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The Virtual Essence of Magical Realism in Global Literary and Cinematic Narratives

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Organizer: Eugene Arva

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Along its century-old history as a subject of literary theory and film criticism, magical realism has proved to be a particularly versatile, global mode of representation and one of the most effective artistic media to recover the memory of extreme events. This seminar builds on fundamental elements of magical realism scholarship, and aims to situate the storytelling mode within the growingly complex field of virtual reality theory and ecocriticism. By exacerbating the crisis of representation, one of the hallmarks of postmodernity, magical realism paradoxically brings order to the incoherence and randomness of memories originating in limit-events such as historical traumata and ecological disasters (natural or manmade); as an artistic medium, it undermines the ontological integrity of a realist text by superposing the rational and the natural with the unexplainable and the unnatural (or supernatural), breaks the logic of subordination, and creates a new textual reality framework.
For the sake of consistency, theoretical angles 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), whereas the thematic premise of the panel will be founded on Eva Aldea’s Deleuzian treatment of magical realism, according to which the “ontological model of actual and virtual as two sides of One Being is invaluable to negotiating the contradiction or double bind inherent in magical realism…” (Magical Realism and Deleuze, 2011).
Accordingly, analyses will specifically focus on the creative, world-forging function of characters and narrators in global trauma narratives, who, in their paradoxically non-conflictual realm of magical realist reality, attempt to close the gap between a traumatic past and the present. Their extraordinary worlds acquire the function of meta-narratives, embedded commentaries on the very essence of literature. Whether they are tangible artistic creations (embroideries, clay figures, or paintings), or mental constructions of imaginary narratives and objects, they sprout in similar contexts and function as outlets of the characters’ inner tensions and conflicts – all so many ways of acting out or working through trauma.
Contributors are invited to address the actual and the virtual in magical realist narratives, and to focus on metatextual elements, on stories within stories, on the recurring motifs of artistic creation and imagination, and on the “double bind” inherent in the writing mode. Critical and theoretical analyses of film narratives, with clear emphasis on the underlying themes of the panel, are also welcome.
Please e-mail a short bio with institutional affiliation and scholarly background to Eugene Arva at and

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