The Surrealism Manifesto Analysis English Literature Essay

1409 words (6 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 English Literature Reference this

Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by a university student. This is not an example of the work produced by our Essay Writing Service. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

The opening section of Nadja is used as a build up; it is an infused mixture of surrealist ideology combined with decisive moments of Breton’s life. Breton is striving ‘to discover the nature, if not the necessity’ (p13) between the differences of himself to others, his reflections on the chance meetings he has, makes him all too predisposed to meet Nadja, on that October day on the Parisian streets. It’s all too perfect, as Michael Sheringham puts it, ‘the city street is the true ground of surrealist adventure’ (Shringham, M. 2006). In over reading the opening section, it can feel somewhat like a justification, as if he’s justifying the atmosphere of ‘near impossible coincidence’ (Polizzotti, M. 1999) of meeting Nadja, but also as a justification, in the later part, of what happened to her. To him, during their first few encounters, she was ‘the extreme limit of the surrealist aspiration’ (p74), he introduced her, eagerly, to his surrealist circle; Nadja is oblivious to convention, prejudice and ambition, and without even ever heaving heard of the movement or the word, she lives surrealism, in a spontaneous and more complete way than members of Breton’s own surrealist circle were ever able to do. Their relationship has the intensity of a love affair, all of which beneath Nadja’s supposed objectivity, signals that is it guided by Breton’s subjective viewpoint.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Find out more

A subjective viewpoint which can feel like it neglects her madness, instead seeing her as a ‘free genius’, in fact, she becomes almost like his Muse, indispensable to him because he sees her as a key to his own subconscious. It becomes clear that Breton has chosen to ignore her own human frailty, and instead sees the being that fascinates him not as a real woman but ‘as a kind of living myth’ (Lynes, C. 1966).

M. Munson (2004) argues in her article that figures like Nadja make the expression of Breton’s subjective experience possible. Munson argues, ‘Breton hunts Nadja as much as he hunts the signal or sign which will indicate what direction to go in, what event to attend, what interpretation to give’. Breton’s is an artist on a quest to “descend into what is truly the mind’s lower depths, where it is no longer a question of the night’s falling and rising again,” (p40), and Nadja is the critical point in his quest. What is detrimental to her is that she almost seems to know this, she is quoted as saying ‘André? André… You will write a novel about me. I’m sure you will’. She was of course right, and by the end of the year he was ready to start writing about this ’emblematic figure’. (Polizzotti, M. 1999) Though, unsuprisignly, she soon became less enchanted by the idea when he showed her his notes of her, ‘How could I read this report … glimpse this distorted portrait of myself without rebelling, or even crying’. By the end of 1926 financially and emotinally desperate, Nadja moved to a ‘wretched’ hotel near the Breton’s apartment, for two months she tried desperately to win back favour, but in mid-Febuary she stepped out of Breton’s life and her ‘eccentricies’ (page 136) ‘darkened into serious abberation’ (Politzziti, M. 1999).

After which Breton makes no secret of Nadja’s insanity. ‘I was told several months ago that Nadja was mad’ and she was taken to the ‘Vacluse sanitarium’ (p.136). Yet as with the woman herself, Nadja’s madness is here magnified into a higher enlightenment, Breton sees her as fleeing from the ‘hateful prison’ of logic’ (p.143), even in her breakdown she remains that ’emblematic figure’ for Breton. In Bretons account, Nadja becomes the victim of poverty, of an uncomprehending society, Nadja, to Breton, is comparable to Sade, Nietzsche, and Baudelaire, all of whom were ‘shut up’ (p.141) like Nadja. She is even the victim of Breton’s own terribly decisive role in her own life- although as he tells it, his main fault was to give Nadja a too great taste for ’emancipation’ (p.142). Breton uses Nadja’s breakdown to provide the criticisms it seems he has wanted to apply to the field of psychiatry, a profession that Breton very nearly considered joining when he was a medical student. He embarks on seven page castigation, again defining the ‘Surrealist revolt’ against Cartesian bourgeois which consumes so many of his works, against psychiatry and its scholars; bitterly quipping ‘I suppose the most conscientious psychiatrist is not even concerned with cures’ (p.141).

Yet for all the compassion he seems to have for Nadja, which incidentally ebbs away at the ‘objectivity’ of the project, he never visited Nadja at the ‘Vacluse’ institution, and quickly eliminated her from all conversation. This of course may be because of his ‘general contempt for psychiatry’ (p.143), as he claimed, but it also seems that perhaps it’s because he recognized only too well that he had helped push Nadja into the breach of insanity by coaxing her initial madness beyond the limit. Throughout the work, he seems to have been so blinded by his search for marvels, ‘the signal or sign’ that M. Munson argued earlier, that Nadja’s behavior, as he later claimed, truly did not seem excessive to him. Or maybe Breton simply chose to ignore Nadja’s symptoms in any but their ‘poetic manifestation’ (Politzziti, M. 1999), maybe he only looked at her as a myth, not as frail woman, or maybe just as an ‘individuals unpremeditated reactions to certain phenomena, which reveal a hidden dimension of identity (Sheringham, M. 2006). Perhaps his subsequent protests of surprise at the news of her breakdown, anger at the psychiatric profession, and refusal to visit her at the Vacluse hospital all masked a deep guilt over her fate.

