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Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Whether dreaming of the end of earth itself, the end of civilization, the end of history, the end of capitalism or the end of logic, surrealism seems inevitably drawn to the end, or rather the ends of the world as we know it. This project will endeavor to untangle the apparent paradox of an obsession with teleology (one of the central components of Aristotelian logic) in a movement predicated on a rejection of Western rationalism. While apocalyptic feelings were certainly not exclusive to surrealism between the World Wars, surrealism is a particularly interesting case of apocalyptic obsession, and one which has received very little attention from critics. Perhaps more than any other artistic movement of the period, surrealism struggled with and attempted to reconcile the opposing impulses of revolutionary idealism and apocalyptic pessimism. This project will explore how the surrealists drew inspiration from their pessimistic, apocalyptic desires, while also attempting to maintain faith in their revolutionary ideals. In addition, this project will focus on historical dialectics and theories of the end of history, stretching from Hegel and Marx to contemporary thinkers such as Fukuyama and Žižek. Indeed, the abundance of recent material on the end of history (to say nothing of the enormous popularity of apocalyptic fiction in 21st-century popular culture) perhaps suggests that our current political moment is not so different from the one faced by the surrealists almost a century ago.
Chair and Committee
Tili Boon Cuillé, Pascal Ifri, Ignacio Infante, John Klein,
Young, Kyle Alan, "Embracing the Apocalypse: Surrealism and Political Pessimism in Interwar Paris" (2021). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2356.
Available for download on Sunday, September 18, 2022