Surrealistic Surrealism

While surrealism is one of my favorite art movements due to the bold techniques used and expressions/meanings conveyed, I cannot say the same about the surrealist literary movement though I do concede that it was an important movement within literature. I think the main reason that I enjoy the art movement more is due to the fact that I can see what the artist has done and draw semi-accurate interpretations of the meaning from looking at it, whereas I find surrealist literature to be difficult to follow or find meaning in and perhaps that is the entire purpose of surrealist literature. Moffat, Cramer, and Grant all three discuss Freud’s impact on surrealism but seem to focus more on the art that came of the period rather than the literature. It is only in Breton’s “Manifesto of Surrealism” that a clearer idea of how this translates into literature is presented with his definition of surrealism:

               Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express – verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner – the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern. … Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principle problems of life.

This definition/encyclopedia entry tells the readers of the manifesto that surrealism, in any form of communication, is the expression of thought without reason and is exempt from aesthetic and moral concerns. The lack of aesthetic purpose is noticeable in “Continuation of a Work in Progress” by James Joyce (later titled Finnigan’s Wake). The chapter of the work within “transition” no. 2 shows what Joyce was doing throughout the entire piece – playing with the spelling, grammar, and meanings of words to see if his work would then have discernable meaning behind it without those guidelines. I have not read the full work, so I am unable to say if that is the case, however I can appreciate that he what he was trying to do even if I personally do not enjoy the piece.