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Exist Otherwise Literary Journal

Current Issue (#9)

Our Mission

Exist Otherwise Literary Journal. We are a journal of creative writing and photography inspired by the gender-nonconforming writer, artist, and activist, Claude Cahun. Issues will be published on this site on the thirteenth day of the following months: January, March, May, July, September, and November. Issues will also be available online here and as a downloadable PDF. We pay $15 per published piece. Most calls for submission will begin with a theme and a prompt.

Claude Cahun was a Jewish French gender-bending writer, artist, activist, and anti-fascist in the first half of the last century. Their creative and political work centered on identity and opposition to cultural conformity. They were part of the surrealist movement, performed acts of symbolic cultural protest and propaganda, and was imprisoned for their work in the French Resistance.

(As clear as Cahun was in rejecting a gender binary for themself, they used the pronouns she/her when referring to themself in their writing. Making Queer History, while acknowledging this fact, makes a convincing argument for the use of they/them in the face of uncertainty on this issue. An interesting research project would be an exploration of pronoun usage in Cahun’s time, especially amongst her many contemporaries and collaborators.)

Cahun was primarily a self-portraitist. They used personas and created tableaus, confessions, scripts, collages, montages, and sculptures that challenged cultural norms and expectations, particularly regarding gender and art. Their work included many surrealistic references, influences, and imagery.

Cahun did not work alone. They had a lifetime partner and collaborator named Marcel Moore.

Cahun’s most well-known book, Disavowals or Cancelled Confessions, is hard to categorize…

It appears autobiographical and, indeed, is disarming in the directness of some of its personal descriptions. At the same time, the text calls into question concepts of fixed gender identity and self-knowledge, and is not beholden to any notion of truthfulness … it eschews conventional narrative and realism in favour of aphorism and episodic interludes, and perhaps should be better seen as a series of ‘poem-essays and essay-poems,’ … The book also has a strong visual aspect, with each section introduced by a photomontage by Cahun, typically with self-portraits showing her in various guises … the richly layered text and photomontages create a hunorous but also fragmented and disorienting vision of the narrator.

Jennifer Mundy, in the Introduction to Disavowals

We are inspired by Claude Cahun but not looking to imitate them. You don’t have to be familiar with Cahun, or their work, to submit to us.