The History, Theory, and Evolution of Magical Realism
What comes to mind when one hears the word "magical"? He or she probably thinks of charms, spells, wizards, and disappearing doves. The term "Realism" may represent the everyday world-that with which we are already familiar. Could these two words ever be coupled together to represent one idea? Magical Realism represents the marriage of these two words. A name originally given to a new art form in the early twentieth century, Magical Realism evolved into a literary genre and now represents much more-an attitude, the window through which to view the world, a philosophy of life. By examining the history, theory, and evolution of ...view middle of the document...
This "new art," as Roh describes Magical Realism, sought to integrate the objects associated with this world (as Impressionism had done) and bring new meaning to them (as Expressionism had done, except with things not of this world). Roh writes that Expressionism seemed to have already "rejected the image of nature in favor of an exclusively spiritual world" (Roh 21). Magical Realism, Roh thought, was situated resolutely between extremes-between vague sensuality and highly structured schematics (23). Magical Realism, therefore, merged characteristics of Impressionism and Expressionism together to create this "new art." Magical Realism could bridge the gap and offer glorification of the mundane and natural world with intellectual depth and thought. Roh addresses the use of "magical" in Magical Realism, stating that "the mystery does not descend to the represented world, but rather hides and palpitates behind it" (Roh 16). Realism, therefore, could indeed be "magical."
Angel Flores, in his essay "Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction," applies Roh's concept of art to literature. He describes the assimilation of Romantic and Realistic characteristics into Latin American literature of the early twentieth century. He states that "one can survey the works of one novelist after another with the same result: that in Latin America Romanticism and Realism seem bound together in one afflatus" (Flores 110). He calls this romantic-realistic trend Magical Realism.
Flores states similar evidence for the incubation of Magical Realism presented by Roh. In just the way that Roh described the "new" art's revolt against Impressionism, Flores argued that, "the arts, finding in photographic realism a blind alley, reacted against it and many notable writers of the First World War period came to rediscover symbolism and Magical Realism" (Flores 111). The art world was able to "react" against this movement by "amalgamating the elements of realism and fantasy" (qtd. in Chanady 129). This reaction became a basis for Magical Realism-an art that rejected the mere "copy" art of photographs and illustrations that did not include a measure of intellectualism and thought. Again, Impressionism and Expressionism must yield to a "new art" that combined elements of both.
For much of the twentieth century, the essays of Flores and Roh constituted some of the only thought given to Magical Realism. Most critics who wrote after Flores and Roh always referred to them in their essays. This referencing is the way in which it evolved. After reading Roh and Flores, one could conjure up in his or her mind what Magical Realism meant. Much room was left for ambiguities and differences between the authors' ideas. Some critics chose to refute Roh and Flores, arguing that Magical Realism was too inclusive. Luis Leal presents such an argument in his essay "Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature."
Luis Leal disagrees with Flores' assertion that the Magical...