Project Title: Diving to The Cinema Beneath the Lake: a novel as immersive, synthetic-magical exploration of the surrealist prose of Claude Cahun, Ithell Colquhoun and Leonora Carrington
Supervisors: Dr Ursula Hurley & Dr Scott Thurston
The concept of mimicry or simulation has often been omitted from accounts of Surrealism, which tend to emphasise the movement’s belief in the authentic unconscious. Renewed discussion of mimicry/ simulation has evolved contemporaneously with broader investigation of other significant omissions from historiographical accounts of Surrealism’s cultural productions, in particular the work of women artists and writers. The prose fiction of women surrealists has, until recently, received scant attention.
Following the proposition that ‘doing precedes knowing’, this research project has evolved a surrealist practice in order to better understand the practice of three surrealist women writers. The investigation takes the form of an unfilmable surrealist film-novel, The Cinema Beneath the Lake, composed by a method of creative mimicry as evolutionary process; including the adoption of the surrealist principle of objective chance as a guiding framework in both creative and critical spheres of the work. Other mimicry derives from creative engagement with a range of surrealist games, techniques and practices and from study of these writers’ work.
In allowing the project to be determined by the exigencies of surrealist method, I give my own traumatic experiences permission to inform the work. The embodied nature of its understanding of the value-set of mimicry/ simulation thus brings with it an opportunity to personally reflect on its importance not only as a creative strategy but as providing an initiatory function within the development of self-knowledge and recovery from psychic trauma. In this regard, the project aspires to stand as a demonstration of creative-critical engagement as a form of communion and self-therapy in Covid time, reaching out to similar usages of the jarring effects of automatism and other surrealist reveries in the writings of Cahun, Colquhoun and Carrington during their turbulent experiences of life in the shadow of war.
I studied English at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and from there went on to teach A levels, firstly English Literature and Language, then Media Studies; and finally I set up a Film Studies department. Mid career I did an MA in Scriptwriting here at Salford and had three radio dramas broadcast on BBC Radio 4: Ice Dreams, Phonebreaker and Paradise Hazard. I’ve also written film and television screenplays and pitched to the BBC, Channel 4, Warp Film, Sky and the BFI, with some near misses — and still undaunted! In 2016 I was one of three finalists in Bafta-Rocliffe’s national script competition with a sci-fi drama I’d written for the Children’s Media category. My interest in Surrealism stems from my study of film but now encompasses all aspects of it as an avant-garde movement; with a particular emphasis on its marginalised voices