Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 July 2021
The introductory chapter traces Surrealism’s critical legacy across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. From its initial emergence out of Dada in 1924, Surrealism became a defining critical and creative concept, and not only for the avant-garde movement penned in its name. It inspired a range of critical enterprises and creative practices, including: Walter Benjamin’s anthropological investigation of the everyday material world; the politics and aesthetics of a number of anticolonial enterprises; James Clifford’s investigations of the ethnographic ambitions of dissident surrealism; the political events of May ’68; the October group’s recalibration of Greenberg’s aesthetic formalism; and, more recently, Surrealism’s influence on new materialism, thing theory, animal/human studies, affect theory, and a plethora of contemporary participatory art movements. Described by Maurice Blanchot as “a brilliant obsession,” Surrealism continues to exert a profound rethinking of the relationship between art, politics, and everyday experience.