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Silverman, M.M. (2012). René Magritte and the Denial of Meaning. Mod. Psychoanal., 37(2):203-232.

(2012). Modern Psychoanalysis, 37(2):203-232

René Magritte and the Denial of Meaning

Marcus M. Silverman, M.A.

René Magritte presented himself as an uncomplicated man. A prolific painter who is regarded as a principal member of the Surrealist movement, his work is celebrated for its technical form and its ability to meld the commonplace with the strange and the uncanny. This paper examines what many scholars and psychoanalysts disregard about Magritte's estimations of himself: that he was in fact a deeply complex man, and that his work reinforces these assumptions, particularly the paintings that depict his mother, who drowned in the Sambre River when he was a young boy. This paper utilizes his paintings as a set of data which illustrate the use of defense mechanisms, namely intellectualization, reaction-formations and dissociation. His paintings simultaneously address and recoil from past trauma by revealing a self-conscious landscape of widespread denial of any authentic meaning in both words and images.

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