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Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics$
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Gavin Parkinson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381434

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381434.001.0001

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date: 20 July 2018

Surrealist Painting as Science Fiction: Considering J. G. Ballard’s ‘Innate Releasing Mechanism’1

Surrealist Painting as Science Fiction: Considering J. G. Ballard’s ‘Innate Releasing Mechanism’1

(p.174) 8. Surrealist Painting as Science Fiction: Considering J. G. Ballard’s ‘Innate Releasing Mechanism’1
Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics

Gavin Parkinson

Liverpool University Press

This chapter builds on the success of Jeannette Baxter’s recent volume J.G. Ballard’s Surrealist Imagination (2009) by acknowledging Ballard’s own belief that Surrealism is not just a literary or artistic movement but a means of understanding the world and the human mind, and by interpreting Surrealist paintings along Ballardian lines as ‘time travel’ works. This is authorised largely by Ballard’s own uses of Surrealist paintings by Salvador Dalí, Oscar Domínguez, Max Ernst and Yves Tanguy as generators for the narratives of his short stories of the 1960s and his novels The Drowned World (1962) and The Drought (1965). Entertaining a notion of the unconscious that contains deposits of ancestral memory, which are reawakened under certain conditions, Ballard’s interpretation of Surrealist painting is advertised by his use of the technical term ‘innate releasing mechanism,’ which is to be found among the writings of the Jungian mythologist Joseph Campbell. In the writings of Campbell and Carl Jung, shared universals emerge in local societies in the garb of myths; in Ballard’s fiction, dramatic changes in the natural environment reawaken the most primal, pre-social, even pre-human memories in living humans, resituating them in a time before myth. This is not a return of the Freudian, biographical repressed buried in a part of the mind, from which ‘psychoanalysis reconstructs the original traumatic situation in order to release the repressed material,’ but a physical reaction as Ballard puts it in The Drowned World, educing the ‘archaeopsychic past, uncovering the ancient taboos and drives that have been dormant for epochs.’

Keywords:   Jung myth psychoanalysis repression Ballard

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