Open Sesame: Dorothea Tanning’s Critical Writing

McAra, Catriona (2021) Open Sesame: Dorothea Tanning’s Critical Writing. In: Surrealist Women’s Writing: A Critical Exploration. Manchester University Press. ISBN 9781526132024


This book chapter repositions Dorothea Tanning's critical writing (her self-reflexive artist’s statements and letters to the editor) in the context of her broader œuvre as well as within the discursive framework of revisionary feminist perspectives on surrealism. I focus on two key texts by Tanning from the later twentieth century, ‘Some Parallels in Words and Pictures’ (1989) and ‘Statement’ (1991), as well as her experimental exhibition catalogue Ouvre-Toi (Open Sesame, 1971). These examples are revealing in terms of their author’s position on the text/image relationships, which recur throughout her practice. By realigning Tanning’s writings with her imagery, and by retrospectively drawing parallels with feminist theory and intellectual history, I argue for a re-reading of Tanning’s critical writings as a manifestation of the feminist cause in surrealism studies and beyond. This chapter was first delivered as a paper at the Modernist Studies Association conference in Amsterdam (August 2017) by invitation of the editor.

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