> contrast, I had thought that the key if not the principal
> distinguishing element of magical realism must be its basis in a
> certain social or sociological viewpoint behind the narrative and
> frequent roots in folklore outside of the dominant Western
> culture. Otherwise, the simple journey into a make-believe
> netherworld where magic is a possibility is a standard Hollywood
> genre. (I don't mean magic as basic wish-fulfillment, but
> embodied in such manifestations as guardian angels, flying
> carpets, etc.) For instance, is there a difference between Field
> of Dreams and Heaven Can Wait vs. The Thief of Bagdad or The
> Jungle Book and Lost Horizon? I fail to see it. Magical realism I
> would think, by its very nature and commitment to a political
> perspective, must remain almost entirely out of the realm of
> mainstream production, generally precluding the Hollywood genre
> of "fantasy".
I think this is (for me) a very important aspect of the generic problems
raised by magical realism. Essentially I agree with you, as I understand
you to be saying that MR cannot be defined formally alone--although formal
elements are necessarily present for a work to be defined as magical
realism. On the other hand, nor can it be defined much more easily by
referring to content--although certain subject matters, generally revolving
around the home, for example, are familiar in many such works. This seems
to leave us suggesting that magical realism must be defined by a certain
political "commitment"--as you suggest--but that seems to be very shaky
ground from which to begin an analysis. If magical realism (and here I
over-simplify, of course) is to be judged on the basis of a "party line",
then it seems closer to *socialist* realism than anything else.
Besides, how exactly would you compare the political views (even given they
are self-evident) of, say, Allende's _House of the Spirits_, Rushdie's
_Satanic Verses_ or Kundera's _Unbearable Lightness_. Compare the gender
politics of each, for example. More evidently, each comes out of a very
different social and political context (although much magical realism can
loosely be defined as "postcolonial" there are many postcolonialisms) so how
could we presume identity of strategy?
Here I am using literary examples, because they seem somewhat less
problematic in terms of identification than cinematic ones. But, supposing
some of the films I have suggested are magical realist, how would one go
about comparing the political viewpoints of _Wings of Desire_, _Miracle in
Milan_ or _Like Water for Chocolate_?
At the same time, clearly any genre is problematic at some point, but here I
think that magical realism raises more problems than most.
> These are just some initial reactions to what I find to be a
> fascinating question in a discussion that has provided some very
> worthwhile ideas to contemplate.
> Brian Taves, Motion Picture Division
> Library of Congress
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
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