Exist Otherwise Literary Journal

Claude Cahun

Issue 3 is Live

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: September, November, January, March, May, and July. Issues will also be available online here and as a downloadable PDF. We pay $10 per published piece. Most calls for submission will begin with a theme and a prompt (see Submissions for details). One issue per year may be open-themed.

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

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

Cahun did not work alone. She 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 her. You don’t have to be familiar with Cahun, or her work, to submit to us.