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Friday, November 2 • 9:00am - 10:30am
1.D. Underlying Forms

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PANEL. Underlying Forms

"Surréalisme, couleur du temps?"
Virginie Duzer
Pomona College

NOTE: this paper will be delivered in French
Taking as a point of departure the surrealist manifestos, as well as writings from Breton, Aragon, Desnos, Péret and Crevel, this paper aims at explaining how the famous surrealist focus on the image included the presence of colors. Because the surrealists used the photographic paradigm as a metaphor, and because, before the 1930’s rise of the “kodachrome”, every day popular pictures were usually either in black and white or painted, I will show that surrealist writings were initially themselves deprived of vivid colors, and that the coloring process was more similar to “quadrichromie” or CMYK, in that primary colors and black were added later. Amongst these three main colors, a hierarchy of preferences existed, and it could be argued that the (still present) poetic blue “azur” cherished by Baudelaire was replaced by a violent and bloody touch of Dadaist red. Left to Dostoyevsky’s description mocked by Breton in the 1924 Manifesto, the color yellow could first appear as being dismissed by surrealists – but that would mean forgetting the importance of light and explosion, as well as the fascination for women blonde hairs. Throughout my presentation, these literary findings will be confronted with the pictures, paintings and drawings of the same era, in order to question the surrealist relationship between what is to be read and what is to be seen.

"From the Marvelous to the Managerial: Life at the Surrealist Research Bureau"
Rachel Silveri
University of Florida
It has long been understood that surrealism was, in the words of Paul Éluard, “a state of mind” as much as it was an artistic project and a revolutionary endeavor. From Alfred Barr’s designation of surrealism as “a way of life” to Maurice Nadeau’s insistence that the movement “is neither written nor painted, it is lived,” historians and curators have varyingly positioned surrealism as a style of life, a way of living and being within the world. This paper advances the claim that one of the most concrete examples of surrealism “in life” resides in the creation of the Bureau de recherches surréalistes at the very start of the movement. Presenting a close reading of the Bureau’s Cahier de la permanence alongside artist correspondence and archival notes, my talk considers the various ways in which these artists fashioned themselves as employees of surrealism, often in a manner that mirrored dominant forms of office culture and organization in interwar France. In particular, I contend that the Bureau foregrounds André Breton’s ascendancy in the movement as a type of literal management, based in directing the actions of others. Here, surrealism as a way of life is no longer a vague abstraction nor a romantic ideal but rather the mire of actual power relationships revolving around Breton’s governance and administration. Towards conclusion, my talk offers a series of reflections on how Breton’s self-fashioning as manager persists and adapts with the global spread of the surrealist movement.

"Surrealist Commas: The Poetics and Politics of the List"
Lindsey Richter
Grace College
André Breton’s 1931 poem “Union libre” takes up a traditional 16th century poetic form, the “blason,” a listing and metaphorizing of parts of the female body, only to upend it, by constructing comparisons between his wife’s legs, eyes, lips and a proliferating series of concrete objects and abstractions. The same form would later be used by Paul Eluard in two blasons published in 1942. These instances of cataloguing in poetry parallel other interests of the Surrealists, who delighted in warping literary forms such as the dictionary and the glossary, and whose collections of objects ranged from primitive masks and fetishes to kitsch postcards. Irresistibly, the sewing machine and the umbrella multiply on the dissecting table. This paper argues that the list, seemingly a minor player limited to surrealist poetry, contributed to the breakdown in categories of genre and medium in the movement more broadly. In it, I will analyze surrealist list-making in poetry, objects, and art books from the 1930s to define a surrealist poetics of the series. These works probed at the very concept of category, using the list to destabilize its own founding principles. They form part of a new crise de vers that spurs the cross-contamination of forms in Surrealism in media such as the poème-objet. Furthermore, in constructing a non-hierarchized, non-ordered space, the list extended the movement’s revolutionary ideals into the poetry and art of the 1930s.

avatar for Virginie Duzer

Virginie Duzer

Associate Professor of French, Pomona College
Virginie A. Duzer's first book focused on literary impressionism, and her current book project deals with colors. She is on the editorial board of the Cahiers Benjamin Péret, and has published several articles about this poet.

Lindsey Richter

Grace College
avatar for Rachel Silveri

Rachel Silveri

Assistant Professor, University of Florida
Rachel Silveri is an Assistant Professor in the School of Art + Art History at the University of Florida. Her talk for the SURREALISMS conference comes from her current book manuscript, "The Art of Living in the Historical Avant-Garde: Artistic Self-Making in Interwar Paris," which... Read More →


Nathalie Dupont

Associate Professor of French; Director of French and Francophone Studies, Bucknell University

Friday November 2, 2018 9:00am - 10:30am EDT
Room D. Bertrand Library: Traditional Reading Room (second floor)