This notorious Surrealist sculpture was the shocking outcome of a conversation between artists Meret Oppenheim, Pablo Picasso and photographer Dora Maar in a Parisian cafe during the 1930's. Admiring Oppenheim's fur-encrusted jewellery, Picasso postulated that one could cover virtually anything with fur, to which she replied "Even this cup and saucer."  Soon after this seminal encounter, Oppenheim partook in the first Surrealist exhibition devoted to demonstrating humdrum objects in unusual, paradoxical situations that sought out to defy the status-quo and summon subconscious and philosophical nuances - a common objective also shared by many in the modernist literary world. Modernist writers such as T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf believed that traditional, Victorian approach to art, politics, literature, religion, social organisation and daily life were becoming outdated in the new economic, social and political circumstances of an emerging fully industrialised world. Object - entitled Le Déjeuner en fourrure (The lunch in fur) - is a ceramic cup, saucer and spoon lined with the fur of a Chinese gazelle. By doing so, Oppenheim was able to convert an ordinary, genteel item typically associated with feminine decorum into a sensuous, erotically-punning and to some extent, sinister piece of tableware. Object offers a wry and derisive allusion to female sexuality and the gender politics of the time. Operating in a fundamentally male dominated industry, Oppenheim endeavoured to make a statement against the prevailing Victorian, perspectives that not only governed the art and literary worlds, but also the everyday lives of both men and women of the modernist age. In this essay, I will be discussing gender and sexuality and its progression during the modernist literary period, particularly in T.S Eliot's The Waste Land, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse as well as examining sexuality and gender in the Surrealist art movement.
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The examination of gender and sexuality throughout the modernist period should commence with the revolutionary work of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), who argued that all behaviour is stimulated by the inherent urge to feel pleasure. Freud believed, two impulses - sexuality and creativity (eros), and aggression, or the death drive (thanatos) - are dominated by a visceral energy that is known as the libido. In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) and in his subsequent discourses on group psychology, religion, and creativity, Freud accentuated the power of the libido, the force, as he perceived it, was responsible for the most crucial qualities of human civilisation.  Owing to physical development, the libido is not only the impetus for grand artwork, but also for social stability, and even human development itself. Freud's theories had an immeasurable impact upon the literature and art of the modernist and surrealist periods, to such a degree that his significance on illuminating the struggles and desires of the psyche encouraged to move contemporaneous and progressive discussions on sexuality and gender out of the Victorian closet. Such writers as Virginia Woolf and T.S. Eliot adopted Freud's theories and turned them into the foundation of their work. They sought out to criticise naturalistic writers, who wished to merely chronicle the unembellished and austere details of the surrounding world. The philosophies of Freudian psychology are implemented throughout To the Lighthouse for example. The narrative arrangement is a literary adaptation of the weight that psychology establishes on the introspective existence of emotions and desires. This innovative form of psychology proposed that longings, emotions, and impulses are crucial in understanding human individuality rather than ordinary, cogent thoughts. T.S. Eliot was himself in psychotherapy due to his troubled marriage with first wife whilst he wrote The Waste Land, a poem the language of which exhibits great deterioration and illogicality.
Albeit the historical context wherein Woolf and Eliot wrote was one of revolutionary global events, Virginia Woolf's personal turmoil's and unique shrewdness were perhaps the most significant facets of her work in terms of gender and sexuality. In her posthumously-published autobiographical essays, Moments of Being, she recognises her esoteric beliefs concerning the "complete model of Victorian society" she experienced in her youth. Nevertheless, she illuminates that she was by nature one of her epoch's "explorers, revolutionists, reformers".  Her father, who embodied the quintessential Victorian male, incited both veneration and rebellion in Woolf. She portrays such ambiguity in her depiction of James and Cam Ramsay in To the Lighthouse. At the time of her mother's death, her father's arbitrary proclivities became increasingly repressive and grew to be insufferable towards Woolf and her sister, Vanessa. While she idolised her mother, it was only through the composition of To the Lighthouse that Woolf was able to exorcise her mother's ghost. She realised that writing the novel, would present a fundamental catharsis, as she utilised her parents as a mechanism to reconcile her own conflicts about traditional male and female roles, to cull what out of her experience growing up in a Victorian world was worth preserving and what ought to be cast aside, and to unearth her voice as an artist, as Lily Briscoe ultimately achieves in her painting and indeed Meret Oppenheim achieved with Object.
