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The traumatised male : Dada, surrealism and masculinity

Matheson, Neil (2001) The traumatised male : Dada, surrealism and masculinity. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85992) (KAR id:85992)

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This thesis asserts the crucial role of gender, and in particular of masculinity, in the productions of the dada and surrealist movements. World War I is viewed as having exercised a decisive influence upon the formation of those involved in these movements, producing a generation of "traumatised males", and the question of there being a consequent "crisis in masculinity" is analysed in some detail. These factors are explored within the broader socio-cultural context associated with the development of modernity - shifting gender roles, the emergence of the "New Woman", popular culture, anarchism, etc. Gender is understood here as a largely social construct, with particular attention given to the performative model of gender proposed by Judith Butler. Particular importance is accorded to the entire "fantasmatic" surrounding the machine within the male imaginary, together with the role of related phenomena such as electricity, magnetism and hypnosis. The central actor here is the male body, though masculinity is never considered apart from femininity, and hence the role of femininity, male attitudes towards women and the depiction of the female body, all inevitably figure within the study. Within this general approach,

certain specific figures (Andre Breton, Jacques Vache, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, and Marcel Duchamp) are analysed within specific contexts: including, the impact of the War, Oedipal conflict, the role of the machine, hysteria, fantasy, fetishism and male desire. Running throughout this study is the theme of the physical, corporeal body, the importance of which to the creative process is continually underscored within a range of significant contexts. In an appendix, the continuity of many of these themes is demonstrated in an analysis of the drawings of Antonin Artaud, in which particular attention is given to the interrelationship of machine and body in the specific context of Artaud's electroshock treatment

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85992
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Gender
Subjects: N Visual Arts > NX Arts in general
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
A General Works > AZ History of Scholarship. The Humanities
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
L Education > LA History of education
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:23 UTC
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2021 14:59 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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