(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Magic Realism

Magic realism refers to literature in which elements of the marvelous, mythical, or dreamlike are injected into an otherwise realistic story without breaking the narrative flow. The term is descended from the German phrase magischer realismus, introduced by Franz Roh in his book Nach-Expressionismus (Magischer Realismus): Probleme der neuesten Europaischen Malerei, published in 1925, to describe a school of painting. Later, Latin-American writer Alejo Carpentier coined the term real maravilloso, which built on the idea of magischer realismus and added elements of surrealism. Today there is much discussion and disagreement about what exactly defines magic realism, but most critics agree about the importance of differentiating between magic realism and other genres that employ the marvelous, such as fables and fairy tales. Unlike those genres, magic-realist texts generally feature the fantastic in a way that does not distinguish between realistic and nonrealistic events in the story and does not result in a break in the narrator's or characters' consciousnesses. Magic realism is used by writers around the world, but it is most strongly concentrated in the work of Latin-American writers. Many critics speculate that magic realism appears most often in the literature of countries with long histories of both mythological stories and sociopolitical turmoil, such as those in Central and South America. Still others question the validity of the term at all, maintaining that it is used irresponsibly to describe any work that is not ultra-realistic and that this usage leads to the stereotyping of minority writers. Finally, some critics maintain that the term magic realism is irrelevant given the newer category of postmodernism, in which the narrative stream typically continues uninterrupted despite elements similar to those that appear in magic realism. Regardless, magic realism continues to be employed by writers as diverse as Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmon Silko, Salman Rushdie, and W. P. Kinsella, each of whom brings a variety of personal, social, and political concerns to the genre.

Representative Works

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Isabel Allende
La casa de los espíritus [The House of the Spirits] (novel) 1982
Los cuentos de Eva Luna [The Stories of Eva Luna] (short stories) 1990
El plan infinito (novel) 1991

Jorge Luis Borges
Ficciones (short stories) 1962
Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings (short stories and essays) 1964

Alejo Carpentier
The Lost Steps (novel) 1953
El reino de esté mundo [The Kingdom of This World] (novel) 1949

Leonora Carrington
Le Cornet acoustique [The Hearing Trumpet] (novel) 1974
The Stone Door (novel) 1978

Angela Carter
Shadow Dance (novel) 1966; also published as Honeybuzzard 1967
The Magic Toyshop (novel) 1968
Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces (short stories) 1974; also published as Fireworks: Nine Stories in Various Guises, 1981
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (short stories) 1980

Julio Cortázar
Final del juego (short stories) 1956

Mia Couto
Voices Made Night (novel) 1986

José de la Cuadra
Los Sangurimas (novel) 1934

Laura Esquivel
Like Water for Chocolate (novel) 1989

Timothy Findley
Not Wanted on the Voyage (novel) 1984
The Telling of Lies (novel) 1986

Carlos Fuentes
Terra Nostra (novel) 1975

Gabriel García Márquez
Cien años de soledad [One Hundred Years of Solitude] (novel) 1970
The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother (novella) 1984

David Grossman
See Under: Love (novel) 1986

Jack Hodgins
Spit Delaney's Island (short stories) 1976
The Invention of the World (novel) 1977

Alice Hoffman
Property Of (novel) 1977
Illumination Night (novel) 1987
At Risk (novel) 1988
Seventh Heaven (novel) 1990
Turtle Moon (novel) 1993
Second Nature (novel) 1994
Practical Magic (novel) 1995

Susan Kerslake
Middlewatch (novel) 1976

Maxine Hong Kingston
China Men (novel) 1980

W. P. Kinsella
Shoeless Joe (novel) 1983
The Iowa Baseball Confederacy (novel) 1986

Robert Kroetsch
What the Crow Said (novel) 1983

Ann-Marie MacDonald
Fall on Your Knees (novel) 1996

Gwendolyn MacEwen
Noman (short stories) 1972

Steven Millhauser
Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer (novel) 1972
Portrait of a Romantic (novel) 1977
In the Penny Arcade (short stories) 1986
The Barnum Museum (short stories) 1990

Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon (novel) 1977
Beloved (novel) 1988

Gloria Naylor
Mama Day (novel) 1988

Ben Okri
The Famished Road (novel) 1991

Michael Ondaatje
Running in the Family (novel) 1982

Salman Rushdie
Midnight's Children (novel) 1981

André Schwarz-Bart
Le dernier des Justes [The Last of the Just] (novel) 1959

Ntozake Shange
Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo (novel) 1982

Leslie Marmon Silko
Ceremony (novel) 1977

D. M. Thomas
The White Hotel (novel) 1981

Mario Vargas Llosa
The Green House (novel) 1966

Scott Simpkins (essay date 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Magical Strategies: The Supplement of Realism,” in Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 34, No. 2, Summer, 1988, pp. 140-54.

