of the fairy tale, including that of Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, and the fairy tale illustrations of Gustave Doré, Maxfield Parrish, Arthur Rackham, and John Tenniel. The anti-fairy tale emerges as useful critical tool in defining the intertext which appears when Surrealism and the fairy tale are paired. The ‘demythologising’ project of Angela Carter is useful to call upon in the articulation of the anti-fairy tale, and her work is easily placed in dialogue with that of Tanning, especially in terms of its feminist leanings. The dialogic, intertextual theories of Mikhail Bakhtin, further developed by Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes, support this reading of Tanning’s visual narratives. More recently such theories of intertextuality have manifested themselves in the work of Dutch narratologist Mieke Bal who proposes a model of ‘preposterous history’ in order to creatively re-read the relationship between source (or pre-text) and intertext. This research is primarily text-based and devotes long-awaited attention to Tanning’s literary works which are read visually, including her short story ‘Blind Date’ (1943), and her novel 'Abyss' (1977), later reworked and republished as 'Chasm: A Weekend' (2004). I argue that her novel provides textual continuity with her Surrealist visual narratives of the 1940s creating a more cyclical, ‘preposterous’ shape to her career than has previously been acknowledged.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PS American literature ; N Visual arts (General) For photography ; see TR ; PT Germanic literature ; NB Sculpture ; ND Painting ; PZ Childrens literature ; PR English literature