Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative

Wendy B. Faris

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Cover illustration by Wendy B. Faris
Ordinary Enchantments investigates magical realism as the most important trend in contemporary international fiction, defines its characteristics and narrative techniques, and proposes a new theory to explain its significance. In the most comprehensive critical treatment of this literary mode to date, Wendy B. Faris discusses a rich array of examples from magical realist novels around the world, including the work not only of Latin American writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but also of authors like Salman Rushdie, Gunter Grass, Toni Morrison, and Ben Okri.

In addition to describing what many consider to be the progressive cultural work of magical realism, Faris also confronts the recent accusation that magical realism and its study as a global phenomenon can be seen as a form of commodification and an imposition of cultural homogeneity. And finally, drawing on the narrative innovations and cultural scenarios that magical realism enacts, she extends those principles toward issues of gender and the possibility of a female element within magical realism.

"For over twenty years, Wendy Faris has meditated deeply on the paradox of magical realism. And now the rabbit is out of the hat. Ordinary Enchantments brings critical clarity to a fictional world whose organizing principle is radical incongruity. It discovers a textual poetics for the grounded imagination. And it shows us why fiction that astonishes is inherently political fiction--a way of envisioning social equity within an overwhelmingly unequal world." - Stephen Slemon.

"Over a generation since magical realism first levitated onto the global stage, the time is ripe for stock-taking, and nobody to date has taken stock more engagingly or authoritatively than Wendy Faris. Synthesizing postcolonialist insight, Faris ranges widely across space and time, and her findings are as rich and strange as magical realist fiction itself. If the enchantments of magical realism are 'ordinary,' this book certainly is not." - Brian McHale.

Wendy B. Faris is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Texas at Arlington. She is the author of Carlos Fuentes and Labyrinths of Language: Symbolic Landscape and Narrative Design in Modern Fiction, as well as co-editor of Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community.

Nashville, Tennessee 37235
ISBN: 0-8265-1442-1

Table of Contents


Permissible Savag'ry


1 Definitions and Locations
Magical Realism between Modern and Postmodern Fiction

2 "From a Far Source Within"
Magical Realism as Defocalized Narrative
Postmodern Primitivists
The Presence of Spirit
Shamanistic Narrative Healing

3 Encoding the Ineffable
A Textual Poetics for Magical Realism
Magical Details, Naive Narrators, Indeterminate Spaces and Times, the Oneiric Optic
Two-Way Streets
Narrative Distances and Chinese Boxes

4 "Along the Knife-Edge of Change"
Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Dynamics of Alterity
Historical Realities
Recent Literary History and Cultural Politics

5 "Women and Women and Women"
A Feminine Element in Magical Realism
"Virgin Paper": or, Inhabiting Female Bodies
The Female Body of Writing
Territorial Magic
"La Mysterique"


Works Consulted