[In the following essay, Simpkins attempts to define magic realism and argues that the genre is hindered by linguistic limitations.]

Magic realism seems plagued by a distinct dilemma, a problem arising primarily from its use of supplementation to “improve” upon the realistic text. The source of this nagging difficulty can be attributed to the faulty linguistic medium that all texts employ, and even though the magic realist text appears to overcome the “limits” of realism, it can succeed only partially because of the frustrating...

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Liam Connell (essay date 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Discarding Magic Realism: Modernism, Anthropology, and Critical Practice,” in ARIEL, Vol. 29, No. 2, April, 1998, pp. 95-110.

[In the following essay, Connell argues against the use of the term “magic realism,” maintaining that it serves to stereotype the works of certain writers as primitive and “Third World.”;]

The formal characteristics of a literature described as Magic Realist are hard to distinguish from the formal characteristics of early-twentieth-century Modernism; to that end, attempts to keep these movements distinct through the categorization of one sort of literature as modern and another as magical, as well the...

(The entire section is 5733 words.)

Edna Aizenberg (essay date 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Famished Road: Magical Realism and the Search for Social Equity,” in Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, No. 43, 1995, pp. 25-30.

[In the following essay, Aizenberg contends that magic realism as it appears in Ben Okri's The Famished Road, as well as the works of other writers, frequently comments on social ills.]

My topic is magical realism—a maddening, marvelous, carnivalesque topic, dizzyingly imprecise, and deeply hurtful. Contrary to popular opinion, magical realism is not primarily Remedios the Beautiful flying heavenward in Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, or Clara the Clairvoyant foretelling...

(The entire section is 3774 words.)

Chesca Long-Innes (essay date 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Psychopathology of Post-Colonial Mozambique: Mia Couto's Voices Made Night,” in American Imago, John Hopkins University Press, Vol. 55, No. 1, Spring, 1998, pp. 155-84.

[In the following essay, Long-Innes explores the psychoanalytic implications of Mia Couto's use of magic realism in Voices Made Night.]

Where does this black sun come from? Out of what eerie galaxy do its invisible, lethargic rays reach me, pinning me down to the ground, to my bed, compelling me to silence, to renunciation?

The new world, necessarily political, is unreal. We are living the reality of a new...

(The entire section is 10680 words.)

Wayne Ude (essay date 1989)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Forging an American Style: The Romance-Novel and Magical Realism as Response to the Frontier and Wilderness Experiences,” in The Frontier Experience and the American Dream: Essays on American Literature, edited by David Morgan, Mark Busby, and Paul Bryant, Texas A & M University Press, 1989, pp. 51-64.

[In the following essay, Ude examines magic realism in the works of early American writers.]

A nation's literature cannot be studied only through the examination of content; a history of literature is also a history of technique. That is especially true of the United States, where our literary history has been bound up, perhaps more than in most...

(The entire section is 6528 words.)

Mary Kinzie (essay date 1991)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Succeeding Borges, Escaping Kafka: On the Fiction of Steven Millhauser,” in Salmagundi, No. 92, Fall, 1991, pp. 115-44.

[In the following essay, Kinzie comments on elements of both magic realism and horror in the works of Steven Millhauser.]

“Sinbad shifts in his seat.” So reads a sentence from a remarkable new story by Steven Millhauser, “The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad.”1 The diction, demeanor, indeed the whole rhetorical and genre “set” of that sentence is peculiar. Sinbad, the quasi-mythic hero of the Thousand and One Nights, the object (as Millhauser points out) of Scheherazade's meticulous suspensions of plot over the abyss...

