Reviewed by Riad Kherdeen (University of California, Berkeley)
Published on H-AMCA (August, 2018)
Commissioned by Sarah Dwider (Northwestern University)
Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=51391
Few modernist cultural movements spread and were adopted as widely during the first half of the twentieth century as surrealism. Initially launched in Paris following the end of the First World War, it began as a group of a few young male authors who turned to the writings of Sigmund Freud and his conceptualization of the unconscious to challenge the prevailing European epistemological orders of rationalism and positivism that they believed hindered their creative output. It quickly grew into a small but transformative cultural phenomenon that attracted a number of writers as well as visual artists in cities all over the world. Previous accounts of surrealism have largely framed it as a French invention with an eventual global distribution through francophone publication networks and beyond. What happens when, instead of retracing the one-way, hegemonic vectors of transmission from Paris to the rest of the world, we consider the development of and contributions to surrealism that occurred in places outside of Paris, London, and New York? The innovations and advancements made by writers and artists in these lesser-studied locales pluralized surrealism and, much to the discomfort of André Breton, that most protective and obtuse leader of the Parisian brand of “original” surrealism, pushed the movement in new and exciting directions.