- The occultation of Surrealism: a study of the relationship between Bretonian Surrealism and western esotericism
- Award date
- 20 December 2012
- Number of pages
- Elck Syn Waerom Publishing
- Document type
- PhD thesis
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
It has been said that Surrealism was nothing if not deeply involved with occultism and Western esotericism. Others claim that there was no such involvement or even that Surrealism was directly opposed to the occult and esoteric. ‘The occultation of Surrealism’ offers a fresh view of this complex and important debate that has remained unresolved until now, and seeks to account for such differing opinions about the supposedly occult character of Surrealism, specifically under the leadership of its founder André Breton. Specific elements that have found a place in Surrealism, such séances, mediums, clairvoyance, prophecy, alchemy, and the corresponding worldview that is associated with magic, are studied in depth. The esoteric indeed fascinated Breton and his fellow Surrealists, and the relationship between Bretonian Surrealism and Western esotericism is analysed within its historical context, highlighting that his dynamic relationship changed significantly over time. This study explores the way in which esoteric currents were significant for Surrealism in particular ways and during certain periods of time, touching among other things upon the surrealist vogue for Spiritualist séances in the early 1920s, Breton’s demand for ‘the profound, veritable occultation of Surrealism’ in 1929, and surrealist art-magic in the 1940s. As the decades progressed, esotericism increasingly rose to prominence in Surrealism, until Breton would declare it an essential part of the surrealist life; even so, as this study argues, it always remained subservient to the overarching concerns of the surrealist movement.
- Research conducted at: Universiteit van Amsterdam
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