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Robert Hamblin (essay date 1992)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘Magic Realism,’ Or, The Split-Fingered Fastball of W. P. Kinsella,” in Aethlon, Vol. IX, No. 2, Spring, 1992, pp. 1-10.

[In the following essay, Hamblin discusses magic realism in the baseball stories of W. P. Kinsella.]

As Robert Francis's well-known poem, “Pitcher,” persuades us, the actions and intentions of a baseball pitcher and a writer are remarkably analogous, since both employ indirection, subtlety, deception, and suspense to achieve their desired effects. That being the case, it seems appropriate to develop the subject of this paper, the intertwining of fact and fantasy in W. P. Kinsella's baseball fiction, through the use of a pitching...

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Keith Maillard (essay date 1982)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Middlewatch as Magic Realism,” in Canadian Literature, No. 92, Spring, 1982, pp. 10-21.

[In the following essay, Maillard discusses magic realist elements in Susan Kerslake's novel Middlewatch.]

I read Susan Kerslake's first novel, Middlewatch,1 in the spring of 1977. I found it a book not without minor flaws. Kerslake's fragile style, depending for effect upon juxtaposition of intense lyricism with a simple, folkloric narrative line, was a difficult one to control, and she faltered occasionally. But, after finishing the book, I was ready to forgive her anything. Wisps of Middlewatch persisted at the back of my mind for...

(The entire section is 5812 words.)

Geoff Hancock (essay date 1986)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Magic or Realism: The Marvellous in Canadian Fiction,” in Magic Realism and Canadian Literature: Essays and Stories, edited by Peter Hinchcliffe and Ed Jewinski, University of Waterloo Press, 1986, pp. 30-48.

[In the following essay, Hancock provides an overview of magic realism in Canadian writing, arguing that Canada's vast wilderness and archeological history encourage a sense of the marvelous in its writers and artists.]

The extraordinary events I'm about to describe actually happened to me. As a western Canadian, whose home town was New Westminster, B.C., I experienced the improbable on a daily basis. You might expect logging, fishing, mining, but you...

(The entire section is 8041 words.)

Birutė Ciplijauskaitė (essay date 1979)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Socialist and Magic Realism: Veiling or Unveiling,” in Journal of Baltic Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3, Fall, 1979, pp. 218-27.

[In the following essay, Birutė explains similarities and differences among magic realist works of Latin-American and European socialist writers.]

The choice of my topic—juxtaposition of two seemingly quite disparate literary trends—has been prompted by several factors: (1) a growing awareness of Latin-American narrative and its significance in Soviet literary criticism;1 (2) some evident echoes of the new techniques in the latest works of younger authors in Lithuania;2 (3) almost paradoxical similarity in the...

(The entire section is 4873 words.)

Seymour Menton (essay date 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Last of the Just: Between Borges and Garcia Marquez,” in World Literature Today, Vol. 59, No. 4, Autumn, 1985, pp. 517-24.

[In the following essay, Menton discusses the influence of Latin-American magic-realist writers on André Schwarz-Bart's novel Le dernier des Justes.]

André Schwarz-Bart's Le dernier des Justes (The Last of the Just), an outstanding novel of the Holocaust and recipient of the 1959 French Prix Goncourt, is not only a prime example of magic realism but also provides a link between two of the tendency's most famous Latin American practitioners, Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez. Hailed by critics upon its...

(The entire section is 7553 words.)

John Burt Foster, Jr. (essay date 1986)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Magic Realism in The White Hotel: Compensatory Vision and the Transformation of Classic Realism,” in Southern Humanities Review, Vol. 20, No. 3, Summer, 1986, pp. 205-19.

[In the following essay, Foster maintains that D. M. Thomas's novel The White Hotel “stands at one extreme end” of magic realism and therefore encourages a new critical understanding of the literary and artistic movement.]

The title of a recent book on magic realism in painting reads like an urgent appeal to students of twentieth-century culture. As we look back at the wildly jumbled terrain pushed up by all the modern movements in literature and art, suddenly Seymour Menton...

(The entire section is 6677 words.)

Ji Ji (essay date 1991)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Beyond Transient Applause,” translated by Eva Hung and D. E. Pollard, in Renditions, Nos. 35 & 36, Spring & Autumn, 1991, pp. 299-304.

