The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 1 No. 1 (2007) - Table of Contents
"Introduction to the Journal" by Samantha Kavky, Claudia Mesch, and Amy H. Winter, p. i-iii.
"Anti-Surrealist Cross-Word Puzzles: Breton, Dalí and Print in Wartime America" by Julia Pine, p. 1-29.
"William Carlos Williams’ A Novelette: an American Counterproposal to French Surrealism" by Céline Mansanti, p. 30-43
"The Vernacular as Vanguard: Alfred Barr, Salvador Dalí, and the U.S. Reception of Surrealism in the 1930s" by Sandra Zalman, p. 44-67
"Ben Cobb, Anarchy and Alchemy: The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky" by David Church, p. 68-71
"Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted" by Marta Julia Clapp, p. 72-76
"Robert Desnos, Surrealism, and 'Poetic Politics'" by Terri J. Gordon, p. 77-80
"Dali and the Specter of Cinema" by Frédérique Camille Joseph-Lowery, p. 81-84
"Julia Kelly's Art, Ethnography and the Life of Objects: Paris, c. 1925-1935" by Susan Power, p. 85-90
"The Janus-faced Legacy of Joseph Beuys" by Tatjana Myoko von Prittwitz, p. 91-93
"A.J. Meek, Clarence John Laughlin: Prophet Without Honor" by Jeffrey Ian Ross, p. 94-98
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While the earlier affiliation between Salvador Dalí and André Breton had been, for the most part, fruitful and amicable, by the early 1940s when both had relocated to America as exiles from the war in Europe, their relations had become decidedly acrimonious. This animus is graphically revealed in the textual record the two left behind, in the form of treatises, memoirs, popular articles, transcribed lectures and exegeses: documents which map Breton’s efforts to differentiate the Surrealist movement as defined by his own directive, from that of the “popular” variety of Surrealism associated almost exclusively with Dalí in the United States. Likewise, they trace Dalí’s riposte, manifest in an attempt to minimize Breton’s profile in and contribution to Surrealism before an American audience via a program of negation. These “crossed words” document a vicarious “conversation” between Dalí and Breton between 1939 and 1944, when the two increasingly employed various text media to situate themselves and each other in terms of Surrealism in the New World. While not addressing each other directly per se, the “paper trail” in question registers the other’s presence either by direct reference, or conspicuous by its absence, and creates a dialectic that underscores the differences between what the two clearly identified as “orthodox” Surrealism as defined by Breton and his Parisian circle between the wars, and what might be termed “Dalínian” or “commercial” Surrealism – not necessarily endorsed by Dalí, but primarily associated with the artist and his work in North America.
In June 1930, transition, an American literary magazine printed in France between 1927 and 1938 under the direction of Franco-American journalist and poet Eugene Jolas, published “The Simplicity of Disorder”— three chapters from William Carlos Williams’ lesser-known work, A Novelette. Although Jacqueline Saunier-Ollier considers A Novelette “the work by Williams that was most influenced by surrealism,” it has received very little critical attention; in fact, only one article has been devoted to A Novelette so far. There are two main reasons for this critical neglect. First, A Novelette has a hybrid style, in spite of its generic form. It oscillates between novelistic and short story form, and between prose and poetry. Second, this paper will show that the history of the novel’s publication was problematic.
In a paper published in a special issue of the William Carlos Williams Review, which was devoted to Williams’ relationships to surrealism, Dickran Tashjian shows how Williams gives his personal definition of the issues and modalities of automatic writing in his 1936 manifesto “How to Write.” In this manifesto, Williams does not view automatic writing in a Freudian sense as the French surrealists do. On the contrary, he develops a Jungian philosophy inspired by his reading of Jung’s “Psychology and Poetry” in the June 1930 issue of transition – i.e., the same issue in which “The Simplicity of Disorder” is published. Unlike Dickran Tashjian and Jeffrey Peterson, I argue that Williams’ experiments are not “automatic writing” but “spontaneous writing.” Indeed, Williams dismisses outright the psychological work that “automatic writing” entails. For example, in this passage of a letter to James Laughlin, he says: “To hell with them. I’m afraid the Freudian influence has been the trigger to all this. The Surrealists followed him. Everything must be tapped into the subconscious, the unconscious …”
This paper aims to show that six years before “How to Write” was published and even before Williams had read Jung’s article in transition, “The Simplicity of Disorder” posed a critical challenge to French surrealism. Rather than “cutting a trail through the American jungle without the use of a European compass,” Williams uses the compass of French surrealism to follow a different path.
Furthermore, this analysis of A Novelette approaches Williams’ work as a stimulating and seminal response to French surrealism. Although Williams does not show any particular interest in the French surrealists’ signature themes (the city, night time, strolling, mystery, the Woman, chance, etc), he is eager to rethink surrealist writing according to three main axes. The poet develops a “spontaneous writing” which is unlike that of the French avant-garde. Though he characterizes it as less solemn, less conceptual, and less symbolic, he insists that it is uniquely American and more concrete than French surrealist writings. For Williams, writing is not an end in itself, but a way to show urgency. He uses spontaneous writing to express physiological relief, which is often sexual or excremental. The conclusion of this paper will show that transition plays a crucial role in generating a specific American literary surrealist current years before the official American Surrealist movement was created in 1966 in Chicago, and before Breton’s exile to the U.S. during World War 2.
- Kavky, Samantha (Author)
- Mesch, Claudia (Author)
- Winter, Amy H. (Author)
- Pine, Julia (Author)
- Mansanti, Céline (Author)
- Zalman, Sandra (Author)
- Church, David (Author)
- Clapp, Marta Julia (Author)
- Gordon, Terri J. (Author)
- Joseph-Lowery, Frédérique Camille (Author)
- Power, Susan (Author)
- von Prittwitz, Tatjana Myoko (Author)
- Ross, Jeffrey Ian (Author)