1st Edition

The Animal Surreal The Role of Darwin, Animals, and Evolution in Surrealism

By Kirsten Strom Copyright 2017
    180 Pages
    by Routledge

    180 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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

    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


    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.