[In the following essay, Ji Ji discusses magic realism in the works of contemporary Taiwanese writers.]


In any age works of literature are created against a unique background with a specific emphasis and appeal. The impact of literature on men, be it great or insignificant, is a reflection of society's pulsation; the two are inextricably linked.

On the whole, Taiwan has witnessed a surge in literary activities in recent years, and compared with the 1960s and 1970s, the...

(The entire section is 2553 words.)

Susan J. Napier (essay date 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Magic of Identity: Magic Realism in Modern Japanese Fiction,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, Duke University Press, 1995, pp. 451-75.

[In the following essay, Napier maintains that magic realism in Japanese literature is inherently linked with the Japanese crisis of identity regarding modernity and Western influence.]

Akutagawa Ryunosuke's 1920 short story “The Nose” (Hana) concerns an old priest in ancient Japan with an embarrassing problem: his nose is ridiculously, unbelievably, long. Although he realizes that he should be above such mundane matters, the priest feels...

(The entire section is 10261 words.)

Seymour Menton (essay date 1982)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Jorge Luis Borges, Magic Realist,” in Hispanic Review, Vol. 50, No. 4, Autumn, 1982, pp. 411-26.

[In the following essay, Menton discusses the works of Jorge Luis Borges and the difference between magic realism and fantastic, or marvelous, literature.]

In the epilogue to the 1949 edition of El Aleph, Jorge Luis Borges states that with the exception of “Emma Zunz” and “Historia del guerrero y de la cautiva,” “las piezas de este libro corresponden al género fantástico.”1 This statement by Borges confirms the axiom that an author's words about his own works may not always be taken at face value. Although some of the stories in...

(The entire section is 5981 words.)

Stephen Hart (essay date 1983)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Magical Realism in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Cien Anos de Soledad,” in INTI, Nos. 16 & 17, Fall 1982 & Spring 1983, pp. 37-52.

[In the following essay, Hart examines Gabriel García Márquez's novel Cien años de soledad in an attempt to simplify and reinterpret the idea of magic realism.]

Ce qu'il y a d'admirable dans le fantastique, c'est qu'il n'y a plus de fantastique: il n'y a que le réel.

—André Breton1

It was in an article by Ángel Flores published in 1955 that the term magical realism—originally used by a German critic to characterise a type...

(The entire section is 6388 words.)

Joseph J. Benevento (essay date 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “An Introduction to the Realities of Fiction: Teaching Magic Realism in Three Stories by Borges, Fuentes, and Marquez,” in Kansas Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 3, Summer, 1984, pp. 125-31.

[In the following essay, Benevento suggests strategies for teaching about magic realism in the works of three preeminent Latin-American writers.]

As David Young and Keith Hollaman note in their introduction to the anthology Magical Realist Fiction, “The term ‘magical realism’ as applied to fiction has begun to have a certain currency since the recent award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Gabriel García Márquez.”1 Certainly García Márquez's...

(The entire section is 4095 words.)

Roger Kaplan (essay date 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Beyond Magic Realism,” in Commentary, Vol. 78, No. 6, December, 1984, pp. 63-7.

[In the following essay, Kaplan discusses sociopolitical events in Latin America and the ways in which they have been interpreted in works of magic realism.]

The Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa is known both for his interest in politics and for his realistic narratives, as contrasted with the experimental forms favored by a number of his Latin American contemporaries. In his most recent novel, The War of the End of the World, Vargas Llosa has expressed his views on the dynamics of his continent's politics more forthrightly than in any of his previous books. He has...

(The entire section is 3768 words.)

Carter Wheelock (essay date 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Borges, Cortazar, and the Aesthetic of the Vacant Mind,” in International Fiction Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, Winter, 1985, pp. 3-10.

[In the following essay, Wheelock explains the notion of “magical causality” in the works of Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar.]

Fifty-two years ago Jorge Luis Borges wrote an essay, “Narrative Art and Magic,”1 in which he described a common narrative device—that of prefiguration by innuendo—to show how it produces in fiction the effect that he called “magical causality.” Such foreshadowing by suggestion replaces objective reality with an inner reality belonging to the text alone. By addressing the...

(The entire section is 5064 words.)

