The Animal Surreal: The Role of Darwin, Animals, and Evolution in Surrealism, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Animal Surreal

The Role of Darwin, Animals, and Evolution in Surrealism, 1st Edition

By Kirsten Strom


168 pages | 34 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781472488213
pub: 2017-05-15
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The Animal Surreal situates Surrealism within the burgeoning field of Animal Studies by examining Surrealist representations of nonhuman animals through the lens of Darwinian theory. Unlike Marx and Freud, Darwin was rarely cited by name as a source for the Surrealists, and yet his influence is present in various ways, such as the frequent inclusion of "natural history" imagery and the exploration of themes of mutability and mutation. Animals and our relationship to them furthermore constitute a significant source of inquiry for Surrealism, as evidenced by Max Ernst’s human-bird alter-ego Loplop, their avid interest in the praying mantis, the adoption of the Minotaur as emblem, and the frequently recurring birds, insects, horses, dogs, cats, giraffes, elephants, lions, and cows, among others, represented in Surrealist poetry, painting, and film. The Animal Surreal proposes that the Surrealists portrayed such animals as if they were literal embodiments of Surrealist themes such as the marvelous and the uncanny, and it documents the numerous ways in which the Surrealists willfully engaged the politics of the animal other in ways that implicitly, and on occasion explicitly, challenged what Freud would call "human narcissism."

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Chapter 1: An Introduction to Animals, Darwin, and Surrealism

Chapter 2: The Darwinian Uncanny

Chapter 3: A Darwinian Marvelous

Chapter 4: Les Espaces des Animaux: The Politics of Space in Human-Animal Relationships

Chapter 5: Hybridity, Variability, and Mutation

Chapter 6: Max Ernst, Loplop, Totems, and Taboos

Chapter 7: Les Animaux et leurs femmes, les femmes et leurs animaux

Chapter 8: Madness, Animals, Automatons, Automatism

Chapter 9: Human Animality: Natural and Sexual Selection in the films of Luis Buñuel

Chapter 10: The Other Darwinism: Surrealism and Social Darwinism

Chapter 11: Animality, Documents, and the Early Bataille

Chapter 12: Humans, Animals, and Sacrifice in Bataille’s Later Writing

Notes on Surrealist Participants

Works Cited

Author and Artist Index

Subject Index

About the Author

Kirsten Strom is a professor of art history at Grand Valley State University where she was a recipient of the Pew Teaching Excellence Award. She has published articles and book chapters on a range of topics including postmodern design, "dance anthropology," animal studies, and Surrealism.

About the Series

Studies in Surrealism

Studies in Surrealism
With scholarly interest in Surrealism greater than ever, the Studies in Surrealism series serves as a forum for key areas of Surrealist inquiry today. This series extends the ongoing academic and popular interest in Surrealism, evident in recent studies that have rethought established areas of Surrealist activity and engagement, including those of politics, the object, photography, crime, and modern physics. Expanding and adding various lines of inquiry, books in the series examine Surrealism's intersections with philosophical, social, artistic, and literary themes. Potential subjects to be examined in the context of Surrealism include but are not limited to: nature; queer studies; humor and play; science; theory in the 1950s and 1960s; the New Novel; Surrealist activities beyond Paris. Proposals are welcomed for both monographs and essay collections dealing with the above subjects or with discussions of Surrealism in other aspects and genres. Monographic writings on artists and writers who have been generally overlooked by English-language scholarship (for instance, Victor Brauner, Toyen, Jorge Camacho) would also fall within the scope of this series.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / General
ART / History / Contemporary (1945-)
ART / Subjects & Themes / Plants & Animals