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Magic Realism

Magic Realism

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Published by: papa_23 on Jan 15, 2012
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Magic realism
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Magic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in whichmagical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magicalelements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the"real" and the "fantastic" in the same stream of thought. It is a film, literary and visualart genre.One example of magic realism is when a character in the story continues to be alive beyond the normal length of life and this is subtly depicted by the character being present throughout many generations. On the surface the story has no clear magicalattributes and everything is conveyed in a real setting, but such a character breaks therules of our real world. The author may give precise details of the real world such asthe date of birth of a reference character and the army recruitment age, but such factshelp to define an age for the fantastic character of the story that would turn out to bean abnormal occurrence like someone living for two hundred years.The term is broadly descriptive rather than critically rigorous: Winona StateUniversity Asst. Professor of Japanese Studies, and author, Matthew Strecher definesmagic realism as "...what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe."This critical perspective towards magical realismstems from the Western reader's disassociation with mythology, a root of magicalrealism more easily understood by non-Western cultures. Western confusionregarding magical realism is due to the "...conception of the real" created in a magicalrealist text: rather than explain reality using natural or physical laws, as in typicalWestern texts, magical realist texts create a reality "...in which the relation betweenincidents, characters, and setting could not be based upon or justified by their statuswithin the physical world or their normal acceptance by bourgeois mentality."Manywriters are categorized as "magical realist," which confuses what the term reallymeans and how wide its definition is.
While the term magical realism in its modern sense first appeared in 1955, theGerman art critic Franz Roh first used the phrase in 1925, to refer to a painterly stylealso known as Neue Sachlichkeit (the New Objectivity), an alternative championed byfellow German museum director Gustav Hartlaub. Roh believed magic realism isrelated to, but distinctive from, surrealism, due to magic realism's focus on thematerial object and the actual existence of things in the world, as opposed to the morecerebral, psychological and subconscious reality that the surrealists explored. Magicrealism was later used to describe the uncanny realism by American painters such asIvan Albright, Paul Cadmus, George Tooker and other artists during the 1940s and
1950s. However, in contrast with its use in literature, magical realist art does not ofteninclude overtly fantastic or magical content, but rather looks at the mundane, theevery day, through a hyper-realistic and often mysterious lens. The extent to whichmagical elements enter in visual art depends on the subcategory, discussed in detail below.Roh's magic realism's theoretical implications greatly influenced European and LatinAmerican literature. Italian Massimo Bontempelli, for instance, considered the firstmagic realist creative writer, sought to present the "...mysterious and fantastic qualityof reality." He claimed that literature could be a means to create a collectiveconsciousness by "...opening new mythical and magical perspectives on reality," andused his writings to inspire an Italian nation governed by Fascism. Venezuelan ArturoUslar-Pietri was closely associated with Roh's form of magic realism and knewBontempelli in Paris. Rather than follow Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier's developingversions of "the (Latin) American marvelous real," Uslar-Pietri's writings emphasize"...the mystery of human living amongst the reality of life." He believed magicrealism was "...a continuation of the 'vanguardia' [or Avant-garde] modernistexperimental writings of Latin America."Literary magic realism originated in Latin America. Writers often traveled betweentheir home country and European cultural hubs, such as Paris or Berlin, and wereinfluenced by the art movement of the time. Carpentier and Uslar-Pietri, for example,were strongly influenced by European artistic movements, such as Surrealism, duringtheir stays in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. One major event that linked painterly andliterary magic realisms was the translation and publication of Roh's book into Spanish by Spain's Revista de Occidente in 1927, headed by major literary figure José Ortegay Gasset. "Within a year, Magic Realism was being applied to the prose of Europeanauthors in the literary circles of Buenos Aires."Jorge Luis Borges inspired andencouraged other Latin American writers in the development of magical realism - particularly with his first magical realist publication, Historia universal de la infamiain 1935. Between 1940 and 1950, magical realism in Latin America reached its peak,with prominent writers appearing mainly in Argentina.
The extent to which the characteristics below apply to a given magic realist textvaries. Every text is different and employs a smattering of the qualities listed here.However, they accurately portray what one might expect from a magic realist text.
Fantastical elements
As recently as 2008, magical realism in literature has been defined as "...a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrativethat otherwise maintains the 'reliable' tone of objective realistic report, designating a
tendency of the modern novel to reach beyond the confines of realism and draw uponthe energies of fable, folk tale, and myth while maintaining a strong contemporarysocial relevance. The fantastic attributes given to characters in such novels— levitation, flight, telepathy, telekinesis—are among the means that magic realismadopts in order to encompass the often phantasmagorical political realities of the 20thcentury."
In an essay entitled "The Baroque and the Marvelous Real" the Cuban writer AlejoCarpentier championed the idea that the baroque is defined by a lack of emptiness, adeparture from structure or rules, and an "extraordinary" plenitude of disorientingdetail (citing Mondrian as its polar opposite). From this angle, Carpentier views the baroque as a layering of elements, which translates easily into the post-colonial or transcultural Latin American atmosphere that Carpentier emphasizes in The Kingdomof this World."America, a continent of symbiosis, mutations...mestizaje, engendersthe baroque,"made explicit by elaborate Aztec temples and associative Nahuatl poetry. These mixing ethnicities grow together with the American baroque; the spacein between is where the "marvelous real" is seen. Marvelous: not meaning beautifuland pleasant, but extraordinary, strange, excellent. Such a complex system of layering —encompassed in the Latin American "boom" novel, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude—has as its aim "...translating the scope of America."
Magical realism plot lines characteristically employ hybrid multiple planes of realitythat takes place in "...inharmonious arenas of such opposites as urban and rural, andWestern and indigenous."For example, as seen in Julio Cortázar's "La noche bocaarriba," an individual experiences two realistic situations simultaneously in the same place but during two different time periods, centuries apart.His dreamlike state connects these two realities; this small bit of magic makes thesemultiple planes of reality possible. Overall, they establish "...a more deep and truereality than conventional realist techniques would illustrate."
This trait centers on the reader's role in literature. With its multiple realities andspecific reference to the reader’s world, it explores the impact fiction has on reality,reality on fiction and the reader’s role in between; as such, it is well suited for drawing attention to social or political criticism. Furthermore, it is the tool paramountin the execution of a related and major magic realist phenomenon: textualization. Thisterm defines two conditions—first, where a fictitious reader enters the story within astory while reading it, making us self-conscious of our status as readers—andsecondly, where the textual world enters into the reader's (our) world. Good sensewould negate this process but ‘magic’ is the flexible topos that allows it.

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