It is this guilt which causes Nadja to haunt the novel, or at least have a haunting presence; Najda has been described as a spectral essence, she is not all fact but she is not all fiction. It is for this reason why she haunts the novel; she has an unsettling presence, much like a ghost, in which we are aware that we are reading about a real person. Even the opening of Nadja suggests a haunting presence- the ‘Who am I?’ – ‘the leitmotif of all surrealist narrative’ (Brée, G.1983), we have something mysterious entering the scene, an alien, a haunting presence, that ‘something’ displaces Breton as the protagonist. Instead we focus on Nadja; who has a beautiful vulnerability about her, but which Breton magnified and distorted to make her appear as this symbolic gesture to his movement. His obsessive nature, coaxing her hysteria in the game playing, their rendezvous’, and even sexual intercourse all took, Nadja, ‘the soul in limbo’ (p.71), over the edge, out of limbo and into madness. Breton became the center of her dissolving life, and he recognized it; the succeeding pages of her breakdown, show to us more wholly than before, Bretons struggle with his bad conscience, along with a tendency to rationalize his failure in saving Nadja from herself, and from what he sees as the dangers of society. At any rate, the vulnerable, even something pathetic figure of Nadja is quickly made to vanish behind Breton’s imagination and Nadja is championed at the Surrealist status of human freedom.

Word count: 1803

Breton, André. Nadja. Penguin Books (1999). Print.

Lynes, Carlos. Surrealism And The Novel: Breton’s Nadja, French Studies, (1966). Acessed at: http://fs.oxfordjournals.org/content/XX/4/366.citation. Last accessed: 06/05/2011.

Polizzotti, Mark. Nadja: Introduction. Penguin Books (1999). Print.

Munson, Marcella. Eclipsing Desire: Masculine Anxiety and the Surrealist Muse, French

Forum, 29.2 (2004): 19-33. Print.

Brée, Germaine. Twentieth-Century French Literature, The University of Chicago, 1983, London. Print.

Sheringham, Michael. Everyday Life- Theories and Practices from Surrealism to the Present. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford, Print.

The opening section of Nadja is used as a build up; it is an infused mixture of surrealist ideology combined with decisive moments of Breton’s life. Breton is striving ‘to discover the nature, if not the necessity’ (p13) between the differences of himself to others, his reflections on the chance meetings he has, makes him all too predisposed to meet Nadja, on that October day on the Parisian streets. It’s all too perfect, as Michael Sheringham puts it, ‘the city street is the true ground of surrealist adventure’ (Shringham, M. 2006). In over reading the opening section, it can feel somewhat like a justification, as if he’s justifying the atmosphere of ‘near impossible coincidence’ (Polizzotti, M. 1999) of meeting Nadja, but also as a justification, in the later part, of what happened to her. To him, during their first few encounters, she was ‘the extreme limit of the surrealist aspiration’ (p74), he introduced her, eagerly, to his surrealist circle; Nadja is oblivious to convention, prejudice and ambition, and without even ever heaving heard of the movement or the word, she lives surrealism, in a spontaneous and more complete way than members of Breton’s own surrealist circle were ever able to do. Their relationship has the intensity of a love affair, all of which beneath Nadja’s supposed objectivity, signals that is it guided by Breton’s subjective viewpoint.

A subjective viewpoint which can feel like it neglects her madness, instead seeing her as a ‘free genius’, in fact, she becomes almost like his Muse, indispensable to him because he sees her as a key to his own subconscious. It becomes clear that Breton has chosen to ignore her own human frailty, and instead sees the being that fascinates him not as a real woman but ‘as a kind of living myth’ (Lynes, C. 1966).

M. Munson (2004) argues in her article that figures like Nadja make the expression of Breton’s subjective experience possible. Munson argues, ‘Breton hunts Nadja as much as he hunts the signal or sign which will indicate what direction to go in, what event to attend, what interpretation to give’. Breton’s is an artist on a quest to “descend into what is truly the mind’s lower depths, where it is no longer a question of the night’s falling and rising again,” (p40), and Nadja is the critical point in his quest. What is detrimental to her is that she almost seems to know this, she is quoted as saying ‘André? André… You will write a novel about me. I’m sure you will’. She was of course right, and by the end of the year he was ready to start writing about this ’emblematic figure’. (Polizzotti, M. 1999) Though, unsuprisignly, she soon became less enchanted by the idea when he showed her his notes of her, ‘How could I read this report … glimpse this distorted portrait of myself without rebelling, or even crying’. By the end of 1926 financially and emotinally desperate, Nadja moved to a ‘wretched’ hotel near the Breton’s apartment, for two months she tried desperately to win back favour, but in mid-Febuary she stepped out of Breton’s life and her ‘eccentricies’ (page 136) ‘darkened into serious abberation’ (Politzziti, M. 1999).

