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Painting and Writing with Magical Realism

Painting and Writing with Magical Realism

The term Magical Realism describes an artistic style of painting and writing. In these paintings and novels the composer “interweaves, in an ever-shifting pattern, a sharply etched Realism in representing ordinary events and descriptive details together with fantastic and dreamlike elements” (Abrams). Some of the Magical Realism writers are said to be Gabriel Garcia Marques in Columbia, Gunter Grass in Germany, and John Fowls in England. Understanding the history and theory of Magical Realism will help clarify the meaning of the term.

No one can really say who coined the phrase ‘Magical Realism,’ but some say that “in 1925 to champion a new direction in painting, Franz Roh originated the term Magical Realism to characterize this painting’s return to Realism after Expressionism’s more abstract style” (Zamora and Faris 15). This art style was also first used after World War I. Franz Roh at first called this new style of painting Post-Expressionism, but changed it later to Magical Realism because he knew that the work “had to have a name that meant something, and the word ‘Post-Expressionism’ only indicated ancestry and chronological relationship” (Roh). Roh says that he uses the word ‘magic’ instead of ‘mystic’ because “the mystery does not descend to the represented world, but rather hides and palpates behind it.” At the same time that Roh came up with the term Magical Realism, a museum director named Gustav Hartlaub called this new art style New Objectivity. The word New Objectivity over took Roh’s title for the art style until 1960 when it was used to describe the art style of that time in art history. Angel Flores might argue that he coined the term ‘Magical Realism’ in 1935 after he read Jorge Luis Borges’ book A Universal History of Infamy, but he was actually the first one to give the name to books not just paintings.

It is hard to decide at times what is Magical Realism and what is not, but there are many characteristics inside Magical Realism that helps us to decide what is. One of the characteristics is that “we recognize this world, although now- not only because we have emerged from a dream- we look on it with new eyes” (Roh). The artist achieves this characteristic by “the amalgamation of reality and fantasy” (Leal). However, in Magical Realism both the reader and characters of the novel must accept the unreal as real.

Discovering a Culture through Magical Realism

Discovering a Culture through Magical Realism

Every culture has a memorable type of literature. When one thinks of English literature, one thinks of William Shakespeare or Charles Dickens. The American writers Thoreau, Clemens, and Emerson bring to mind the days when America was still proving herself to be equal to the European countries. France had her own artists, such as Voltaire and Hugo, as did Spain with Cervantes and Dante. However, when one thinks of Latin America, what writers come to mind? Very few of these authors are as well known as those mentioned. However, through the concept of a previously unknown literature, the world is viewing Latin America in a new light. Magical Realism seems to have flourished in the warm, tropical climate and has bloomed so beautifully that scholars are at a loss to fully explain this concept and where it originated.

Many opinions exist as to the true origins of Magical Realism. Flores has claimed that Borges, with his accomplished writings, began the movement. Flores also believes The Metamorphosis, written by Kafka, greatly influenced Borges, while other theories support Franz Roh as the source of this new movement. It seems the phrase was first coined by Roh while describing a new method of artwork in the 1920’s. This new artwork combined reality with a small addition of a nonrealistic aspect. For the most part, the general idea follows the theory of Roh’s creation.

Each culture carves its own notch in the world of literature. America had to create her own new world of literature and still was criticized for not being like the other countries. It seems that when something is different, it is outcast and criticized to a much larger extent than should be. This situation…

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… actually originated. The allure of this literature and the controversy concerning it will keep it on a steady rise in popularity through changing times because it is capable of change itself. Magical Realism reminds one of the beauty and the magic that can be found in everyday life.

Works Cited

Flores, Angel. “Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction.” Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois

Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995: 109-117.

Leal, Luis. “Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature.” Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995: 119-124.

Roh, Franz. “Magical Realism: Post-Expressionism.” Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995: 15-31

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