Foreword | November 07, 2019

Surrealism is often associated with an absurdist worldview and the gloomier aspects of the larger movement of existentialism. Yet André Breton’s defining 1924 Manifesto of Surrealism is playful and hopeful in tone about the power of the human mind and art. Breton uses the word “luminous” twice in the manifesto, first by imagining himself to be living in or visiting the “romantic ruins” of a castle on the outskirts of Paris, a place occupied and enjoyed by the artists, writers, and philosophers he feels blessed to know, who reach that castle by means of a “luminous road.” He recognizes that this is just a fantasy but asks rhetorically “why not” imagine that one might live in such a place. In the second passage he refers to the “luminous phenomenon” of how the mind works and how the spark between two ideas—the association of ideas—can lead to beauty and meaning. In Breton’s thinking and in the larger movement, surrealist ideas arose from new views about both the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the mind and its creative potential.

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