Surrealism

surrealism (sərē´əlĬzəm), literary and art movement influenced by Freudianism and dedicated to the expression of imagination as revealed in dreams, free of the conscious control of reason and free of convention. The movement was founded (1924) in Paris by André Breton, with his Manifeste du surréalisme, but its ancestry is traced to the French poets Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Apollinaire, and to the Italian painter, Giorgio de Chirico. Many of its adherents had belonged to the Dada movement. In literature, surrealism was confined almost exclusively to France. Surrealist writers were interested in the associations and implications of words rather than their literal meanings; their works are thus extraordinarily difficult to read. Among the leading surrealist writers were Louis Aragon, Paul Éluard, Robert Desnos, and Jean Cocteau, the last noted particularly for his surreal films. In art the movement became dominant in the 1920s and 30s and was internationally practiced with many and varied forms of expression. Salvador Dalí and Yves Tanguy used dreamlike perception of space and dream-inspired symbols such as melting watches and huge metronomes. Max Ernst and René Magritte constructed fantastic imagery from startling combinations of incongruous elements of reality painted with photographic attention to detail. These artists have been labeled as verists because their paintings involve transformations of the real world. "Absolute" surrealism depends upon images derived from psychic automatism, the subconscious, or spontaneous thought. Works by Joan Miró and André Masson are in this vein. The movement survived but was greatly diminished after World War II.

See A. Breton, Manifestoes of Surrealism (tr. 1969); L. Lippard, ed., Surrealists on Art (1970); R. Brandon, Surreal Lives (1999); studies by P. Waldberg (1966), W. S. Rubin (1969), S. Alexandrian (1970), H. S. Gershman (1969, repr. 1974), J. H. Matthews (1977), E. B. Henning (1979), A. Balakian (1987), H. Lewis (1988), and M. Nadeau (tr. 1967, repr. 1989).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction
David Hopkins.
Oxford University Press, 2004
The Imagery of Surrealism
J. H. Matthews.
Syracuse University Press, 1977
Surrealism and the Exotic
Louise Tythacott.
Routledge, 2002
Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction
Ben Highmore.
Routledge, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Surrealism: The Marvellous in the Everyday"
Working through the Contradictions: From Cultural Theory to Critical Practice
E. San Juan Jr.
Bucknell University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Surrealism: Aesthetics of Subversion
Surrealism and Architecture
Thomas Mical.
Routledge, 2004
The Black Surrealists
Jean-Claude Michel.
Peter Lang, 2000
The Invention of Politics in the European Avant-Garde (1906-1940)
Sascha Bru; Gunther Martens.
Rodopi, 2006
Dreams in Myth, Medicine, and Movies
Sharon Packer.
Praeger, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Symbolism and Surrealism"
Brief Encounter: The Meeting, in Mass-Observation, of British Surrealism and Popular Anthropology
MacClancy, Jeremy.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 1, No. 3, September 1995
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