Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Surrealistic Black Humour: From an Inversing Play in Writing Towards a “Humanistic” Liberation

Martha Kiskira-Soderquist.

The valorisation and projection of black humour by the surrealists goes together with its liberalizing function and bouleversement of the rationality of occidental thinking in profit of the liberalization of the human spirit. At the same time, this literary specimen leads to a rejuvenation of the narrative aesthetic.
In this study we analyse the relationship between the surrealistic spirit and black humour, emphasizing the projection of play and of dream-like thinking, as well as their integration, in the act of writing.
The expression of this humour takes place in the narrative, revolutionizing writing through the abolishing of empirical and logical laws in favour of surreality. In this context we will examine how the black humour uses and influences the mechanisms of narration.
We will also examine the question of what existential and social notions the black humour deals with including: Time, death, immortality, love, social existence, common sense and the human feelings that relate to these notions. Further, we examine the way in which these notions are transformed into a de-dramatization process, which corresponds to the liberalization of the writer and the reader through the effect of surprise and laugh.
Freud’s theory about dreams and art as expression of unconscious desires, but also about the basic human instincts, is a central axis through which we will approach the subject. We deal with the hierarchization of the dualities art vs. reality and spirit (intellect) vs. materia (nature), and the domination of the former notions compared to the latter in the particular dualities upon which the humoristic play is built.
The connection of this particular humour (which includes other forms of textual humour such as irony, satire, grotesque) with humanism comes from the former’s relation with a therapeutic dimension of literary writing and reading. It represents a human-centred way of writing, i.e., a writing oriented towards the human subject and its psychology (as it provokes and responds to feelings and psychological reactions), and aims at the liberalization of the latter through the building of a defence against the traditional domains of dramatics. The black humour, positioned in the framework of psychoanalysis, as well as in the theories of reader reception and response, then becomes something more than a formalistic restructuring of logical codes through a literary language play taking place only within the text.


Martha Kiskira-Soderquist  (Greece)

  • Surrealism
  • Black Humour
  • Humanistic Liberation

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)