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Queer Studies and Surrealism

“A Queer Frame of Mind” (an introduction to Madder Love: Queer Men and the Precincts of Surrealism) by Peter Dubé  is an interesting essay about the convergences of queer sexuality, Gay liberationist theory, and the Surrealist Movement. The article addresses a particular strand of Gay liberationist theory that “represented for [him] the culture of desire gay men had begun to create, one that seemed related—somehow—to that proposed by the Surrealists, but unblinkered by Breton’s prejudices.” This movement was “committed to liberating desire and sexuality, sought to create new types of social networks, outside the norms of the family and rooted in fairly radical ideas about elective affection, community and friendship. It—daily—rediscovered the hidden spaces of the city and libidinously revivified them. It wanted to change overarching structures to conform more to the need for self-realization—self-creation even—than to an arbitrary idea of productivity. It was informed by the erotic and it was joyous.” Dubé exposes Breton’s anti-feminist and homophobic rhetoric but also explores “how the [Surrealist] movement was volatile and diverse. It hosted a wide variety of struggling viewpoints, saw a lot of schism and hurled accusations, and included queers of all kinds. To name just a few: Rene Crevel, Louis Aragon, Claude Cahun, Pierre Molinier. Moreover, in some ways it was very queer in its concerns.” He then underscores the ways in which Surrealism and Gay Liberation mirror each other in three ways, namely, both were movements “with desire at its very heart,” “were self-consciously interested in subjectivity and the way the mind operates,” and both “share an interest in the way these things—subjectivity and desire—affect the world.” Dubé ends his essay by meditating on the many ways Surrealism remains a living movement.

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