Art, Surrealism, and the Grotesque Essay

4657 Words19 Pages
The term "grotesque" in art and literature, commonly refers to the juxtaposition of extreme contrasts such as horror and humor, or beauty and monstrosity, or desire and revulsion. One function of this juxtaposition of the rational and the irrational is to subdue or normalize the unknown, and thereby control it.
The simultaneity of mutually exclusive emotional states, and the discomfort it might cause, inspires a Freudian analytic critical approach because of its focus on controlling repressed desires through therapeutic rationality.

There are volumes of Freudian art criticism, which typically begin by calling attention to manifestations, in some work of art, of the darkest desires of the id. Perhaps in no field
…show more content…
In this discussion, I hope to put a different spin on surrealism and the grotesque by drawing on the works of Sartre, and if we're not too dizzy from spinning when all is said and done, I shall have put together a way to investigate the grotesque in Modernist art and contemporary life. After a summary of the surrealist's use of Freud and a look at Sartre's criticism of surrealism, we will look at surrealism in Sartre's work and derive an existentialist definition of the grotesque and examine how this might reconfigure the surrealist goal of liberation. Surrealist art is almost always analyzed in terms of
Freudian psychoanalytic theory because the surrealists openly announced Freud's study of the psyche as the inspiration for the practice of surrealism. Andr‚ Breton, author of the many surrealist "Manifestoes" and the self-appointed spokesman and scribe of the surrealist movement, eulogized Freud, who died in
1939, by writing that: ". . .the death of Freud is enough to render the future of psychoanalytic ideas uncertain, and threatens once again to turn an exemplary instrument of liberation into an instrument of oppression" (Breton 282).

The liberation to which Breton refers, has to do with the freeing of unconscious expression,
Get Access