DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.


  • Contextualize the piece in its original time period.  Why was it significant then?  What was the context of production?  What were the artist’s intentions? Primary sources will be helpful to find out what the maker said or wrote about the piece or his/her work at that time.  Survey texts, books on modern art or the particular movement will be helpful for context. 
  • Identify and explain any changed perspectives in the discourse about the piece that art historians have made in the postmodern period (1960 until the present).  This will most probably mean using postmodern methodologies and using journal articles and/or books.
  • Identify and explain where the piece is seen now in visual culture including any popular appropriations/modifications/parodies of it.


Each student will select one artist and piece of modern fine art made between 1900 and 1960. * You will research this maker/piece throughout the semester and write a 10-12 page paper in which you will explain how the maker/piece was understood in the original time period and how that perspective has changed in contemporary visual culture as the result of postmodern methodologies and a different historical context.



Rene Magritte, The Rape (Le Viol), 1934


Thesis Statement: Magritte’s, The Rape, distorts the female form in order to provoke reform related to sexuality, and to legitimize surrealism as an influential movement capable of social revolution.



Why was it significant then?

-“Thus, in Le Viol, our shock at viewing the image, at coming across

something legible but entirely unexpected, forces us to pay attention to our own position as viewers, as yet another relationship to the object (here, female sexuality) which determines its definition. Perhaps more importantly, the reverse also applies: our definition of ourselves as viewers is questioned and shifts through the picture's effect on us.” (Greeley)

-The notion of Magritte’s work causing the viewers (society) to think about there relation to the work and why they feel the way they do about it.

- “Qu'est-ceque le Surrealisme? forms part of the conscious shift Breton and the surrealists made after 1929 towards a more overtly politicized stance in response to such criticism; this shift included Magritte's images as part of the attempt to legitimize its position.” (Greeley)

-Magritte’s work was used to legitimize the surrealist movement.

- “to disrupt conventional bourgeois morality and to reveal the latter's hypocrisy as the origin of repression and alienation. From this point of view, Le Viol can be

seen as a forceful addition to Surrealism's pro-gramme for social revolution” (Greeley)

-Magritte’s painting was significant because it was trying to bring about social change amongst the repressive views of the bourgeois.


Context of production

-“Breton embarks upon a discussion which intertwines the surrealist commitment to exploring sexuality with discussions of philosophy…” (Greeley)

-Magritte created, The Rape in order to experiment with the ideas and notions of sexuality. To explore and push the boundaries.

-“a revolutionary movement, focuses on the release of that interior reality into the exterior realm.” (Greeley)

-Magritte wanted to get people to think about there hidden secret realities, and try to make out in the open, with his work.


Artist’s intentions

-“It offers us a definition of Surrealism as a representation of the female face-body which, although forced into speechlessness, seems far from being powerless; rather, she threatens Medusa-like to break those enforced bonds at any moment and unleash the full power of her sexuality. The body as it is presented here is not a passive body; through it, sexuality and speech are presented as territories of competition, the control of which is under constant negotiation.” (Greeley)

-Magritte was to give a voice to the speechless. He wants to liberate the sexual bias associated with women

-“Surrealism had interpreted this to mean that the work of art itself should abandon conscious control (as in automatic writing, for example). Magritte, however, sought to transfer the abandonment of reasoned control to the viewer's response to the image, rather than retain it as part of the process of creating the image.” (Greeley)

-Magritte wanted The Rape to be purposeful, but he just wanted the viewer to lose control and be free with there thoughts about the work.


Changed Perspectives

- Before many feminists found The Rape, “offensively pornographic in its own right.” (Witt)

- In it’s time it was offensive and disgusted viewers

- Now it is seen for how influential it really was for representing how sexuality of women and the reform needed.



- Now The Rape can be seen as a typical surrealist painting.

- It doesn't cause as much shock and offense as it used to.



This is a spin on the rape in which a women's body is replaced by a face instead.




Robin Adèle Greeley

Oxford Art Journal
Vol. 15, No. 2 (1992), pp. 48-57

Published by: Oxford University Press

Article Stable URL: www.jstor.org...


Witt, Mary Ann Frese. "THE TARGET." Comparative Literature 1(2010):100. eLibrary. Web. 08 Mar. 2011.



Week 8-9: continue research and gathering more sources.

Week 10: Start writing

Week 11: Finish at least half of essay

Week 12: Finish essay 1st draft

Week 13: make corrections

Week 14: complete Ore forms and add final touches such as more photos

Week 15: Turn it in



DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.