Along the Edge: Leonora Carrington

This interdisciplinary seminar, supported by Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Faculty Innovation, has focused on Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), a British-born writer and painter who lived in France and Mexico, composing in French and Spanish as well as in English and producing visual art of remarkable power and irreducible strangeness. Among the few women associated with the Surrealist movement, Carrington, throughout her long and intensely productive creative life, eschewed labels of identity, geography, and nationality. She repudiated systems of masculine and colonial authority, and she defied categorisation as an artist and writer, combining wide-ranging influences, crossing repeated boundaries, and undergoing profound personal and creative transformation.

Over the course of the semester, students respond to Carrington’s complex oeuvre by composing essays, responses, and imaginative texts inspired by 1) a close reading of Carrington’s fiction and autobiographical writing and 2) studying, first-hand, her lithographs and paintings housed in Princeton Art Museum’s permanent collection. Selected works by Max Ernst, Kati Horna, Remedios Varo, and Manuel Alvarez Bravo—artists both personally and creatively linked to Carrington—were also viewed and considered. We read excerpts from a number of secondary works which influenced Carrington herself, including Herbert Read’s Surrealism, James Stephens’ The Crock of Gold and Robert Grave’s The White Goddess. Each class centered around a discussion of both her visual and literary production in relation to a series of tropes including animal imagery, metamorphosis, the body, the double, and dreams. Students wrote brief stories inspired by key themes and motifs in Carrington’s stories, creating a “Carringtonesque” portfolio by the end of the semester. They also produced, collectively, a series of “exquisite corpses” inspired by Surrealist writing techniques. The final project was to write a brief essay responding to one of the ten artworks by Carrington which grace the Museum’s collection.

To see the students' work, please click on each artwork image below.

Jhumpa Lahiri, Professor and Director of the Program in Creative Writing

Students of CWR209/ART223: Bhaamati Borkhetaria, Abigail Glickman, Reed Hutchinson, Rachel Kennedy, Alexander Krauel, Vail Linn, Jesus Martinez, Sonia Murthy, Marc Schorin, Hanna Soulati