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Surrealist writers and artists repeatedly turned to Eros (the life drive), as a concept and principle with which to explore the depths of dream and desire as well as a means to counter the prevailing tendency toward Thanatos (the death drive) in society. Using Sigmund Freud’s Civilisation and Its Discontents (1929) and Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilisation (1955) as two key theoretical texts to enable our understanding of Eros for this avant-garde circle, the chapter considers the ways in which the surrealists enacted a radical assault on bourgeois morality and totalitarian ideology by appealing to individual desires as a route to political consciousness and resistance. Looking at a range of media – text, object, photography, dance, exhibition practice – we find practitioners of Surrealism all shared a radical celebration of Eros both as a path to self-knowledge and as a means to harness the revolutionary potential of the life drive.
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