Surrealism and the sublime or the vertiginous plunging into the real



Publication Details

James, K. E. (2010). Surrealism and the sublime or the vertiginous plunging into the real. In A. Damlé and A. L¿Hostis (Eds.), The Beautiful and the Monstrous. Essays in French Literature, Thought and Culture (pp. 105-122). Oxford: Peter Lang.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9783039119004


Despite lifting the veil of those most primordial of forces, Eros and Thanatos, both of which are rooted in the material, if not base, the Surrealists have never ceased to incur criticism for eluding material reality. Little credit is given to them for approaching areas of human experience which have frequently been considered to be too taboo for representation, their explorations of the erotic and the deathly being frequently dismissed as poetic sublimations, which signify a flight from reality. They have thus been aligned with a specific agenda, most notably that of propagating a covert idealism which encourages its members to indulge in oneiric solipsism and thereby keep their heads immovably above the clouds. Moreover, the popular perception of Surrealism's leader which lingers on today is generally that of the young Andre Breton, the romantic idealist, who as a young man fought to reclaim the rights of the imagination and lost himself in poetry's forest of symbols, rather than the man who, as Foucault described him, tried to bring knowledge (that is to say, psychoanalysis, ethnology and art history) into literature in the manner of Goethe and took an interest in all aspects of the real.

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