Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: COLLAGE
From The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

(Fr. coller, "to glue"). Refers to an abstract visual artwork in which the artist juxtaposes disparate media and various textures, affixing them to a single pictorial surface. Collage entered the descriptive vocabulary of art crit. in the second decade of the 20th c. As a compositional technique in painting, collage was among the innovations that distinguished later (synthetic) cubism from earlier (analytic) cubism. Synthetic cubist paintings included, e.g., fragments of newsprint headlines, bits of string, and other materials. (Georges Braque first included pieces of wallpaper in charcoal drawings; later, the Ger. artist Kurt Schwitters began making his famed abstract collage works incorporating found objects and alluding, often, to contemp. events; this work is known as Merz; see AVANT-GARDE POETICS.)

Collage migrated almost immediately to the lexicon of poetry and poetics, esp. among Fr.- and Eng.-lang. writers: after World War I, poets and critics alike began using the term to describe poems or series of poems built out of abrupt textual juxtapositions, newsprint transcriptions or headlines, direct prose quotations, and so forth. Thus, where the related combinatorial form of pastiche relies on the imitation of an established voice or style, collage relies on visible textual collocation. For one example in the U.S. context, W. C. Williams's long poem Paterson (1946–58) includes transcriptions of historical documents, letters, and anecdotes that maintain the margins of prose and appear in a smaller typeface than the lyric sections.

The quick adoption of collage as a poetics term marks a nearly simultaneous instance of how the Horatian analogy *utpictura poesis (as in painting, so in poetry) analogy continued to inform poetry and poetry crit. in the 20th c. As with all analogies, however, collage ought not to be applied or assumed too easily. While the poetic practices of excerption, juxtaposition, and quotation bear a suggestive formal relationship to the cutting and pasting of a visual collage, the material of a collage poem remains semantic and textual.

Fragments—Incompletion and Discontinuity, ed. L. D. Kritzman and J. P. Plottel (1981); M. Perloff, "The Invention of Collage," The Futurist Moment (1986); E. Adamowicz, Surrealist Collage in Text and Image (1998); B. Taylor, Collage (2004); P. McBride, "The Game of Meaning: Collage, Montage, and Parody in Kurt Schwitters' Merz," Modernism/Modernity 14 (2007).

Copyright © 2012 by Princeton University Press

Related Articles

Full text Article Collage
The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods

Collage is an arts-based research approach to meaning-making through the juxtaposition of a variety of pictures, artifacts, natural objects,...

Full text Article COLLAGE
100 Ideas that Changed Architecture

The practice of piecing together materials to create a work of art has deep roots, but collage - from the French coller, to glue - is now used to r

Full text Article collage (From the French, collé: 'to stick'.)
The Bloomsbury Guide to Art

Making a collage involves cutting up newspaper, cardboard, wallpaper or cloth and pasting them onto a piece of paper. It has long been...

See more from Credo