Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 462
It is pointless to add that experience itself has found itself increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge. It too leans for support on what is most immediately expedient, and it is protected by the sentinels of common sense. Under the pretense of civilization and progress, we have managed to banish from the mind everything that may rightly or wrongly be termed superstition, or fancy; forbidden is any kind of search for truth which is not in conformance with accepted practices.
In the above quote Breton attacks the constraints of realism and rationalism, wanting to reclaim imagination. Like the modernists in England, such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, Breton wants to move away from factual description in writing to a more subjective form of literature, one that includes the unconscious and the fantastic.
I have always been amazed at the way an ordinary observer lends so much more credence and attaches so much more importance to waking events than to those occurring in dreams.
Dreams and Freudianism are key to surrealism, with its emphasis on the unconscious. The above quote shows how Breton hopes to flip a hierarchy that privileges the waking and the conscious over the dream.
When will we have sleeping logicians, sleeping philosophers? I would like to sleep, in order to surrender myself to the dreamers, the way I surrender myself to those who read me with eyes wide open; in order to stop imposing, in this realm, the conscious rhythm of my thought.
The above quote continues to develop the importance of dreaming. Breton values getting beyond or transcending the limits of conscious thought.
SURREALISM, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express—verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner—the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.
Breton defines surrealism in the above quote. Like the modernists, the surrealists hoped to capture that actual flow of thought as it occurred, unregulated and unmediated by the self-censorship of concerns with how it sounds or its morality.
Write quickly, without any preconceived subject, fast enough so that you will not remember what you're writing and be tempted to reread what you have written. The first sentence will come spontaneously, so compelling is the truth that with every passing second there is a sentence unknown to our consciousness which is only crying out to be heard.
Breton's essay also provide practical advice for the budding surrealist. It describes, as above, automatic writing, what we sometimes today call free writing, as an attempt to write without conscious thought.