Surrealism's Homophobia

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The primary document of Surrealist homophobia is the transcript, published in 1928 in the magazine La Révolution surréaliste, entitled “Research on sexuality/ Extent of objectivity, individual determinations, degree of consciousness.” The text records the first two of twelve closed, mostly men-only meetings, held in Paris between 1928 and 1932 by members and fellow travelers of the Surrealist group, at which the participants, according to the collective ethos of Surrealist practice, discussed their sexual preferences, experiences, and beliefs. In the published sessions, the group’s leader, André Breton, who convened the meetings and edited the transcript, repeatedly denounced male homosexuality. The problematics of these repudiations are the topics of this article. My intention is to map the historical conditions of Breton’s heteronormativity, and outline the latter’s function in his theory of Surrealism. To this end, I displace the psychoanalytic emphasis customary in Surrealism’s reception in order to locate Surrealism in the historical discourse of sexuality. In the French culture wars of the 1920s, Surrealism mobilized a sexual negativity against the mainstream. Yet in certain key respects, Breton’s thought preserved a heterosexist logic of conjugality. Ultimately, a historical reading of Surrealism’s homophobia indicates the family ties between dialectical idealism and heteronormativity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-229
Number of pages23
Issue number173
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2020


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