Rene Magritte is firmly established as one of the most popular avant-garde artists
of the the nineteenth century. However his commentators repeatedly fail to fully address
and account for the philosophical implications and complexities of his oeuvre, instead
offering accounts that largely ignore recent developments in art theory, and reading his
paintings in relation to purely biographical or psychoanalytical contexts.
This thesis attempts to situate Magritte's art in relation to a philosophical discourse
which assumes language and representation as the underlying and inescapable
structures of humane existence. The thesis will position and try to think about
Magritte's images as critical engagements with surrealism and art, history and
tradition. This thesis draws on critical frameworks and thinkers informed by and
associated with post-structuralism, notably theories of originality and of dialogism as
found in works by Julia Kristeva, Roland Barthes, J. Hillis Miller and Harold Bloom.
It will explore the intellectual implications presented by Magritte's images, reading
them as pictorial interventions into a discourse of intellectual enquiry and as
contributions to an ongoing debate which manifests itself in the form of the dialogue
with the writings of Andre Breton, as the key intellectual resource of surrealism with
other surrealist texts and theories; with the history and development of painting in
modernism and with the metaphysical and ontological implications of representation.
Underlying this particular aspect of the thesis is the Bakhtinian assumption that no text
or work of art exists in isolation, but each art work situates itself in a dialogic relation
with other art works, leading to the critical necessity of 'reading' art works in dialogic
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.