Sunday, July 12, 2009


I just wanted to clarify that I'm not writing about Breton &Co, not writing about the Surrealist movement, or artists who necessarily have anything to do with Surrealism.

I'm interested in the way "Surrealism" has come to be used as a criticism of abjectness and excess.

So that for example, in the new apr, Tony Hoagland criticizes a bunch of young writers for being too surrealist when their writing has not a crumble of surrealism about them.

Of course, this use of "surrealism" is not entirely arbitrary. Breton's inspiration came largely from ducking in and out of movies with Jacques Vache, creating their own montage of sorts. So, that may be a connection between the iconophilia of MJ I discussed below and the imager-saturatiaon associated with Surrealism. Surrealism was always very inte the slightly archaic and the grotesque. For exmaple they would write all this stuff about sensationalistic murders. They loved ugly old, tasteless buildings etc.

Also, I now realize I was wrong about Edson and I will check out some of texts Steve mentioned in the comment field. But again, it's not really Edson I'm interested in as much as the treatment of him.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyday I'm waiting for someone to truly go after the absolute fucking ridiculousness of "The Dean Young Effect" and everyday it's just these table scraps.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Vance Maverick said...

On the one hand, I understand why you and others dislike sloppy uses of the term "surrealism". On the other, policing this boundary, wherever one draws it, seems to recapitulate one of the least attractive features of the historical Surrealist movement -- the extreme self-consciousness, to the point of formal excommunication of those who crossed the boundary.

Is there a concise, useful, but flexible version of the term for contemporary use? Or are the sloppy uses in fact the best we can do?

7:37 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

I totally agree with you. Here I think are my views in a nutshell:

1) surrealims is used very loosely as a negative

2)but I don't want to do away with that, that interests me a great deal as I find most things that are interesting are the ones that don't fit it, that are excessive.

I hope this isn't too much of a self-contradiction.


8:59 AM  
Blogger Vance Maverick said...

Are you saying there's a bad sloppy use of the term, as a mere pejorative, which is worth resisting even without solving the problem of erratic descriptive/approbative uses? I can get with that.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Well, I mean, obviously there's a colloquial use and an art-based use. I don't really think that "lay people" are using the term "surreal" the way they do because they're totally misunderstanding The Surrealists or something like that.

As for Dean Young picking on too much "surrealism," I think that's a fair criticism, because he's obviously referring to art-surrealism, and his use of the word is based on a misconception or a misunderstanding, or that's how the argument goes anyway.

But honestly, Bill O'Reilly using the word "surreal"? I don't think even for a moment that he's calling on art-surrealism, so I don't think it's particularly useful to draw that connection.

3:45 PM  

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