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Franz Roh identified 22 traits of Magic Realism .
Anne Hegerfeldt, for example, in her "Contentious Contributions: Magic Realism goes British," states that: "Focusing on examples of magic realism from contemporary Britain, this essay proposes that magic realist fiction argues for a revaluation of alternative modes of thought not only from within a specifically postcolonial perspective, but already on a more general level. The mode can be seen to function almost as a fictional counterpart to anthropological or sociological studies: tracing the various strategies by which individuals and communities try--and have always tried--to make sense of the world, magic realist fiction shows how rationalism and science alone cannot adequately account for the human experience of the world. Unlike magic realist texts from postcolonial literatures, where the non-scientific perspective often coincides with a 'native' point of view, the texts from British fiction emphasize the extent to which alternative, frequently marginalized modes of thought are not restricted to (post)colonial cultures, but exist also in Western settings (even if they are rarely acknowledged)." This rather broad definition of magical realism could certainly be said to include the essentially phenomenological arguments of Franz Roh, which certainly run counter to the general belief that science can objectively measure and explain everything. And yet, in her interesting discussion of the various techniques magical realism uses to accomplish this, Hegerfeldt manages to show that what she is talking about is, in fact, the contemporary form of magical realism, and not Roh's. This is especially evident in her discussion of "literalization," where "magic realism further emphasizes the 'reality' of fictions through a set of techniques which are based on linguistic and conceptual violations, rather than transgressions of genre." "Literalization of metaphor" is the first of these, in which a metaphor's meaning is transformed into its literal equivalent. In Rushdie's , for example, a woman's life in the fast lane causes her son to age at twice the normal speed. Closely related to this is a technique whereby abstract nouns can acquire a distinctly material presence; the example she cites occurs in , where memories must literally be looked for. The third type of literalization comes directly from the psychological, where "many of magic realism's numerous ghosts for example are quite transparently presented as materialized memories; not infrequently, they seem to be the all too real offspring of a guilty conscience."[p.70] The very essence of what she is describing here could also be described in terms of "the spirit being made manifest," and yet what is this besides "magic" in its most traditional (and alchemical) sense? In addition, the writers Hegerfelt discusses as exemplifying contemporary British magical realism, such as Salman Rushdie and Angela Carter, emphasize such traditional challenges to scientific objectivity. British writers such as Kazuo Ishiguro (in his more recent work) and Magnus Mills, who also challenge the scientific paradigm but without recourse to any traditional metaphysics, are not even mentioned.
"The Territorialization of the Imaginary in Latin America: Self-Affirmation and Resistance to Metropolitan Paradigms." Magical Realism: Theory, History,
I thought that Franz Roh's selection was brief on magical realism....
Thus, if we include a story such as The Nose under the rubric of contemporary definition of magical realism, we lose sight of the fact that what happens to collegiate assessor Kovalev cannot be explained by a causal force--that, for example, no spell or curse (even of the most contemporary, rarified and literary sort) has been placed upon Kovalev. By grouping stories such as The Nose (or Kafkas work) together with a work such as , we assume without further reflection that there is such a causal force present somewhere, just as there is in Marquez's work. As a result we don't look at the object in and of itself, and therefore miss out on the specific implications of this type of fiction.
Numerous studies of magical realism theorize it as a narrative technique or narrative mode, while neglecting the social, political, and ideological contexts in which it occurs in fictional works. Even the recent stimulating study, Réalisme magique et réalisme merveilleux (L'Harmattan, 2005) by Charles W. Scheel, while groundbreaking in its weighing of all previous definitions of the term and in its establishing of significant distinctions between magical realism and mysterious realism as narrative modes, does not find it necessary to attempt to mine the connections that narrative technique might have to culture or politics. Faris's most original contribution to the study of magical realism, then, is her insistence that it is a genre...
The term magical realism was first introduced by Franz Roh in 1925.
The term Magical Realism has also been used to categorize some the novels and short stories of authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gunter Grass, and John Fowls.
It is clear from the various comments that the authors of these articles make that they are aware of some contradictions and confusion that result from this. Indeed, the title of guest editor's Bainard Cowan's introduction is "A Necessary Confusion: Magical Realism," and yet it would seem that at least some of this confusion can be avoided by better differentiating Roh's definition from the existing definition of magical realism that has evolved since the 1960s. Further, I would argue, this is a necessary exercise as this conflation of definitions turns magical realism into a needlessly generic term that only breeds further confusion; more to the point, it also groups together very different types of fiction and art that manifest very different goals on the part of the artist, and have very different effects on the reader or viewer of art.
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Faris, eds., Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community.
Roh considered Giorgio de Chirico and the Italian movement as one of forerunners of his magic realism. Indeed, one could readily imagine that he would have been impressed by the manner in which de Chirico emphasized the object by pulling it, however subtly, out of its expected context. When one first looks at a de Chirico painting, such as , one thinks it could very well be a real, albeit somewhat unusual, scene being depicted. When we look more carefully, however, we are struck by the oddity of the objects, such as the two, large sculpted artichokes lying in front of a cannon. We are forced by the painting to contemplate the reason that they are there at all and why they are lying about in this particular way; because no answer is readily apparent we are forced to focus on the object itself, on its materiality. In addition, the fact that we rarely see an actual human being in any of his paintings not only leaves the objects alone and in their own world, but also denies us the opportunity to focus on an agent, somebody whose presence might explain what we are seeing.
"Magic Realism: Post-Expressionism" by Franz Roh
Faris begins by defining magical realism and situating it geographically. She posits magical realism as a modern and contemporary global narrative genre that, through its introduction into the narrative world of an "'irreducible element' of magic" (7), "radically modifies and replenishes the dominant mode of realism in the West" (40). She also situates magical realism at the intersection of modernism and postmodernism, in that it carries further the modernist project of destabilizing and eroding realism's governing concepts of "time, space, and identity" (23). But she does not associate magical realism only with the metropolitan center, the West; geographically, she locates magical realism both in the metropolitan "first" world and the postcolonial "third" world, viewing magical realism as a genre that enables both the replenishing of the center's depleted narrative traditions and the definition of the periphery's narrative traditions against those of the center.
The History, Theory, and Evolution of Magical Realism Essay
In the present work, Wendy B. Faris returns to the subject of magic realism, this time with the aim of delineating the parameters of the cultural work that magic realism as a literary genre has performed since the 1950s and continues to perform: what she refers to as the remystification of narrative. Faris recognizes the seminal cultural work of Latin American magical realism, devoting some of her most moving analyses to works from that part of the globe. Yet she shifts the focus of magical realism away from its original terrain of Latin American literature (she only uses five Latin American works here) and broadens it to include a number of contemporary global literatures. She analyzes sixteen novels written from 1955 to 1996 from Europe, the United States, and Latin America, as well as one Indian novel, Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, and one African novel, Ben Okri's The Famished Road, according to five characteristics of her definition of magical realism: its location between modernism and postmodernism; its defocalized narrative situation; its textual poetics; its interrogation of a postcolonial dynamics of alterity; and its feminine element.
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