Lois Parkinson Zamora (essay date 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Magic Realism and Fantastic History: Carlos Fuentes's Terra Nostra and Giambattista Vico's The New Science,” in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer, 1988, pp. 249-56.

[In the following essay, Zamora examines Carlos Fuentes's use of magical realism to interpret historical fact in Terra Nostra.]

As Seymour Menton has recently reminded us in his study, Magic Realism Rediscovered, the term “magic realism” dates from the twenties in Germany, where it was used by the art critic Franz Roh to describe the relationship of painting to the reality it represented, and to suggest the desirability of a return to a more...

(The entire section is 3397 words.)

Moylan C. Mills (essay date 1989)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Magic Realism and Garcia Marquez's Erendira,” in Literature Film Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 2, 1989, pp. 113-22.

[In the following essay, Mills examines magic realism in Gabriel García Márquez's novella Eréndira and his screenplay for the film.]

“Magic realism” is a term that has developed a certain voguish contemporary usage to describe such diverse artistic achievements as the novels and stories of John Cheever, the theatrical spectacles of Martha Clarke, and the recent Robert Redford film The Milagro Beanfield War.

“Magic realism,” however, has been used most often in recent years as a critical term that...

(The entire section is 5821 words.)

Brian Conniff (essay date 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Dark Side of Magical Realism: Science, Oppression, and Apocalypse in One Hundred Years of Solitude,” in Modern Fiction Studies, John Hopkins University Press, Vol. 36, No. 2, Summer, 1990, pp. 167-79.

[In the following essay, Conniff explores the use of magic realism in One Hundred Years of Solitude to describe and interpret many of the dark events in Latin-American history.]

In criticism of the Latin American novel, “magical realism” has typically been described as an impulse to create a fictive world that can somehow compete with the “insatiable fount of creation” that is Latin America's actual history.1 This concept...

(The entire section is 6019 words.)

Luis Leal (essay date 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature,” translated by Wendy B. Faris, in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, Duke University Press, 1995, pp. 119-24.

[In the following essay, Leal presents an overview of magic realism in Latin-American fiction.]

In his article on “Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction,” Professor Angel Flores proposes the year 1935 as marking the birth of magical realism.1 For Flores, Jorge Luis Borges' book A Universal History of Infamy, which appeared that year, marks the new trend in Hispanic American narrative. According to Flores, Borges'...

(The entire section is 2246 words.)

Robert Alter (essay date 1996)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Magic Realism in the Israeli Novel,” in Prooftexts, John Hopkins University Press, Vol. 16, No. 2, May, 1996, pp. 151-68.

[In the following essay, Alter provides an overview of Israeli novels containing elements of magic realism.]

Until the publication in 1986 of David Grossman's spectacular second novel, See Under: Love, the very conjunction of magic realism and the Israeli novel would have seemed like a contradiction in terms. Since then, the face of Israeli fiction has assumed new, at times surprisingly antic, features, and there have been abundant and exuberant transgressions of the conventions of realism of varying kinds. But it is important to...

(The entire section is 8281 words.)

Laura Moss (essay date 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘Forget Those Damnfool Realists!’ Salman Rushdie's Self-Parody as the Magic Realist's ‘Last Sigh’,” in ARIEL, Vol. 29, No. 4, October, 1998, pp. 121-39.

[In the following essay, Moss discusses Salman Rushdie's self-referential parody of magic realism in his novels.]

Magic realism is in danger of becoming what the Australian novelist Peter Carey has called a “cheap cliché” (11). Recently it has been so widely employed that it has lost its cachet as an avant garde form. The problem lies in its popularization by writers of divergent skills and the paradoxical critical depreciation of the form, which directly results from such mass...

(The entire section is 7131 words.)

Paula Rabinowitz (essay date 1983)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Naming, Magic and Documentary: The Subversion of the Narrative in Song of Solomon, Ceremony and China Men,” in Feminist Re-Visions: What Has Been and Might Be, edited by Vivian Patraka and Louise A. Tilly, Women's Studies Program, The University of Michigan, 1983, pp. 26-42.

[In the following essay, Rabinowitz examines magic realism in works by American minority women.]

I write as an outsider. As a woman, I will always be an outsider within patriarchal culture, as a white woman, I will always be an outsider to the experiences of the oppressed minorities in America; however, as a feminist, I wish to begin bridging those gaps which...

