Marcel Duchamp and Alfred Jarry


  • Pieter de Nijs


Mots-clés :

Pataphysics, physique amusante, nominalism, collages, infra-mince


Alfred Jarry (1873-1907) is usually presented as one of Marcel Duchamp’s literary examples. Duchamp however never explicitly named Jarry as such; unlike he did with Jules Laforgue, Raymond Roussel and Jean-Paul Brisset. The reason why Jarry is nevertheless often mentioned as one of Duchamp's major inspirations lies in some – mainly thematic –parallels between their works. Duchamp's ‘amusing physics’ (physique amusante) seems to be directly inspired by the pataphysics Jarry introduced in Gestes et opinions du Docteur Faustroll, pataphysicien (1911). The fantastic machines Jarry staged in a novel like Le Surmâle (1902) and in the various stories he wrote for magazines such as La Revue blanche, La Plume and Le Canard sauvage have traces in common with the machineries Duchamp gave shape in - for example - his La Mariee mise à nu par ces célibataires, même. And Duchamp sometimes did refer directly to Jarry, for example to his famous 'merdre'.

More interesting though then the thematic parallels are the linguistic experiments Jarry and Duchamp both ventured on, showing some striking similarities.

Biographie de l'auteur

  • Pieter de Nijs

    Pieter de Nijs (1953) is art historian and freelance editor. Together with translator Liesbeth van Nes and Bastiaan van der Velden he annotated the recent new Dutch edition of Alfred Jarry’s Roemruchte daden en opvattingen van Doctor Faustroll, patafysicus. (Amsterdam: Bananafish, 2016)

    Latest publications: An exit; Marcel Duchamp and Jules Laforgue. In : Tout Fait. The Marcel Duchamp Online Studies Journal ( (2015) and Vies imaginaires. Essay on the critical work of Marcel Schwob. Nederlands Letterenfonds, november 2011 (






Articles – dossier thématique

Comment citer

de Nijs, P. (2016) « Marcel Duchamp and Alfred Jarry », RELIEF - REVUE ÉLECTRONIQUE DE LITTÉRATURE FRANÇAISE, 10(1), p. 77–98. doi:10.18352/relief.926.