All terms

What is surrealism?

A movement in art and literature that seeks to break free from traditional ways of thinking and to explore the realm of the unconscious mind.

Unleashing the Power of the Unconscious: A Surreal Look at Surrealism

At its core, surrealism is a movement in art and literature that seeks to break free from traditional ways of thinking and to explore the realm of the unconscious mind. Founded in 1924 by the French writer and poet André Breton, surrealism aims to liberate the human imagination and unleash the full potential of creative expression.

The surrealists rejected the rationality and order of modern society, instead embracing chaos, spontaneity, and irrationality. They sought to tap into the power of the unconscious mind, an uncharted territory that they believed held the key to artistic and intellectual freedom.

Surrealist works often feature bizarre and dreamlike imagery, seemingly unrelated objects and ideas, and a general sense of disorientation and unpredictability. The surrealist artist or writer aims to create a world that is not bound by the rules of logic or reason, but rather by the limitless possibilities of the imagination.

While surrealism is often associated with visual art, it has had a profound impact on literature as well. Some of the most famous surrealists include writers like Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, and Max Ernst, who used language to unlock new realms of thought and meaning.

Overall, surrealism remains an influential and thought-provoking movement in both art and literature, challenging us to expand our minds and push beyond the boundaries of what we thought was possible.

Surrealism: Two Literary Examples That Will Make Your Head Spin
Surrealism in literature can be both unsettling and awe-inspiring, often blurring the line between dream and reality.
The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

The Persistence of Memory is an iconic work of surrealist art, but it also inspired a famous poem by David Shapiro. His work, "A Man Holding An Acoustic Panel," describes the same melting watches that are featured in Dali's painting. Shapiro's poem takes the image to a new level, however, exploring the psychological significance of the watches in vivid and evocative detail.

"It doesn't matter that one watch is leaning on a dead branch, / or that another is clockless with no more floor above it. / It doesn't matter that the ocean waits like a pail of pitch / even though the pail is used up for the day.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka's existential masterpiece, The Metamorphosis, is a prime example of surrealism in literature. The novel follows the story of Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman who wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed into a giant insect.

The surrealism of the novel lies not just in the absurdity of Gregor's transformation, but in the way that Kafka explores the psychological and emotional consequences of such a transformation. As Gregor struggles to come to terms with his new identity and his family tries to deal with his sudden and inexplicable change, the novel becomes a haunting and deeply affecting exploration of the human condition.