Few people have had as many influences on as many different fields as true Renaissance man Blaise Pascal. At once a mathematician, philosopher, theologian, physicist, and engineer, Pascal’s discoveries, experiments, and theories helped usher in a modern world of scientific thought and methodology. In this singular book on this singular genius, distinguished scholar Mary Ann Caws explores the rich contributions of this extraordinary thinker, interweaving his writings and discoveries with an account of his life and career and the wider intellectual world of his time.
Caws takes us back to Pascal’s youth, when he was a child prodigy first engaging mathematics through the works of mathematicians such as Father Mersenne. She describes his early scientific experiments and his construction of mechanical calculating machines; she looks at his correspondence with important thinkers such as René Descartes and Pierre de Fermat; she surveys his many inventions, such as the first means of public transportation in Paris; and she considers his later religious exaltations in works such as the “Memorial.” Along the way, Caws examines Pascal’s various modes of writing—whether he is arguing with the strict puritanical modes of church politics, assuming the personality of a naïve provincial trying to understand the Jesuitical approach, offering pithy aphorisms in the Pensées, or meditating on thinking about thinking itself.
Altogether, this book lays side by side many aspects of Pascal’s life and work that are seldom found in a single volume: his religious motivations and faith, his scientific passions, and his practical savvy. The result is a comprehensive but easily approachable account of a fascinating and influential figure.
"What is a face, really? Its own photo? Its make-up? Or is it a face as painted by such or such painter? That which is in front? Inside? Behind? And the rest? Doesn't everyone look at himself in his own particular way?"
With these words, Pablo Picasso described the revolutionary methods of painting and artistic perspective with which he challenged the ways people and the world were defined. His life was a similarly complex prism of people, places, and ideologies that spanned most of the twentieth century. Acclaimed scholar Mary Ann Caws provides in Pablo Picasso a fresh and concise examination of Picasso's life and art, revisiting the themes that occupied him throughout his life and weaving these themes through his crucial close relationships.
Caws embarks on a global journey to retrace the footsteps of Picasso, giving biographical context to his work from Les Demoiselles d'Avignon through Guernica and analyzing the changes and inconsistencies in his oeuvre over the course of the twentieth century. She examines Picasso's attempts to balance various viewpoints, artistic strategies, lovers, and friends, positing the central figures of the Harlequin, the clown, and the acrobat in his art as emblematic of his actions. Gertrude Stein, Max Jacob, Apollinaire, Jean Cocteau, André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Paul Eluard, and Roland Penrose all make appearances in these pages as Caws examines their influence on Picasso. Caws also delves into Picasso's tumultuous relationships with his lovers Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot, and Jacqueline Roque to understand their effects on his art.
A compelling and original portrait, Pablo Picasso offers a lively exploration into the personal networks that both challenged and sustained Picasso.
Robert Motherwell was by far the most intellectual and articulate of the Abstract Expressionists. This book, written by a friend of the artist, the well-known writer and critic Mary Ann Caws, examines Motherwell’s way of thinking and writing in relation to his paintings. The artist, American by birth, yet simultaneously American and European in his way of visualizing and vocalizing artistic and philosophical traditions, always worked between these two poles, and it is this tension that imbues his œuvre with its particular intensity.
The author bases her analysis of Motherwell on the artist’s own writings and readings, as well as on extensive conversations and interviews with him. She considers his work and interests in relation to those of other Abstract Expressionists as well as to the work of the Surrealists. Her book highlights his deep attraction to France and French literature and art, and his concern with the idea of elegy and the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War. His singularly American spirit provided him with a manner of painting and thinking unique among the Abstract Expressionists, as well as with a distinctive and highly personal filter through which to interpret his fascination with European literature and history.
“Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure—that of being Salvador Dalí.”
He was a force unto himself, an icon of outrageousness, artistic brilliance, eccentricity, and unmistakable style. Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí y Domènech, Marquis of Pubol, was one of the foremost artists of the twentieth century, and in this concise narrative acclaimed art historian Mary Ann Caws provides a sharply written survey of his life and work.
Salvador Dalí examines every twist and turn in Dalí’s long and multifaceted career and the pivotal artistic movements at whose center he stood. From his early life in the Catalan region and his expulsions from the School of Fine Arts in Madrid and other schools to the surrealist movement and his work with Buñuel on the films Un chein andalou and L’Âge d’or, Caws charts Dalí’s influences and creative process. Dalí’s turbulent personal life brought him in contact with a rich assortment of intellectual figures, and Caws considers his relationships with his family; his lovers, including the married Elena Diakonova; and with friends such as poet Federico Garcia Lorca. His writings, drawings, photography, and painted works offer up new clues about the artist under Caws’s incisive eye, as she analyzes his lesser-known writings and creative works, as well as his Surrealist paintings and “hand-painted dream photographs” such as The Persistence of Memory.