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Surrealism, the primary artistic movement to candidly tackle the themes of love, passion and various characteristics of sexuality, and according to André Breton (its self-appointed, despotic leader and manifesto creator), Surrealism was adherent to "the omnipotence of desire."  Whether heterosexual fantasy, post-adolescent infatuation or intimate journey, Surrealism was the most ostensibly sexual movement of the last hundred years. Originally, women were of great consequence to the Surrealists, not as artists however, but as muses and lovers. As sexual creatures of who stimulated ingenuity, they were treasured, but as actual women in the art world, they were misconstrued and feared. The female Surrealists were often fascinated by the male Surrealists' liberal and innovative free-spirits. Many of the Surrealist females, including Meret Oppenheim were by and large a generation younger than their male equivalents meaning they were often adored as long as they adhered to the femme-enfant role - the Surrealist paradigm of the child-woman.
T.S. Eliot's affiliation with the early modernist spheres of gender and sexuality remains largely un-investigated in contrary to Virginia Woolf and indeed Surrealism. By contrast, other more patriarchal male modernists such as W.B. Yeats and James Joyce have been considerably questioned for their allusions to gender and sexuality and their cautious articulations in the convoluted gender disputes of their generation (perhaps this is owing to their evident affiliation with Irish politics, enabling a facile transition towards other social concerns). Written in a society infatuated with avarice, turmoil and extravagance, The Waste Land manages to thwart this social deterioration. Whether it is due to the aftermath of World War I or the modern age, Eliot succeeds to manipulate this social quandary through allusions of a depreciated wasteland and its inhabitants. Using an enigmatic and abstruse manner, Eliot portrays the want for spirituality and morals, and recapitulates the necessity for reform by means of faith and conscientiousness. In The Waste Land, Eliot reveals several instances of sexuality and gender roles to demonstrate fertility, yet simultaneously, in contradiction portrays impotency. With scenes unexpectedly altering and characters relentlessly varying, the poem fruitfully engrosses the reader to see beyond existing society and concentrate more on the intrinsic struggles that define it.
Eliot often articulates disenchantment due to episodes of pointless sex in The Waste Land, as is seen through the character of 'Philomel' in Part II. A Game of Chess, upon who sex is "rudely forced"  . Indeed, Eliot utilises several instances of joyless sexual scenarios, including the wealthy woman and her lover who would more willingly play chess rather than have sex, and the poor couple for whom sex becomes a means for merely satisfying the husband's urges, and even then, only if his wife puts on "a nice set" of teeth as he "can't bear to look at" her.  There is unquestionably no love in any of these unions, and in the instance of the poorer husband and wife, the wife has begun suffering abortions because she "nearly died of young George,"  her son. This premeditated death of new life is further way for Eliot to illustrate how individuals are disillusioned concerning sex and how procreative potential is in many cases rendered meaningless. Perhaps the most notorious example of a hollow and insipid sexual encounter occurs during the scene between the typist and the clerk in 'Part III. The Fire Sermon'. Following this phlegmatic sexual escapade, in which the man succeeds in fulfilling his lusts, he absconds leaving the woman alone, who is "hardly aware of her departed lover". Her apathy is revealed through her nonchalant conducts as "She smoothes her hair with automatic hand, / And puts a record on the gramophone."  Her hand, not unlike the sex itself, is "automatic," lacking passion and solely a monotonous deed. Eliot reveals the demise of worth, in this case through sexuality and through imagery of loveless sex, by demonstrating that this is indeed the case for both the rich and the poor. Eliot implies that human society has neglected the exhilarating, passionate and conceptive focus of love making, and instead sex is insincere, and in the case of abortion, an infertile act. This in many respects can be seen as somewhat autobiographical; much in the same way Woolf endeavoured to expel the lingering memory of her mother through To the Lighthouse, Eliot too sought to eject his own disenchantment of sex due to his failing marriage with his estranged first wife with The Waste Land.
