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Obscure Objects of Desire Surrealism, Fetishism, and Politics

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford; New York
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199253425
DOIs
PublishedJan 2004

King's Authors

Abstract

In a speech given in Prague in 1935, André Breton asked, ‘Is there, properly speaking, a left-wing art capable of defending itself?’. But despite his conviction that surrealism did indeed offer such an art, Breton always struggled to make a theoretical connection between the surrealists' commitment to the cause of revolutionary socialism and the form that surrealist art and literature took. This book explores ways in which such a connection might be drawn, addressing the possibility of surrealist works as political in themselves and drawing on ways in which they have been considered as such by Marxists such as Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno. Encompassing Breton's and Louis Aragon's textual accounts of the object, as well as paintings and the various kinds of objet surréaliste produced from the end of the 1920s, it mobilises the concept of the fetish in order to consider such works as meeting points of surrealism's psychoanalytic and revolutionary preoccupations. Reading surrealist works of art and literature as political is not the same as knowing the surrealist movement to have been politically motivated. The revolutionary character of surrealist work is not always evident; indeed, the works themselves often seem to express a rather different set of concerns. As well as offering a new perspective on familiar and relatively neglected works, this book recuperates the gap between theory and practice as a productive space in which it is possible to recontextualise surrealist practice as an engagement with political questions on its own terms.

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