Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ponderings on Magical Realism

Well, its been awhile.

School has just been blowing by so fast! Hence the lack of posting... 

Anyway, as promised, I thought I'd share what I've been learning in my classes. Today's subject is magical realism.

What is magical realism?

That's a very good question, and I've discovered that the answer kind of changes depending on who you ask. But, you've asked me. So here's what I've gathered my class focusing on the genre in Children's and YA literature. 

The term stared with the South American Writers, and they're also the ones that popularized it, but they didn't really begin the genre and it's not limited to them. 

A magical realism text is a book in which fantastic events are included in the text that otherwise maintains a realistic narrative. No one is surprised by these events/ fantastic elements and they are accepted without questions - maybe a bit of marveling. OKAY. In other-words, it mixes magic with the mundane. These magical events/ elements help the characters (and reader) examine the realistic elements of the story through a different lens. For example: (The Unicorn in the Garden by James Thurber) the appearance of a unicorn in a man's garden highlights the problems in his marriage and then the man and his wife get a divorce. Without the unicorn in the garden, the man might never have noticed the things that were wrong with his marriage. 

You might be saying, "Hey, this sounds a lot like fantasy. What's the difference?"

I'm so glad that you asked. Because I do have an answer to that.

In magical realism these fantastic elements are generally limited to one kind of magic or are somehow related. The magic tends to be localized - the entire world isn't magic, it's the regular mundane world and then there just happens to be a talking elephant. Or a unicorn. Or a yard gnome that's actually a Norse god. 

Also, in magical realism, the story is not littered with tons of magical objects or creatures. The woods aren't filled with pixies, elves, and there aren't any knights that wield magic swords and have enchanted shields. Lastly, the narrator is just a regular ole' human being. 

So here are some magical realism devices:

  • Multiple planes of reality: Things/ people can experience realistic events simultaneously in the same place but different times, or vice versa. Being in two places at the same time. Confused? Think about Cameron in Going Bovine and how he's both in the hospital and galavanting around the country 
  • Metafiction: Where a fictitious reader enters into a story within a story or where the textual world enters into our world. 
  • Inanimate objects may be "alive"
  • "Mythical" creatures may appear but not as a normal creature of the place. So - not Harry Potter where they roam the forest.       
Well, that's the best that I've got on the subject. I think that magical realism is this kind of thing where you can read a story and say "oh, yeah, this is magical realism" or "dear, God. This is sooo not it." But it tends to be harder to define. 

Granted, I can't take credit for all these notes. I got them from my class. Which, has turned out to be an amazingly fun class. Woo!

Now, hasn't this post been worth waiting for?