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Despite being a method to come to terms with her mother's passing, To the Lighthouse also serves as a powerful means to shed light on the gender conventions of the time. Virginia Woolf often scrutinised male supremacy and the discrimination coupled with it; Woolf particularly criticised the paucity of equal opportunities for females in literature and art as is illuminated in her extended essay A Room of One's Own. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Woolf did not think women should aim to be like men. She believed, in actual fact, that men ought to absorb several characteristics associated with women. In To the Lighthouse Lily Briscoe's painting symbolises a mêlée against gender convention, as is epitomised by Charles Tansley's avowal that "women can't paint, women can't write". Lily's yearning to embody Mrs. Ramsay's quintessence as a wife and mother in the painting imitates the urge among modern women to identify and appreciate familiarly the gendered ordeals of the women who came before them. Lily's art challenges her to discover and comprehend Mrs. Ramsay's captivating allure just as Woolf's composition of Mrs. Ramsay as a character, embodies her attempt to depict her own mother.
The composition also symbolises the adherence to a female artistic vision, articulated by means of Lily's reluctance of showing it to William Bankes. In resolving to complete the painting regardless of what may come to pass, becomes the fundamental issue for Lily, thus giving her an opportunity to ascertain her individual artistic voice. She is also pursuing some kind of permanence, something that would be akin to Mrs. Ramsay's instances of boundlessness she made when the "Boeuf en Danube" dinner was served. Illustrated as a young and inexpert artist in "The Window", grappling with her need for self-assurance and sense of worth, Lily returns to the final part of the novel far more adept and competent. It is through confronting Mr. Ramsay, a powerful symbol of Victorian masculinity that eventually fortifies her dedication to the power and importance of art. Ultimately, she resolves that her concept depends on harmony and synthesis, amassing incongruent things in unity much like Oppenheim's Object. In this respect, Lily's painting mirrors Woolf's literature and indeed Oppenheim's sculpture, which all amalgamate the assessment of arriving to an unprejudiced and accurate portrait of the world.
By concentrating mainly upon Lily Briscoe and Mrs. Ramsay in To the Lighthouse, Woolf allows herself to explore two varieties of ingenuity present in women, that of art and creativity, carried out unceremoniously by numerous women and men of her own class, and that of women in their traditional and conjugal responsibilities as spouses, mothers, and hostesses, of which her own mother, was evidently a primary example. As has been well observed, Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway characterises Woolf's initial comprehensive depiction of the married female as social artist. To the Lighthouse however, is so critically affected by the particular circumstances that influence women and their creativity; Woolf as well as Oppenheim linger to seek the greater questions of the artist's rapport with life in general and to domesticity and sexuality above all, regardless of gender. Woolf's increasing animosity towards the world's inequalities and cruelty that are so arresting in her preceding novels, have been substituted by a more established, confident observation of creativity and art. It appears that she finally obtains that peace that was needed to complete her artistic vision in harmonising Lily and Mrs. Ramsay, the painter and the domestic artist, establishing ultimately that no matter the vocation, women will always have creative potential.
T.S Eliot's poem The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock" shows a wholly patriarchal aspect to the gender debate of the modernist age on the other hand. It is in many ways, a scrutiny of the tormented psyche of the archetypal modern man - overeducated, articulate, erratic and phlegmatic. Eliot's Prufrock asserts an important strain and allusion to sexuality in the poem. In the poem, Prufrock wishes to propose to a lady, or at the very least declare his passion for her, but is eventually too angst-ridden to do so. Undeniably, Prufrock's apathy encompasses his both his social and sexual concerns; the two usually intertwined. Interestingly, Prufrock's name resonates that of a "prude" in a "frock," and the protagonist's emasculation appears in several physical descriptions such as "his arms and legs are thin" and particularly "how his hair is growing thin".  The remainder of the poem catalogues Prufrock's incapacity to perform; he cannot, "after tea and cakes and ices, / Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis"  .
The pivotal image of his angst is his being "pinned and wriggling on the wall"  beneath the unflinching gaze of women (which intensifies as the women's eyes are reminiscent of their "Arms that are braceleted and white and bare"  , both seeming oddly disconnected from their bodies). Here the women appear to be taking notice of him, however unreceptive they may be. Towards the end of the poem, Prufrock feels shunned from the society of women when mentions "mermaids singing, each to each. / I do not think that they will sing to me"  . Prufrock's fixation with his baldness becomes apparent; the alluring yet narcissistic mermaids disentangle the "white hair of the waves blown back"  . As hair is often believed to be a symbol of virility, Eliot proposes that Prufrock's lack of emotion is acutely embedded in psychosexual torment.
Eliot concurrently applauded the ending of the Victorian era and articulated anxieties about free-will intrinsic to the modernist age. Prufrock echoes the emotions of emasculation suffered by many men upon their return home from the war to find women emancipated by their new responsibilities as bread-winners. The Waste Land on the other hand portrays the changing nature of gender roles by depicting rape, prostitution, abortion, and other occurrences of joyless sex. Nonetheless, the poem's focal character, Tiresias, is turned into a hermaphrodite and his faculties of divination and metamorphosis are, in some way, due to his male and female sexual organs. With Tiresias, Eliot creates a role that incorporates harmony, epitomised by the two genders fusing in one body.
To the Lighthouse on the contrary, conveys the incongruities felt by modernist women operating in an altogether patriarchal world by composing Lily Briscoe, as a self-sufficient female who does not believe that marriage is the path to attain happiness and fulfilment. Lily is a scrupulous individual who is fêted in the novel for unearthing harmony using her own faculties as is shown in the final lines upon the completion of her work of art. On one hand this composition behaves as an emblem for realising her uniqueness without needing to be at the mercy of the clichéd concept of a woman only achieving contentment owing to her function as mother and wife.
Through Mrs Ramsay, however men are valued and esteemed for their reliability, depended upon for dealing with insalubrious issues like governing colonies, "for the fact they negotiated treaties, ruled India, controlled finance"  and for making women feel unique, warranting acts of "chivalry and valour"  . Men are thus perceived in terms of physical strength and power of mind, of their acumen and inherent authority as well as gentlemen who regard women as sexual objects. This coincides with the hackneyed portrayal of men who are allegedly biologically endowed to react and take control of a situation. Simultaneously Mr Ramsay, in spite of his supreme intelligence and position as head of his family, is revealed to have worries and vulnerabilities by needing emotional support from his wife. While this offers an ostensible digression from the usual representation of Victorian masculinity, it nevertheless corresponds with the stereotype that men will ceaselessly ache to have their egos massaged, which reveals that their significance is more weighty than that of a female's and their sheer power is established. Men like Charles Tansley, however, are critiqued by the characters throughout the novel for their emasculate qualities referring to him as "a miserable specimen...He couldn't play cricket; he poked, he shuffled."  Tansley is a figure not unlike Eliot's Prufrock, jeered for his masculine shortcomings and unable to declare his affections for his beloved Mrs. Ramsay in much the same way Prufrock is incapable to "force the moment to its crisis."
This portrayal of men also exposes a corollary for women. They are submissive and docile, desiring men to appoint themselves with the arduous and pressing facets of society so that they feel safe-guarded and treasured. Mrs Ramsay believes that women ought to marry so as to experience a gratifying way of life. This is indubitably evident in several of Mrs Ramsay's judgments and unspoken musings; she logically presumes that Lily, "With her little Chinese eyes and her puckered-up face ... would never marry"  - must and ought to get married, and also associates beauty with one's odds of acquiring a husband. Nevertheless, the Woolf does not merely tolerate Mrs Ramsay's outdated views, and by way of Lily, Mrs Ramsay's inclinations are scrutinised and revealed as insular, if not intolerant and supercilious. Lily is pieced together as the most insightful and unbiased character in the novel and thus her opinions are favoured over others. She is unwilling to acknowledge Mrs Ramsay's attitudes on gender roles and marriage and refrains from accepting that marriage is her only option in life. However, she appreciates that she fell incredibly close to believing Mrs. Ramsay's Victorian female ideal, "She had only escaped by the skin of her teeth ... and need never marry anybody, and she had felt an enormous exultation." 
