Why Surrealism Matters

Mark Polizzotti


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Yale University Press
26 March 2024
ISBN: 9780300257090
232 pages

From the publisher

An elegant consideration of the Surrealist movement as a global phenomenon and why it continues to resonate

"Mr. Polizzotti carefully balances the movement's aspirations and attainments against its flaws and contradictions, hoping to recuperate Surrealism's 'critical and imaginative essence' for the present. . . . The best concise account of the movement available."-Michael Saler, Wall Street Journal

Why does Surrealism continue to fascinate us a century after Andre Breton's Manifesto of Surrealism? How do we encounter Surrealism today? Mark Polizzotti vibrantly reframes the Surrealist movement in contemporary terms and offers insight into why it continues to inspire makers and consumers of art, literature, and culture.

Polizzotti shows how many forms of popular media can thank Surrealism for their existence, including Monty Python, Theatre of the Absurd, and trends in fashion, film, and literature. While discussing the movement's iconic figures-including Andre Breton, Leonora Carrington, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Man Ray, and Dorothea Tanning-he also broadens the traditionally French and male-focused narrative, constructing a more diverse and global representation. And he addresses how the Surrealists grappled with ideas that mirror current concerns, including racial and economic injustice, sexual politics, issues of identity, labor unrest, and political activism. Why Surrealism Matters provides a concise, engaging exploration of how, a century later, the "Surrealist revolution" remains as dynamic as ever.