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Ted Joans' surrealist history lesson

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This article argues for the importance of Ted Joans within histories of surrealism, which seldom acknowledge the existence of the movement post-World War II or its participants outside of interwar Paris. Since the early 1960s, Joans contributed to both the Paris and Chicago groups of surrealists, who continued to proclaim the relevance of mad love, the marvellous, and dreams to a radical politics long after the movement was alleged to have deceased. The majority of the article, however, addresses Joans' work composed prior to his formal involvement with surrealism, exploring how his invocation of surrealist influence was framed by a narrative of surrealism's legacy of radical anti-colonialism and anti-racism to diasporic writers, artists and intellectuals such as Etienne Lro and Aim Csaire. Joans' work self-consciously embeds his engagement with surrealism within a matrix of transatlantic cultural dialogues which dislodge it from its supposed headquarters in Paris in the interwar years, undermines its profile as white, Francophone and bourgeois, and problematizes unilateral models of influence. Drawing on Surrealist aesthetics, his early work deploys modernist formal innovation as a means to reflect on the historiography of modernism, and performatively protests the unequal access to the political and cultural ideals of modernity.

Keywords: African American; Negritude; Ted Joans; modernism; surrealism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Manchester.

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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