André Breton and FWH Meyers

January 4, 2010

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research vol 17 1903
Tribute to FWH Myers by William James
Frederick Myers’s Service to Psychology

William James, one of the grand old men of psychology, wrote this tribute following the death of Myers. Very interesting in itself as a summary of Myers’s work and also of the man himself. You get a sense of why Myers appealed to those outside of academic science and conversely why he repelled those inside.

Source of two quotes from André Breton’s Le Message Automatique:

Myers’s Problem page 17

What is the precise constitution of the Subliminal —such is the problem which deserves to figure in our Science hereafter as the problem of Myers; and willy-nilly, inquiry must follow on the path which it has opened up. But Myers has not only propounded the problem definitely, he has also invented definite methods for its solution. Posthypnotic suggestion, crystal-gazing, automatic writing and trance-speech, the willing-game, etc., are now, thanks to him, instruments of research, reagents like litmus paper or the galvanometer, for revealing what would otherwise be hidden. These are so many ways of putting the Subliminal on tap.

gothic psychology page 14
James doesn’t actually use this term, instead refering to Myers as a romantic psychologist as opposed to classical-academic:

(referring to the sunlit terrace of classical-academic psychology)

But of late years the terrace has been overrun by romantic improvers, and to pass to their work is like going from classic to Gothic architecture, where few outlines are pure and where uncouth forms lurk in the shadows. A mass of mental phenomena are now seen in the shrubbery beyond the parapet. Fantastic, ignoble, hardly human, or frankly nonhuman are some of these new candidates for psychological description. The menagerie and the madhouse, the nursery, the prison, and the hospital, have been made to deliver up their material. The world of mind is shown as something infinitely more complex than was suspected ; and whatever beauties it may still possess, it has lost at any rate the beauty of academic neatness.

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André Breton, inspecteur des Eaux et Forêts

December 17, 2009

Some early mentions of André Breton in english journals, mostly about Paris Dada:

Poet Lore xxxiii 1922
The Life and Deeds of Dada

The Free Man iv Sept 1921
Dada is Dead

The Arts Dec 1920
Art Activities in Post War Paris

Poetry xvii 1920 -1
The Disciples of Gertrude Stein

Interesting in that it claims French modernism has its roots in Gertrude Stein and not the other way around, who knew?

Other poets of similar inspiration are Ph. Soupault, Louis Aragon, Andre Breton, Raymond Radiguet, Gabrielle Buffet, J. Perez Jorba, Pierre Albert Birot, Paul Dermee and Celine Arnauld. I know nothing of them beyond their works. It is noticeable that the style of these ladies and gentlemen, so obscure in their poetry, is comparatively limpid in their advertisements; their names are also easy to read.

Americans, who believe with me that literature is something more than a series of little jokes, “leg-pullings,” “astonishing the grocers,” and so on, must forgive me for throwing the ultimate responsibility for this “new art” upon America. Perhaps Italy, with Marinetti, should bear some of the blame, but Tender Buttons and America are the real parents.

Speaking of americans if your french isn’t that good you can find all kinds of stuff. Apparently a precocious 11 year old Breton was attending seances with a strange delphi cult:

Bulletin By Académie delphinale 1907
Séance du 22 novembre 1907
a M. André Breton, inspecteur des Forêts in attendence

Séance du 6 décembre 1907
apparently a promotion:
André Breton, inspecteur des Eaux et Forêts