Friday – Surrealism

Wow, doesn’t this excerpt from Nietzsche remind you of Gogol’s world in “The Nose”?! “In man this art of simulation reaches its peak: here deception, flattery, lying and cheating, talking behind the back, posing, living in borrowed splendor, being masked, the dis­guise of convention, acting a role before others and before oneself-in short, the constant fluttering around the single flame of vanity is so much the rule and the law that almost nothing is more incomprehensible than how an honest and pure urge for truth could make its appearance among men.”

With his focus on self-deception, one thing Nietzsche did not think much of were dreams. More illusions. But Surrealism, a movement we’re going to look at briefly on Friday, saw dreams  as a source of Truth – they agreed with Nietzsche that everyday life was filled with deception and worse (especially after WWI),  but they sought the keys to Truth in the chaotic language of the UNCONSCIOUS. By using art to communicate with the unconscious, they hoped to open a door to a HIGHER reality, in French, a SURREALITY. In the disillusionment and misery after WWII, Surrealism was very appealing as a way to regenerate a society many thought had sunk to the depths, and a civilization whose industrial logic led to nothing but war and mass brutality.


Andre Breton

Andre Breton and the Surrealist Manifesto

You are probably already familiar with the surrealist painter Salvador Dali. In writing, a central figure was French Poet  Andre Breton (1896-1966). French poetry had a long tradition of incorporating Surrealist type imagery (see, for example,  the wild  Lautreamont , Baudelaire, and Rimbaud ), but it was Breton and his group who first put the name on it. His Surrealist Manifesto of 1924 laid out his ideas, and his poetry – much based on the technique of automatic writing, tried to embody Surrealist thought.




un-chien-andalou-french-posterUn Chien Andalou

Surrealism was even more a force in the graphic arts than in writing, and led to the creation of an odd monument of early Avant Garde film, Un Chien Andalou [Andalusian Dog].

Directed by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali in 1929, it ran for eight months in Paris when it came out. Presenting a changing series of scenes and images based on dream logic and the free association of ideas,  it is a great way to see what those Surrealists were up to. We’ll watch and discuss it in class.

A very good review by Review by Roger Ebert 



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