A masterfully written biographical study, Salvador Dalí paints an arresting portrait of one of the most elusive artists of our time.
Surprised in Translation
Mary Ann Caws University of Chicago Press, 2006 Library of Congress PQ143.E5C39 2006 | Dewey Decimal 428.0241
For Mary Ann Caws—noted translator of surrealist poetry—the most appealing translations are also the oddest; the unexpected, unpredictable, and unmimetic turns that translations take are an endless source of fascination and instruction. Surprised in Translation is a celebration of the occasional and fruitful peculiarity that results from some of the most flavorful translations of well-known authors. These translations, Caws avers, can energize and enliven the voice of the original.
In eight elegant chapters Caws reflects on translations that took her by surprise. Caws shows that the elimination of certain passages from the original—in the case of Stéphane Mallarmé translating Tennyson, Ezra Pound interpreting the troubadours, or Virginia Woolf rendered into French by Clara Malraux, Charles Mauron, and Marguerite Yourcenar—often produces a greater and more coherent art. Alternatively, some translations—such as Yves Bonnefoy’s translations of Shakespeare, Keats, and Yeats into French—require more lines in order to fully capture the many facets of the original. On other occasions, Caws argues, a swerve in meaning—as in Beckett translating himself into French or English—can produce a new text, just as true as the original.
Imbued with Caws’s personal observations on the relationship between translators and the authors they translate, Surprised in Translation will interest a wide range of readers, including students of translation, professional literary translators, and scholars of modern and comparative literature.
Surrealist Love Poems
Edited by Mary Ann Caws University of Chicago Press, 2002 Library of Congress PN6110.L6S87 2002 | Dewey Decimal 808.8193543
Love poetry includes, yes, descriptions of the beloved. And images of a fantastic idyll complete with falling stars, the sound of the sea, and beautiful countryside. In the hands of Surrealists, though, love poetry also includes gravediggers and murderers, dice and garbage, snakeskin purses and "the drunken kisses of cyclones." Surrealism, the movement founded in the 1920s on the ashes of Dada's nihilism, embraced absurdity, contradiction, and, to a supreme extent, passion and desire. From André Breton's battle cry of "Mad Love" to the quiet lyricism of Robert Desnos, Surrealist writers and artists obsessively expressed the permutations of that fundamental human state, love, and they did so with the vocabulary of the natural and unnatural world, the explicit language of sex, and a great deal of humor.
Surrealist Love Poems brings together sixty poems—many of them translated into English for the first time—by Surrealists who charged their work through with all forms of eroticism. Within these pages you will read the magnificent love poems of Desnos, which rank among the greatest in twentieth-century poetry, and hear the voices of lesser known "poets" such as Salvador Dalí and Frida Kahlo. Poems by familiar Surrealists such as Breton, the movement's leader, and Paul Eluard join work by Octavio Paz and Philippe Soupault. Interspersed with the poetry are photographs by Man Ray, Lee Miller, and Claude Cahun. Expertly and energetically translated by Mary Ann Caws, this collection seeks to demonstrate the truth of Breton's words, that "the embrace of poetry like that of bodies/As long as it lasts/Shuts out all the woes of the world."
To the Boathouse: A Memoir
Mary Ann Caws University of Alabama Press, 2008 Library of Congress PE64.C39A3 2004 | Dewey Decimal 809
A neat and lavish, if constricting, childhood in the lush landscapes of North Carolina. Summers at a calm, remote beach house. A proper and religiously influenced prep school in Washington. Years at Bryn Mawr, an impulsive study trip to Paris, further education at Yale, married life, and divorced life. These are the settings for Mary Ann Caws’s passionate memoir, in which she recounts the highs and lows of her journey through life. Marked by complicated relationships and a passion for learning, Caws’s story is one that resonates not only with writers like herself, but with all who have struggled with determining their path within the surrounding world.
Caws writes of her formal, stylish parents, her rebellious and deeply admired sister, and her artistic grandmother, whom she respected and idolized more than anyone else. She describes her marriage and subsequent divorce, her bouts with therapy, her children, and her growth as a student and writer. Throughout the memoir is evidence of her love for writing, teaching, art, and poetry as well as her deep respect for the people in her life that ultimately guided her into her career.
Mary Ann Caws describes Southern society and her own life with fondness, nostalgia, and a tinge of honest criticism. The carefully selected details and delicate balance of sentiment and fact bring readers into the fascinating, complicated, and all-too-real world of Caws’s—and our own—past.