Date of Thesis

Spring 2018

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

Major

Comparative Humanities

First Advisor

Katherine Faull

Keywords

Semiotic, Symbolic, Erotic Violence, Mysticism, Surrealism

Abstract

This thesis will compare two groups, Christian women mystics and women surrealists, by analyzing select works by Hildegard of Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Leonora Carrington, and Dorothea Tanning. This analysis will involve a comparative, theoretical approach that draws connections between the way in which both groups utilize varying literary and artistic forms, symbols, and polyglottery. I will utilize Bourdieu’s terms of cultural production as a framework in which to better understand how women of both fields are used for their creativity and supposed connection to an/other, which is the source of inspiration native to each field, God and the unconscious. Post-structuralist feminist theory will be utilized to compare the two very distinct fields and time periods in their relationship to phallogocentrism and in the relationship between phallogocentrism and women’s creativity, sexuality, and suffering.

These findings highlight the struggle that women face in mediating between the members of their field and an/other. The position of mediator relegates women to their ability to express an/other for the inspiration of others. By denying them the ability to interpret their own visions these women may experience mental discord. However, attempting to find authority beyond mediating may risk their position within the field which is only afforded to them by their visions. The works of women in both fields, despite the immense gap in time, contain very similar religious motifs and depictions of erotic violence that represent the struggle to reconcile between their feminine and inferior bodies and the authority afforded by that same femininity. This thesis can be extrapolated to apply to women of all time periods within fields driven by inspiration. Women who are reduced to their physicality are consistently exposed to this struggle with the status of mediator. Their ability to influence their fields, utilizing the subversiveness of their inferiority and femininity, is hampered by their position and the expectations associated with their womanhood. By recognizing the implications of reducing women to mediating within phallogocentrism, creative fields may be opened up, and women’s impacts within may be fully conceived.

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