What is Surrealism in Literature? Definition, Examples of Surrealism in Literature

Surrealism definition: Surrealism is a type of literature in which the author attempts to display irrational or dreamlike qualities in his or her writing.

What is Surrealism in Literature?

Surrealism refers to writing that goes beyond the realistic into a creative, imaginative realm that often has dreamlike qualities.

Example of Surrealism

An example of surrealism from film is the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind starring Jim Carrey. The story centers on a woman who goes to a clinic in order to erase memories of her broken relationship from her mind. After discovering this, her ex-boyfriend decides to have the same procedure. Through the process, he realizes that he truly loves her.

Modern Examples of Surrealism

Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining based on Stephen King’s book by the same name is an example of a popular surrealist work. In this film, a family stays at a remote resort to take care of it during the off-season; however horrific events occur leaving the audience in shock.

Another example of a surrealistic work is the movie Pi. In this work, the plot revolves around a paranoid mathematician with severe psychological problems and a mysterious number.

How Romance is Used in Surrealism

Romance can be used in surrealism in the fact that both include aspects of spontaneity and genuine emotion.

Examples of romance used in surrealism:

The following poem, “Freedom of Love”, is from the founder of surrealism Andre Breton:

“My wife with the hair of a wood fire

With the thoughts of heat lightning

With the waist of an hourglass

With the waist of an otter in the teeth of a tiger

My wife with the lips of a cockade and of a bunch of stars of the last magnitude

With the teeth of tracks of white mice on the white earth

With the tongue of rubbed amber and glass”

Another poet associated with surrealism is Paul Eluard. Here is an excerpt from his poem “Liberty”:

“On my schoolboy’s notebook

On my desk and on the trees

On the sand and on the snow

I write your name

On all the pages read

On all the blank pages

Stone blood paper ash

I write your name”

The Function of Surrealism

Surrealism allows the writer to transcend beyond our known world. This allows for the freedom to create and explore images of the imagination whether beautiful or nightmarish which distort our reality.


Define surrealism in literature Works of surrealism explore parts of the imagination that extend beyond our known reality. These works may come across as dreamlike or irrational due to their bending the rules or our perception of reality.

Final Example:

Another poet known for his surrealistic works is Louis Aragon. Below is an excerpt from his poem “Exile:”

“What cares the exile if the colors be false

One would swear it was Paris he says if one

Were willing to believe in apparitions

I hear the prelude of the strings in the pit

It’s the Opera he says that will-o’-the-wisp

In my half-opened eyes I’d have like to fix

Those balconies ablaze those bronzes that roof

Of green that dull emerald that silver fox

I recognize he says those dancers of stone

That dancer leading them swings a tambourine

But who gives to their foreheads those submarine

Glints the sleeper awakening rubs his eyes”