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This chapter makes a case for the value of examining magical realism’s many intersections with religion, a topic that has been undertreated in Anglophone scholarship. While the global corpus of magical realist literature has drawn from countless religious resource bases, faith in magical realism has been thought of almost exclusively as indigenous faiths for reasons this chapter explores. In contrast, the mode has been considered as especially antithetical to Christianity, even though we can trace the latter within some of the earliest self-professed magical realist narratives, and many subsequent ones. It is in direct response to these dual misconceptions that this chapter focuses on magical realist narratives that utilize Christianity and narratives that utilize indigenous religious, showing, for example, how we might see within both the use of common narrative strategies and effects. By addressing these two poles, the author encourages an open understanding of the mode’s potential relation to any religious resource base. The chapter concludes that while the term 'magic' itself is freighted, the form can be amicable towards religious practitioners and sensibilities. We see this in a couple of ways. First, magical realism’s structural configuration can be – and is – understood as pointing to a multidimensional human world. Second, the mode can provide a phenomenological account of religion, or an experience of belief from the inside.
Magical realism is a concept that has proved stubbornly resistant to processes of naming and definition. In the narrow sense in which the term is used by literary critics, magical realism refers to a mode or a style – sometimes a genre – of writing in which magical elements are presented alongside realistic ones as if there were no difference of kind between them. A magical realist text will treat supernatural occurrences as if they were perfectly natural. It will incorporate, without surprise, fantastic elements into the realm of history and objective materiality.
Magical realism can lay claim to being one of most recognizable genres of prose writing. It mingles the probable and improbable, the real and the fantastic, and it provided the late-twentieth century novel with an infusion of creative energy in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and beyond. Writers such as Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, Salman Rushdie, Ben Okri, and many others harnessed the resources of narrative realism to the representation of folklore, belief, and fantasy. This book sheds new light on magical realism, exploring in detail its global origins and development. It offers new perspectives of the history of the ideas behind this literary tradition, including magic, realism, otherness, primitivism, ethnography, indigeneity, and space and time.
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