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Glossary of Literary Theory
by Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown


A revolutionary approach to artistic and literary creation whose emergence as an identifiable movement coincided with the publication of André Breton's Manifest du surréalisme (1924). Influenced by the Symbolism of Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud and by the Freudian valorization of the unconscious, Surrealism, like Dada, which immediately preceded it, argues for complete artistic freedom, for the abandonment of all restrictions which might be imposed on the creator of art. The artist should relinquish all conscious control, responding to the irrational urges of the "deep mind," or unconscious. Hence the bizarre, dreamlike, and ni.htmlarish quality of surrealistic writing, which startlingly combines seemingly incompatible elements and violates all traditional artistic, philosophical, and moral norms and canons. As a movement, Surrealism flourished in France, Spain, and Latin America, comprising such artists as Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp, and Max Ernst. After World War II, it influenced such American writers as Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, John Ashberry, Nathanael West, and Bob Dylan.

© Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown,
University of Toronto
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Last modified: March 31, 1997