A surrealist stratigraphy of Dorothea Tanning’s chasm

McAra, Catriona ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7680-4134 (2017) A surrealist stratigraphy of Dorothea Tanning’s chasm. Routledge. ISBN 9781472463449


This is the first book-length study devoted to the American artist and writer Dorothea Tanning’s literary output, and how it operates in parallel to her visual oeuvre. As a visual reading of the artist’s one novel, it offers an innovative methodology, combining feminist and literary theory with specific reference to the ‘autotopography’ of Mieke Bal (2001) and spatial poetics of Susan Stewart (1984). It repositions Tanning’s writing at the centre of her entire creative practice and focuses on a little-known short story 'Abyss', a gothic-flavoured, desert adventure which Tanning worked on intermittently throughout her creative life, finally publishing it in 2004 as 'Chasm: A Weekend'. I conducted field work in Sedona, Arizona where the book was written, as well as in Portsmouth, France and Sweden which are geographically connected to the novel. I also worked closely with the artist’s estate to ensure the factual accuracy of my research. Susan Aberth, a renowned surrealism scholar, peer-reviewed my book. This publication is timely in terms of Tanning’s broader reception with a major exhibition surveys at Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, and Tate Modern, London. I advised curator Ann Coxon on the Tate iteration as a leading expert in the field, and contributed to a roundtable discussion ‘A Family Portrait’ (16 March 2019) where I shared an excerpt of my study. The book is included in the prestigious Studies in Surrealism series, and was reviewed positively by Anna Kérchy for Americana E-Journal (2017). The book is catalogued in a range of international libraries (e.g. Princeton), and appears on reading lists for students studying feminist-surrealism at the University of Edinburgh, among others.

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