(The entire section is 4693 words.)

Martha Bayles (essay date 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Special Effects, Special Pleading,” in The New Criterion, Vol. 6, No. 5, January, 1988, pp. 34-40.

[In the following essay, Bayles argues that Toni Morrison's use of magic realism led her to ignore her greatest strengths as a novelist and caused her work to be mediocre at best.]

Eighteen years later, as he gazed out over the literary landscape, the swaggering, mustachioed Colombian called Gabriel García Márquez was to recall the remote afternoon when he slipped his magnum opus, One Hundred Years of Solitude, into the wax-cold, ink-smudged hands of a New York Times literary critic whose mother had named him John Leonard, and a great event...

(The entire section is 4212 words.)

José David Saldivar (essay date 1991)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Real and the Marvelous in Charleston, South Carolina: Ntozake Shange's Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo,” in Genealogy and Literature, edited by Lee Quinby, University of Minnesota Press, 1991, pp. 175-92.

[In the following essay, Saldivar traces the magic realism in the works of Ntozake Shange to both Latin-American and Afro-Caribbean influences.]

It is probably true that critics of African and Afro-American literature were trained to think of the institution of literature essentially as a set of Western texts.

—Henry Louis Gates Jr. The Signifying Monkey

Ntozake Shange...

(The entire section is 7517 words.)

P. Gabrielle Foreman (essay date 1992)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Past-On Stories: History and the Magically Real, Morrison and Allende on Call,” in Feminist Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2, Summer, 1992, pp. 369-88.

[In the following essay, Foreman provides a feminist reading of the magic realism in works by Isabel Allende and Toni Morrison.]

The storyteller takes what [she] tells from experience—[her] own or that reported by others. And [she] in turn makes it the experience of those who are listening to [the] tale. … In every case the storyteller is a [wo]man who has counsel for [her] reader. … Today having counsel is beginning to have an old-fashioned ring … because the communicability of experience...

(The entire section is 7977 words.)

Patricia Hart (essay date 1993)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Magic Feminism in Isabel Allende's The Stories of Eva Luna,” in Multicultural Literatures through Feminist/Post Structuralist Lenses, edited by Barbara Frey Waxman, The University of Tennessee Press, 1993, pp. 103-36.

[In the following essay, Hart provides a feminist interpretation of Isabel Allende's Eva Luna.]

Magic used to show the reader what equality between the sexes should be is a key technique employed by Isabel Allende in The Stories of Eva Luna.1 In the long tradition of magic realism in Latin American letters, the point has never been to hold up an exact mirror to reality, but rather to reflect deeper truths about human...

(The entire section is 12766 words.)

Deborah B. Gaensbauer (essay date 1994)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Voyages of Discovery: Leonora Carrington's Magical Prose,” in Women's Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3, July, 1994, pp. 271-84.

[In the following essay, Gaensbauer describes Leonora Carrington's works of magic realism as “subversive voyages of self-discovery.”]

Surrealism has always been associated with the act of discovery, and the surrealists have frequently been compared to the explorers who came to the “New World” in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In his comprehensive study of the movement, Michael Carrouges portrays surrealism as a crossing of the “tropical jungles,” of the “prodigious savage continent opened up by Freud,” and the...

(The entire section is 5946 words.)

Catherine R. Perricone (essay date 1994)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “El Plan Infinito: Isabel Allende's New World,” in Secolas Annals, Vol. 25, March, 1994, pp. 55-61.

[In the following essay, Perricone briefly discusses magic realism in Isabel Allende's novel El Plan Infinito as a natural element of her characters' lives.]

Isabel Allende's latest novel El plan infinito1 coincides with the new life she has begun in California with significant implications on her subject matter and stylistic approach while retaining her interest in social and feminist concerns. Deriving from an intimate connection between life and art, she (as both the real and the created author of the novel), relates and...

(The entire section is 3104 words.)

Maria B. Clark (essay date 1996)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Usurping Difference in the Feminine Fantastic from the Riverplate,” in Studies in Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter, 1996, pp. 235-49.

[In the following essay, Clark discusses magic realism in works by women writers of the Riverplate region of Argentina and Uruguay.]