After which Breton makes no secret of Nadja’s insanity. ‘I was told several months ago that Nadja was mad’ and she was taken to the ‘Vacluse sanitarium’ (p.136). Yet as with the woman herself, Nadja’s madness is here magnified into a higher enlightenment, Breton sees her as fleeing from the ‘hateful prison’ of logic’ (p.143), even in her breakdown she remains that ’emblematic figure’ for Breton. In Bretons account, Nadja becomes the victim of poverty, of an uncomprehending society, Nadja, to Breton, is comparable to Sade, Nietzsche, and Baudelaire, all of whom were ‘shut up’ (p.141) like Nadja. She is even the victim of Breton’s own terribly decisive role in her own life- although as he tells it, his main fault was to give Nadja a too great taste for ’emancipation’ (p.142). Breton uses Nadja’s breakdown to provide the criticisms it seems he has wanted to apply to the field of psychiatry, a profession that Breton very nearly considered joining when he was a medical student. He embarks on seven page castigation, again defining the ‘Surrealist revolt’ against Cartesian bourgeois which consumes so many of his works, against psychiatry and its scholars; bitterly quipping ‘I suppose the most conscientious psychiatrist is not even concerned with cures’ (p.141).

Yet for all the compassion he seems to have for Nadja, which incidentally ebbs away at the ‘objectivity’ of the project, he never visited Nadja at the ‘Vacluse’ institution, and quickly eliminated her from all conversation. This of course may be because of his ‘general contempt for psychiatry’ (p.143), as he claimed, but it also seems that perhaps it’s because he recognized only too well that he had helped push Nadja into the breach of insanity by coaxing her initial madness beyond the limit. Throughout the work, he seems to have been so blinded by his search for marvels, ‘the signal or sign’ that M. Munson argued earlier, that Nadja’s behavior, as he later claimed, truly did not seem excessive to him. Or maybe Breton simply chose to ignore Nadja’s symptoms in any but their ‘poetic manifestation’ (Politzziti, M. 1999), maybe he only looked at her as a myth, not as frail woman, or maybe just as an ‘individuals unpremeditated reactions to certain phenomena, which reveal a hidden dimension of identity (Sheringham, M. 2006). Perhaps his subsequent protests of surprise at the news of her breakdown, anger at the psychiatric profession, and refusal to visit her at the Vacluse hospital all masked a deep guilt over her fate.

It is this guilt which causes Nadja to haunt the novel, or at least have a haunting presence; Najda has been described as a spectral essence, she is not all fact but she is not all fiction. It is for this reason why she haunts the novel; she has an unsettling presence, much like a ghost, in which we are aware that we are reading about a real person. Even the opening of Nadja suggests a haunting presence- the ‘Who am I?’ – ‘the leitmotif of all surrealist narrative’ (Brée, G.1983), we have something mysterious entering the scene, an alien, a haunting presence, that ‘something’ displaces Breton as the protagonist. Instead we focus on Nadja; who has a beautiful vulnerability about her, but which Breton magnified and distorted to make her appear as this symbolic gesture to his movement. His obsessive nature, coaxing her hysteria in the game playing, their rendezvous’, and even sexual intercourse all took, Nadja, ‘the soul in limbo’ (p.71), over the edge, out of limbo and into madness. Breton became the center of her dissolving life, and he recognized it; the succeeding pages of her breakdown, show to us more wholly than before, Bretons struggle with his bad conscience, along with a tendency to rationalize his failure in saving Nadja from herself, and from what he sees as the dangers of society. At any rate, the vulnerable, even something pathetic figure of Nadja is quickly made to vanish behind Breton’s imagination and Nadja is championed at the Surrealist status of human freedom.

Word count: 1803

Breton, André. Nadja. Penguin Books (1999). Print.

Lynes, Carlos. Surrealism And The Novel: Breton’s Nadja, French Studies, (1966). Acessed at: http://fs.oxfordjournals.org/content/XX/4/366.citation. Last accessed: 06/05/2011.

Polizzotti, Mark. Nadja: Introduction. Penguin Books (1999). Print.

Munson, Marcella. Eclipsing Desire: Masculine Anxiety and the Surrealist Muse, French

Forum, 29.2 (2004): 19-33. Print.

Brée, Germaine. Twentieth-Century French Literature, The University of Chicago, 1983, London. Print.

Sheringham, Michael. Everyday Life- Theories and Practices from Surrealism to the Present. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford, Print.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on the UKDiss.com website then please: