Gender as trauma in Buñuel’s Un chien andalou

Caballero Rodriguez, Beatriz (2016) Gender as trauma in Buñuel’s Un chien andalou. Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies, 5 (2). pp. 41-57. ISSN 2162-3627

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There is no question that this pioneering surrealist short film sets out to break with expectations and has no plot as such. Even so, Buñuel’s Un chien andalou (1928) undoubtedly constitutes a reaction against conventions and the bourgeois society and values. Although much has been written about its anti-clerical content, less attention has been paid to the representation of gender in this film. Deeply influenced by psychoanalysis, this film is largely an exploration of trauma; on the one hand, the individual trauma’s of the screenwriters, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, but also some the traumas which lie at the core of post-WWI European society as viewed by them, such as the overbearing weight of religion and the inescapable awareness of our own mortality. This article contents that, as part of its wider critique of the establishment and of rationality itself, Un chien andalou also charges against traditional gender divisions and gender roles, to the point that a detailed analysis of the representation of gender in this film will reveal that gender, insofar as it is a social construct, is also portrayed and denounced as traumatic experience. In order to do this, this analysis will be carried out following Cathy Caruth’s psychoanalytic approach to trauma theory.