Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"The flora and fauna of surrealism are inadmissable"

When someone else has carried out ones ideas in advance, they reveal just how mad they are. I have referred here (the surrealist bestiary) to a concordance of animals mentioned in surrealism that I once began. Pursuing that idea in an unsystematic fashion, I stumbled upon a french PhD thesis doing the same (Claude Maillard-Chary: Le Bestiaire surréaliste, Paris 1994). Of course it was not exactly my idea, delimitations were different (the thesis dealt with occurences in text, in french language, in surrealist poets up to the second world war, only), and the academic context made that author focus more on quantitative details and less on critical and empathic evaluation of the function of different animals within surrealism, but still, many of the observations and most obvious conclusions were neatly parallelled.

Of course this duplication makes me more satisfied that I will never finish this project, and that I never pursued it in a very completist or quantitative way. In fact, being a zoologist very soon determined how I was pursuing it, and I focused on two questions which were less accesible to the non-zoologist and non-surrealist:

1) considering the width of the animal kingdom to suggest large amounts of animals with a great surrealist potential according to both inner criteria and the totemic-imaginal-fetishist-poetic patterns established by surrealist use of animals so far,

2) detailing the relationships between what is conceived as "kinds" of animals in surrealism (and in poetic imagination in general) on the one hand, and zoological concepts on the other hand; which is a case study in terms of comparison between classification philosophies and methodologies of scientific classification and folk classification.

These two aspects will be pursued in one way or another, and at least in the latter aspect, it remains possible that I will find a way of presenting my results.


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