Den surrealistiska erfarenheten: Upplevelsen. En tolkning av surrealismens åskådning.

Jan-Gunnar Sjölin

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The purpose of the study is to offer an interpretation of surrealism as lived experience or, more exactly, an interpretation of the ways in which the Surrealists themselves respond to and conceive of this experience. Thus, emphasis is put on surrealism as event and process, not as a historically limited phenomenon. The prime source of knowledge about this kind of experience, however, remains Surrealism as a twentieth.century movement.
The problem of interpreting the Surrealists' own accounts is basic to my study. Interpretation is not seen as a kind of translation, but rather as a process of inquiring into the context found in Surrealism itself. This kind of interpretation is largely concerned with unconscious aspects of Surrealist thought. It is primarily a kind of sympathetic interpretation, an attempt to understand the Surrealist viewpoint in its own right. Only in the last instance are any explanations offered why this viewpoint looks the way it does.
Often the Surrealists put emphasis on the fact that something is missing in their experience which normally would be a part of it. For instance, they feel estranged from their own works, in which they do not recognize themselves. The surrealist experience appears to them as something unknown and incomprehensible, characterized by a lack of expression and communication in the usual meaning of the words. All these reactions are due to expectations based on ordinary experience.
At the same time, the Surrealists bear witness to the fact that something very particular and unique occurs in their experience. Expecially inexplicable reactions imply that something is present in it which is lacking in the ordinary experience: a kind of special order, a special meaning.
Two quite different ways of conceiving of this special meaning are met with. Either it is something latent or concealed, or it is something manifest. In the former case, ordinary experience is regarded as normative for what is real, in the second case, the surrealist experience itself is the norm. Both these ways of looking at things, however, can be explained from basic psychological motives.
Finally, the preconditions and essence of a true experience of the special meaning of the surrealist experience, as understood by the Surrealists, are examined.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Division of Art History and Visual Studies
  • Sandström, Sven, Supervisor
Award date1981 Sep 25
Print ISBNs91-85552-50-X
Publication statusPublished - 1981

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 1981-09-25
Time: 10:00
Place: Universitetshuset, Lunds universitet

External reviewer(s)

Name: Sörbom, Göran
Title: [unknown]
Affiliation: Uppsala universitet


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Art History


  • the future
  • absence of direct communication. Experience of presence: surprise
  • transparency
  • derangement of the senses
  • unimpeded experience
  • Experience of absence: waiting and anticipation
  • being a stranger in front of one's own work
  • the unknown
  • the absurd
  • the new
  • incomprehensibility
  • "le jamais vu"
  • absence of expression
  • special meaning. Experience of latent or hidden meaning: meaning as unknown
  • special order and logic
  • the unaccountable reactions
  • as latent
  • experience of fear
  • as unconscious
  • obstacles to the experience of manifest meaning
  • absence of latent or hidden meaning
  • as hidden
  • mystery versus mystification
  • nature of special meaning
  • symbolism. Experience of meaning as manifest: enigmas
  • the inaccessible and the inexpressible. True experience of meaning: the golden age
  • manifest nature of meaning
  • immaculate experience
  • privileged moments
  • preconditions of true experience
  • illumination
  • revelation

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