Study Guide

Surrealism Texts

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Surrealism Resources

Primary Resources

Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis (1915)
The protagonist of this famous novella wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant bug.

André Breton, "Free Union" (1931)
The speaker compares his wife's body to all kinds of strange things in this poem.

André Breton and Phillipe Soupault, The Magnetic Fields (1920)
In this Surrealist novel, written in ten day by the two authors, nothing makes sense.

Phillipe Soupault, Westwego (1922)
A poem by one of the original founders of Surrealism.

André Breton, The First Manifesto of Surrealism (1924)
This manifesto explains everything those Surrealists are up to.

Paul Éluard, Capital of Pain (1926)
This collection of poetry is a great entryway in the work of one of the most important Surrealist poets.

Paul Élaurd, "The shape of your eyes" (1926)
The speaker of this poem goes all mushy inside when he looks at his lover's eyes.

Robert Desnos, Liberty or Love (1927)
A novel composed using automatic writing technique. Warning: it's quite trippy.

André Breton, Nadja (1928)
This novel by Breton begins with the question: "Who am I?" and we'll be asking the very same question by the time we finish reading it.

André Breton, The Second Manifesto of Surrealism (1929)
The Surrealist Manifesto rebooted.

Robert Desnos, Body and Goods (Corps et biens) (1930)
This poetry collection showcases Desnos' talent for automatic writing.

Tristan Tzara, The Approximate Man (1931)
This epic poem by Tzara is considered to be his greatest contribution to Surrealism.

Tristan Tzara, "Seeds and Bran" (1935)
Here's a little poem in prose by Tristan Tzara. This poet loved to experiment with form.

Benjamin Péret, "Little Song of the Maimed" (1936)
In Péret's poem about World War I, a veteran remembers eating rats during the battle of Verdun. Blegh.

Louis Aragon, "The Free Zone" (1940)
In this poem, the speaker mourns the occupation of France by the Nazis during World War II.

Paul Éluard, "Liberty" (1942)
The speaker of this poem is obsessed with liberty.

Louis Aragon, Unfinished Novel (Le Roman Inachevé) (1956)
This novel—in verse—includes Aragon's famous poem "The Red Poster."

Secondary Resources

Anna Balakian, Surrealism: The Road to the Absolute (1986)
Here's a thorough introduction to the Surrealist movement. It's a great place to start.

Mary Ann Caws, Rudolph E. Kwenzli, Gwen Raaberg, eds., Surrealism and Women (1991)
This collection of essays delves into the work of women Surrealists and focuses on gender issues within Surrealism.

Robin Walz, Pulp Surrealism: Insolent Popular Culture in Early Twentieth-Century Paris (2000)
This scholarly study looks at how Parisian culture inspired Surrealism.

Katherine Conley and Pierre Taminiaux, eds., Yale French Studies 109: Surrealism and Its Others (2006)
This special issue of Yale French Studies journal focuses on how Surrealist writers related to each other and to others outside the movement.

Simon Baker, Surrealism, History, and Revolution (2007)
Surrealism explained via the French Revolution. Vive la France!

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