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Marvelous Encounters

The concept of the marvelous also played a crucial role in Surrealist works. Differing from one era to the next, the marvelous was defined basically as exacerbated beauty. Provoking an involuntary shudder in the reader or viewer, the marvelous mirrored the perpetual anxiety underlying human experience. In Surrealist works, it often assumes the form of eerie images and enigmatic adventures. The concept of objective chance played an equally important role. According to Surrealist theory, the most powerful imagery was that which caused the greatest surprise. In order to create marvelous images, Surrealist poets juxtaposed two terms that appeared to conflict with each other but were secretly related. The power of the resulting imagery was directly proportional to their apparent dissimilarity.

Surrealist artists performed a similar operation by juxtaposing incongruous or contradictory images on the canvas. Psychic automatism provided one means of achieving this goal. Artists and writers also resorted to chance operations like those governing an exercise called "the exquisite cadaver," in which several individuals contributed different words to create a nonsensical utterance. The name derived from their first attempt, which produced the following phrase: "The exquisite cadaver will drink the new wine."

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Stomium to SwiftsSurrealism - In The Beginning, Marvelous Encounters, Later Developments, The Movement's Reception, Bibliography