Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 October 2020
This chapter attempts in brief to rethink the history of magic by considering its relations with otherness. Otherness is conceived of as a relative and dynamic category, generated as the necessary result of claims to truth. The long history of the term 'magic' is characterised throughout by attempts to other it. The chapter pauses on several key moments in this history, ancient and medieval, before considering in slightly more detail the consequences of the Protestant Reformation for the imposition of a modern conception of magic. The rise of science and discourses of objectivity provide impetus for the modern othering of magic, and literature’s role in this process is examined through a focus on the rise of realism. The chapter then shows how the breakdown of consensus about the nature of reality in the early twentieth century leads to new forms of artistic expression, central among which is magical realism. It argues that throughout this long history magic, in a variety of forms, has displayed an extraordinary resilience, retaining its capacity to express important aspects of experience, society and meaning.
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