Toward the Poetics of Surrealism

Toward the Poetics of Surrealism

Toward the Poetics of Surrealism

Toward the Poetics of Surrealism

Excerpt

In 1937, a new surrealist gallery called Gradiva opened in Paris. The occasion was marked by the appearance of a tract signed by the gallery's director, André Breton, affirming the "non-value" of certain concrete elements mentioned in a description taken from a story by the Hungarian novelist Alexandre Marai. Without categorically asserting as much, Breton's text gives us to understand that he prized the latent value of things far more than their manifest content. For this reason, evidently, he named his gallery after the heroine of a tale by W. Jensen, brought to the attention of surrealists in France by Freud's analysis of the story in his The Interpretation of Dreams.

In surrealist parlance, the distinction between latent and manifest content is all-important. The former is associated with imaginative freedom. On the other hand, the latter betokens the depressing consequences of a utilitarian principle diametrically opposed to the pleasure principle governing imaginative activity. Looking back to our own childhood we readily appreciate what is involved here.

Any child can testify, in a way that Breton surely would have appreciated, to the inexplicable attraction, the latent appeal, of objects which, to an adult, appear mani-

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