Literary Dadaism: Early Beginnings, Features and Representatives

He Dada literary was part of an artistic movement born in Europe during the First World War. It was characterized by calling itself a non-movement and by its realization of anti-art.

This was because their authors were opposed to the development of World War I and blamed the customs and the future of bourgeois society for the war. For this reason they proposed a movement that criticized society from its foundations.

Literary Dadaism: Early Beginnings, Features and Representatives Portrait of Tristan Tzara, representative of Dadaism

This critique included the artistic traditions, that is why they opposed the structures, the genres and the metric. For this reason, this artistic movement became a questioner of artists, as well as art and its role within society.

the beginning

Because of the war, several writers, especially French and German, found themselves in the refuge offered by Zurich in neutral Switzerland. This group was angry about the war, so they set themselves the task of developing a new artistic tradition that aimed at protest.

These authors used their works and any public forum to challenge nationalism, rationalism, materialism and other absolutisms that, according to them, had caused the war.

The Dadaists were tired and angry. They thought that if the social order had caused the war, they did not wish to participate in this nor in their traditions. They even considered it necessary to divorce also from the old artistic traditions.

For this reason, they did not consider themselves as a movement or as artists. They argued that their productions were non-art, since even art had no meaning for them.

This non-movement spread from Zurich to other parts of Europe and to New York. And as this movement began to be regarded as a serious artistic current, it faded, around 1920.


Dada was the first artistic and literary movement that did not aim at the development of aesthetically pleasing objects, but quite the opposite.

The Dadaist writers had as purpose to oppose all the norms that governed the bourgeois culture of the time. Even to the point of being critical of themselves and their artistic productions.

His works were written in such a way that they did not fit into the established canons. But besides that, they used to be uncomfortable for bourgeois sensibility, they generated difficult questions about society, the role of the artist, and the purpose of art.

Name's origin

The Dadaist writers had no agreement on their ideals and even had trouble agreeing on the name of the movement. For this reason, there are different and contradictory versions about the origin of the name.

According to some versions, the name emerged during a gathering at the Voltaire cabaret in Zurich, when a paper knife inserted in a French-German dictionary pointed to the word"dada", which in French means"horse of battle".

For some people, this concept served to express the purpose and non-aesthetic proposed by the Dadaists. However, other versions simply explain that"given"is a meaningless language for babies, a message without any content that for the same reason was welcomed by the Dadaists.

Themes and techniques

This non-artistic current proposed an early form of collision art. They used soft obscenities, eschatological humor and texts presented in visual games to represent their rejection of war and bourgeois values.

The public's reaction, of course, was one of controversy and rejection, which meant a greater motivation for Dadaists.

The forms of written production in Dada were commensurate with their contempt for all established orders. These favored group collaboration, spontaneity and creation games based on chance.

This chance of creation from chance was opposed to the demands of traditional genres and metrics in literature and poetry. Therefore, it was another way of challenging established artistic norms and questioning the role of the artist, within the creation process and within society itself.

Three main representatives

1- Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara, also known as Izara, was born in Romania in April 1896, and died in Paris in December 1963. He is considered as one of the parents of Dada literary and one of its main representatives.

Tzara wrote the first texts attributed to Dada: The Première Aventure céleste de Monsieur Antipyrine (" The first heavenly adventure of Mr. Antipyrina "), Published in 1916; Y Vingt-cinq poèmes (" Twenty-five Poems "), Published in 1918.

In addition, it was Tzara who drafted the manifesto of this movement, titled Sept manifes Dada ("Seven Dada manifestos"), published in 1924.

2 André Breton

André Breton was born in Tinchbray, France, in February 1896, and died in Paris in September 1966. After World War I moved to Paris and joined the artistic avant-garde that was then developed in the city.

In 1916 he joined the group of artists who were then developing Dada in their written and visual manifestations, including Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray. He was interested in Symbolist poets such as Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire, Freud's psychoanalytic theories, and Karl Marx's political theory.

Thanks to all these influences, in 1920 he wrote the surrealist manifesto, in which he encouraged free expression and liberation of the subconscious. After that he published his novel Nadja and other volumes of poetry and essays.

3- Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was born in Germany in July 1874 and died in December 1927. She was known as the Dadaist Baroness, and although she studied art in Munich, the main development of her work came after 1913, after moving to NY.

His poems were published after 1918 in The Little Review. His poetry was rich in sound resources and onomatopoeias; for that reason it is considered precursor of the phonetic poetry. He also created poems of free verse, characteristic of Dadaist writing.

However, most of his poems remained unpublished until 2011, when the book"Body Sweats: the writings of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven without censorship"was published.


  1. Biography. (S.F.). André Breton. Retrieved from:
  2. Esaak, S. (2017). What is Dada? Retrieved from:
  3. The Art History. (S.F.). Dadaist. Retrieved from:
  4. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2016). Dadaist. Recovered from:
  5. University of Maryland. (S.F.). Baroness Elsa Biographical Sketch. Retrieved from:

Loading ..

Recent Posts

Loading ..