The Riverplate region of Argentina and Uruguay witnessed a flowering of fantastic literature with precursors such as Leopoldo Lugones and Horacio Quiroga in the early decades of the twentieth century, and Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar as internationally acclaimed figures in the 1960s and 1970s. Borges and Cortázar transcended the marginalized position associated...

(The entire section is 5262 words.)

Terri Brown Davidson (essay date 1996)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘To Build Is to Dwell’: The Beautiful, Strange Architectures of Alice Hoffman's Novels,” in Hollins Critic, Vol. XXXIII, No. 5, December, 1996, pp. 1-15.

[In the following essay, Davidson argues that the magic realism in Alice Hoffman's novels is characterized by Romantic individualism.]

When I was a child and hours inched with gargantuan infinitude beyond me, past me, I can remember my near-sensual craving, the detail-mongering distilled into a ravenousness, the morning a crow flapped down into my driveway. In that immaculate environment, my mother'd set me out to play: here were no grease marks, oil spots, tire streaks, only the sunstruck expanse of...

(The entire section is 5744 words.)

David Buehrer (essay date 1997)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “From Magical Realism to Fairy Tale: Isabel Allende's The Stories of Eva Luna,” in West Virginia University Philolocial Papers, Vols. 42-44, 1997, pp. 103-07.

[In the following essay, Buehrer questions whether magic realism has degenerated into fairy tale in Isabel Allende's The Stories of Eva Luna.]

While Latin American fiction has undergone a veritable renaissance in this country during the past quarter century, its reputation until quite recently has been restricted to a recognition of that handful of magical realist male novelists, such as Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Carlos Fuentes, whose works were first translated into...

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Elizabeth T. Hayes (essay date 1997)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Gloria Naylor's Mama Day as Magic Realism,” in The Critical Response to Gloria Naylor, edited by Sharon Felton and Michelle C. Loris, Greenwood Press, 1997, pp. 177-86.

[In the following essay, Hayes describes the magic realism of Gloria Naylor's novel Mama Day and the writing of other African Americans as “postmodern subversiveness at its best.]

Three days before the hurricane of the century has even been predicted by the National Weather Service, Miranda (“Mama”) Day is in her kitchen peeling peaches for a pie when suddenly she “feels death all around her” (226). Looking out the back door of her trailer to find “wind steady from...

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Robbie B. H. Goh (essay date 1999)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Supernatural Interactions, Eastern Ghosts, and Postmodern Narrative: Angela Carter's Fireworks,” in ARIEL, Vol. 30, No. 3, July, 1999, pp. 63-85.

[In the following essay, Goh explores magic realism, feminism, and postmodernism in Angela Carter's short story collection Fireworks.]

The work of deconstructing and dismantling “orientalist” discourses by such scholars as Edward Said and Chris Bongie reaches an impasse at the borders of the postmodern narrative. Said's key work, Orientalism, in the first place, is essentially a historiography concerned with “a Western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the Orient”...

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Jennifer Andrews (essay date 1999)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Rethinking the Relevance of Magic Realism for English-Canadian Literature: Reading Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees,” in Studies in Canadian Literature, Vol. 24, No. 1, 1999, pp. 1-19.

[In the following essay, Andrews argues for a revision of definitions of magic realism in Canadian literature based on Ann-Marie MacDonald's lesbian feminist novel Fall on Your Knees.]

Magic realism remains a vexed concept for Canadian literature, despite having been adopted to describe a specific group of English-Canadian texts, including Robert Kroetsch's What the Crow Said and Jack Hodgins's The Invention of the World. Traditionally, magic...

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Further Reading

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)


Bakker, Martin. “Magic Realism and the Archetype in Hubert Lampo's Work.” Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies Revue 12, No. 2 (Fall 1991): 17-21.

Discusses archetypal mythology in the magic realism of Flemish writer Hubert Lampo.

Bartlett, Catherine. “Magical Realism: The Latin American Influence on Modern Chicano Writers.” Confluencia 1, No. 2 (Spring 1986): 27-37.

Argues that contemporary American Chicano writers take the bulk of their inspiration from Mexican and South-American writers of magic realist fiction rather than from Anglo-American writers.

Chamberlain, Lori....

(The entire section is 1103 words.)