Interestingly To the Lighthouse, The Waste Land and Prufrock all sustain gender and sexuality with stereotypical examples of imagery. In To the Lighthouse, men are observed in terms of rigid, sharp items, reflections of metal and construction, while women are described through imagery of flora, fauna and fertility. Mr Ramsay is portrayed as "lean as a knife, narrow as the blade of one"  to reveal his sharp, logical intellect, but it also conveys his narrow-mindedness, believing his opinion as the true opinion and beyond doubt. Mrs Ramsay is often described with images of nature, such as a flower or tree who folds "herself together, one petal closed in another"  ..."and as she did so she felt she was climbing backwards, shoving her way up under petals that curved over her".  She is also described as a goddess who's beauty was such that "The Graces assembling seemed to have joined hands in meadows of asphodel to compose that face."  , and a maternal-figure and guardian that "Stepping through fields of flowers and taking to her breast buds that had broken and lambs that had fallen."  More importantly she is described with metaphors of fertility, as "delicious fecundity and spray of life", conveying her lush, sexual allure and her ability to possess "the whole of her other sex under her protection." 
Fertility is also a theme very much apparent in Eliot's poetry. He envisaged modern society as a wasteland, wherein neither the soil nor its inhabitants could conceive. In The Waste Land, numerous characters are sexually frustrated or maladjusted, incapable to endure either reproductive or non-reproductive sexuality. The Fisher King for example, epitomises tarnished sexuality (according to the fable, his impotence triggers the earth to become wither and parched). Eliot reveals the Fisher King as emblematic of mankind, stripped of its sexual vigour in the contemporary world and allied to the futility of urban existence. The character of Tiresias, an "Old man with wrinkled female breasts"  , connotes androgynous sexuality. He observes the sexual encounter between a female typist and a clerk. No sincere emotion or passion is discerned and even sexual desire is lost, and again rape is insinuated when the clerk "assaults her at once"  . The female typist's poignant and ethical ennui is harmonised by mechanical images and she conveys a sense of being almost inert and solely prostituting herself. While the woman in II. A Game of Chess was conscious of her companion and required a response, the typist is not. She personifies a zealous alternative of an egocentric individual and her and the women seen conversing in II. A Game of Chess embody a type of tempestuous sexuality born from the jaded and de-sensitised perceptions of sexuality and gender in post-War society.
In conclusion, it can be established that the themes of gender and sexuality were of great importance both in modernist literature as is seen through the examples of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock and Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, not to mention it's magnitude within the Surrealist art movement of which Object was a part. In To the Lighthouse the matter of gender and sexuality can never be seen independently and ultimately they are dealt with only from the perspective of the upper classes, where women were not as inhibited by monetary and conjugal concerns and though endeavouring to disassemble or demystifying the gender pecking order, it insufficiently distinguishes the social class order and this topic remains quashed. Furthermore, the novel assures only tragedy for the women who consent to the roles carved out for them. Mrs. Ramsay dies suddenly at a reasonably young age. The narrative seems to castigate the women who accept roles as spouse and mother, while it flourishes with young women who are convinced that they want a different life. The Waste Land and Prufrock employ gender and sexuality as two of its crucial themes. It is filled of gendered representative images like rape and rejected women and men, or the impotent (Fisher King). The theme of sexuality and gender usually leads to frustration, panic and brutality, apparent in the overall reproductive incapacity of all the characters, which again suggests spiritual collapse and is representative of Eliot's and Woolf's view of modern culture and society. Culture and society disintegrating is related with the concern of the roles of women during the modernist age, as the examples of the chess woman, the typist, the women who taunt Prufrock and Mrs. Ramsay demonstrates.