Surrealist histories of language, image, media: Donald Barthelme’s ‘collage stories’ | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 32, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1466-0407
  • E-ISSN: 1758-9118



Using previously neglected archival materials from the Donald Barthelme Literary Papers at the University of Houston Libraries, my article identifies the sources of Donald Barthelme’s collages and their allusive meanings. In doing so, the author’s under-appreciated relationship with artistic collage techniques is further elucidated, revealing how indebted his work is to the innovations of surrealist collage production. Principal amongst these influences is Max Ernst’s ‘historical’ collage aesthetic. Using the theories of Marshall McLuhan, I argue that Barthelme’s technique of pictorial collage is an attempt to rival contemporary systems of representation (like television and radio), while recognizing the significance of mass media on his work. Capturing the evolving landscape of contemporary mass culture, I examine the relationship between text and image in Barthelme’s short stories.


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