Surrealist Ghostliness


Surrealist Ghostliness

Katharine Conley

320 pages
50 illustrations


July 2013


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eBook (EPUB)
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April 2020


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eBook (PDF)
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July 2013


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About the Book

In this study of surrealism and ghostliness, Katharine Conley provides a new, unifying theory of surrealist art and thought based on history and the paradigm of puns and anamorphosis. In Surrealist Ghostliness, Conley discusses surrealism as a movement haunted by the experience of World War I and the repressed ghost of spiritualism. From the perspective of surrealist automatism, this double haunting produced a unifying paradigm of textual and visual puns that both pervades surrealist thought and art and commemorates the surrealists’ response to the Freudian unconscious. Extending the gothic imagination inherited from the eighteenth century, the surrealists inaugurated the psychological century with an exploration of ghostliness through doubles, puns, and anamorphosis, revealing through visual activation the underlying coexistence of realities as opposed as life and death.

Surrealist Ghostliness explores examples of surrealist ghostliness in film, photography, painting, sculpture, and installation art from the 1920s through the 1990s by artists from Europe and North America from the center to the periphery of the surrealist movement. Works by Man Ray, Claude Cahun, Brassaï and Salvador Dalí, Lee Miller, Dorothea Tanning, Francesca Woodman, Pierre Alechinsky, and Susan Hiller illuminate the surrealist ghostliness that pervades the twentieth-century arts and compellingly unifies the century’s most influential yet disparate avant-garde movement.

Author Bio

Katharine Conley is dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the College of William & Mary and a professor of French and francophone studies and the Edward Tuck Professor of French and Comparative Literature, Emerita at Dartmouth College. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, she is the author of several books, including Robert Desnos, Surrealism, and the Marvelous in Everyday Life (Nebraska, 2003) and Automatic Woman: The Representation of Woman in Surrealism (Nebraska, 1996).


"Conley's study offers a new theorization of surrealism that unifies its diverse and multiple iterations and recasts its chronological limits."—Effie Rentzou, SubStance

"[Surrealist Ghostliness] is an important addition to the literature on surrealism and modern art, very well written and an extremely interesting and engaging read."—Rob Harle, Leonardo Journal

"Conley offers a richly argued discussion, speculative and articulate, that usefully contributes to our reading of the 'long Surrealism'."—Robert Radford, Burlington Magazine

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations




1. The Cinematic Whirl of Man Ray's Ghostly Objects

2. Claude Cahun's Exploration of the Autobiographical Human

3. The Ethnographic Automatism of Brassaï and Dalí's Involuntary Sculptures

4. The Ghostliness in Lee Miller's Egyptian Landscapes

5. Dorothea Tanning's Gothic Ghostliness

6. Francesca Woodman's Ghostly Interior Maps

7. Pierre Alechinsky's Ghostly Palimpsests

8. Susan Hiller's Freudian Ghosts





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