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The Real and the Virtual in Global Magical Realist Narratives

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Organizer: Eugene Arva

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About a century ago, the art critic to whom we owe the term “magical realism,” Franz Roh, provided an invaluable clue for our understanding of the way in which the artistic mode, as a visual medium in his time, and eventually as a textual and cinematic one in ours, operates on a formal level. As it happens, we have much too often approached the oxymoronic term as a mode of reality representation and overlooked its functioning in the reality of the text. On closer analysis, however, copying a consciousness-independent reality and constructing a new, consciousness-dependent one are artistic processes not as disparate as they might seem at first glimpse if only because “reality” remains the wildcard-concept that underlies, and on occasion complicates various and often divergent analyses of magical realism. From Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” in the Republic (~380 BC) to Jean Baudrillard’s treatise Simulation and Simulacra (1981) to Nick Bostrom’s paper “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation” (2001) to Hervé Le Tellier’s novel The Anomaly (2020) to David J. Chalmers philosophical study Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy (2022), to name only a few works attempting to shed light on the connection between reality and human consciousness, what speaks for itself is the millennia-long preoccupation of philosophers, writers, and more recently, cognitive neuroscientists with the virtual aspect of our phenomenal experiences and the fundamental question of whether the virtual hampers, distorts or enhances our perception of reality.
Panel contributors are invited to present analyses that focus on the creative, world-forging characters and narrators in global magical realist literature and/or cinema. The new worlds created by magical realist characters and narrators – virtual realities in their own right, existing on an equal footing with the reality of the texts – acquire the function of meta-narratives, embedded commentaries on the very essence of literature. Magical realist characters use the magic of imagination in their molding of new realities – incongruous with “real” reality – not to escape the actual, but rather to make its pain bearable. If anything, the virtual is meant to complete the real while maintaining its differentness rather than denying it.
Papers will rely primarily on Wendy B. Faris’s definition of magical realism as a poetics or mode of writing that “combines realism and the fantastic so that the marvelous seems to grow organically within the ordinary, blurring the distinction between them” (Ordinary Enchantments, 2004), and are expected to include and to establish connections to filmic narratives (adaptations and originals). By exacerbating the crisis of representation, magical realism undermines the ontological integrity of a realist text by including irrational elements, breaks the logic of subordination, and creates a new reality framework, which favors the healing power of imagination.

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