English R1B

Reading and Composition: Magic Realism and National Allegory

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Fall 2006 Joel Nickels
TTh 9:30-11 237 Cory

Other Readings and Media

"I. Allende, The House of the Spirits

A. Roy, The God of Small Things

B.Okri, The Famished Road

A course reader"


"The term �magic realism� can be used to describe any work of fiction that combines fantastic or otherworldly forms of narrative with those that belong to more traditional realist methods. But the aesthetic and social significance of magic realist devices varies greatly in works that originate from different socio-political contexts. In this class, we will read novels by authors from Chile, India, and Nigeria in order to explore the various artistic and political functions that magic realism serves in these cultural contexts. At the same time, we will examine criticism that asks whether and to what extent the idea of �national allegory� is an adequate critical frame for works of so-called third-world literature. Do magic realist techniques have a greater tendency to be enlisted in the service of narratives of emergent national identity? If so, how do we account for the socially symbolic character of these stylistic devices? If not, what is it about magic realism that causes it to exceed the critical frameworks devised by proponents of �national allegory�?

Students will be expected to write two essays. The first should exibit the students� ability to employ close reading, literary analysis and theoretical argumentation. The second should integrate these interpretive techniques with more formal critical analysis, based on individual research."

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