Sample One Reflective Journal Assignment

(Please note: These are general guidelines to give you ideas, provide a common format, and help you get started. Actual content components will vary from course to course and faculty member to faculty member as in any other University course. Once in the course, please follow the direction, guidance and instruction from your individual faculty member as to what they want in the assignments.)

LSTD 4700 South American and North American Cultural Issues

The term “magical realism” was first introduced by Franz Roh, a German art critic, who considered magical realism an art category. To him, it was a way of representing and responding to reality and depicting the enigmas of reality in pictures. In Latin America in the 1940’s, magical realism was a way to express the realistic American mentality and create an autonomous style of literature. More of a literary mode rather than a distinguishable genre, magical realism seizes the paradox in the union of opposites. It challenges polar opposites like life and death and the pre-colonial past with the post-industrial present (Roh 16-17).

Magical realism is characterized by two conflicting perspectives, one based on a rational view of reality, and the other based on the acceptance of the supernatural as reality. It differs from pure fantasy primarily because it is set in a normal, modern world with authentic descriptions of humans and society (Flores 100-111). Magical realism seems to involve the fusion of the real and the fantastic. According to Internet link research on this subject, some say the presence of the supernatural in magical realism is often connected to the primeval or “magical” Indian mentality, and exists in conjunction with European rationality. Gonzales Echeverria believes that magical realism offers a world view that is not based on natural or physical laws, nor is it based on objective reality. Hence, the fictional world is not separated from reality either?

The characteristics of magical realism include: hybridity; irony regarding the author’s perspective; authorial reticence; and the supernatural and natural. Hybridity illustrates magical realism in the inharmonious arenas of such opposites as urban and rural, or Western and indigenous. Irony regarding the author’s perspective is where the writer must have ironic distance from the magical worldview for the realism not to be compromised. The writer must strongly respect the magic, or else the magic dissolves into simple folk belief or complete fantasy and splits from the real instead of synchronizing with it. Authorial reticence refers to the lack of clear opinions about the accuracy of events and credibility of worldviews expressed by the characters in the text. This technique tends to promote acceptance in magical realism. The supernatural and the natural are not displayed as questionable. The reader realizes the rational and irrational are opposite and conflicting polarities (Flores 120-121).

The idea of terror reigns over the possibility of newness in magical realism, as far as themes go. Prominent authoritarian figures such as police, soldiers, and sadists all have the power to torture and kill. Time is another conspicuous theme frequently displayed as cyclical instead of linear. In other words, what happens once will probably happen again. Characters rarely realize the promise of a better life. Another complex theme in magical realism is the carnivalesque, which is carnival’s reflection in literature. The concept of carnival seems to mesh the body, the senses, and the relations between humans. “Carnival” refers to the Caribbean and often includes language and dress, as well as the presence of a madman, fool, or clown. Latin American magical realists explore the bright, life-affirming side of the carnivalesque. The reality of revolution and continual political upheaval in certain parts of the world, also relates to magical realism. South America is characterized by an endless struggle for a political ideal (Marquez 2).

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, is a good example of magical realism at its best. He somehow handles a reality in which the limits of the real and the fantastic fade away naturally. This unique style of story-telling is magic realism, as Marquez successfully demonstrates the technique through a skillful integration of fantasy and reality, along with the peculiar description of the events and characters. In order to fuse the fantastic or improbable perfectly into realistic occurrences, the only effective way is to deliver them as if they were the implacable truth. Marquez tells the story in a serious and natural narrative tone, and is able to produce a magical realm where everything is possible and believable. This is the main reason his novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, attracts, convinces, and seduces the reader. He incorporates many supernatural things like flying carpets and levitation. This novel also contains powerful images of paradoxical body disgust and celebration, and the reconstruction of human shapes, all of which exemplify characteristics of magical realism. With his manipulation to blur the division between the real and surreal, no one would doubt his masterpiece is a breakthrough in the literary world of fiction. I personally have not read this book, but from the information I read and researched concerning it, One Hundred Years of Solitude must be a successful magical realism masterpiece of its time.

Some other magical realist authors I found during my research besides Gabriel Garcia Marquez were, Ben Okri, Isabel Allende, Syl Cheney-Coker, Koho Laing, Allego Carpentier, Toni Morrison, Kwsme Anthony Appiah, and Mario Varga Llosa.

Works Cited

Flores, Angel. “Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction.” Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris Durkham, N. C: Duke UP, 1995: 109-121.

Roh, Franz. “Magical Realism: Post Expressionism.” Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durkham, N. C: Duke UP, 1995. 15-31.

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. Magical Realism. 7 Jan 2001.3 pages.20 Aug. 2005. <>.

Back to CLS Online Resources

Home Prospective Students Current Students Advisors' Corner Alumni Staff Site Map