Valentina Castagna

«The mirror of the earth»: Leonora Carrington’s Phantasmagoric Visions in Down Below

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This article focuses on the phantasmagorical vision that can be observed in Leonora Carrington’s memoir Down Below, a work which mingles autobiography with some elements of fiction to tell about the author’s experience of mental disorder during World War II. The work is disseminated with hermetic messages animated by animal transfigurations of human beings and symbolic descriptions of space which are analysed here with the aim to restore literary value to the conscious phantasmagorical representation of this life experience. The memoir is here considered as an admirable surrealist narration of the young artist’s resistance towards family and social constraints. The rich visual language used by the author displays her attempt to resist homologation to bourgeois standards and to respect her artistic talents. The symbolism of which Carrington makes use can be traced back to the Surrealist circle but it is also regarded as being the result of deep cultural stratifications from the Irish folklore she was fascinated by as a child to ancient alchemy connected to her friendship with Pierre Mabille.


  • surrealism
  • life writing
  • phantasmagoria


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