From the beginning of The Monkey, a short story located within Isak Dinesen's anthology Seven Gothic Tales, the reader is taken back to a “storytime” world he or she may remember from childhood. Dinesen's 1934 example of what has been identified as the "Gothic Sublime" sets the stage for analysis of its relationship to other types of literature. What constitutes Sublime literature? More importantly, how may sublime literature relate to Magical Realist literature? Through examination of The Monkey, the relationship between Sublime literature and Magical Realist literature can be defined.
Scholars have traced the history of Sublime literature back to the third century literary critic Longinus. In his work Peri Hypsos, he lays the groundwork for the Sublime literature that still exists today. "Sublimity is always an eminence and excellence in language" (qtd. in Arensberg 3). "Excellence and eminence" are conveyed through rhetorical devices found in the text. Many of these devices are also found in works identified as Magical Realist works of literature.
Longinus' characteristics are evidenced throughout The Monkey. One such characteristic is the use of elevated language to describe a scene or action:
The Prioress received her nephew within her lofty parlor. Its three tall
windows looked out, between heavy curtains which had on them borders
of flower garlands done in cross-stich, over the lawns and avenues of the
autumnal garden. From the damask-clad walls her long-departed father
and mother gazed down, out of broad gilt frames, with military gravity
and youthful grace, powered and laced for some gr...
... middle of paper ...
...ic realms cannot merge.
For these reasons, based on the examination of these two works, one cannot assume that Sublime literature and Magical Realist literature are the same, nor can one assume that they are genres of one another. They seem to have many characteristics in common, and therefore one would assume that they maintain a close relationship, although independently. By comparing and contrasting another genre of literature with Magical Realism, the defining boundaries that make up Magical Realism are narrowed.
Arensberg, Mary. The American Sublime. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986.
Dinesen, Isak. Seven Gothic Tales. New York: Harrison Smith and Robert Haas Inc., 1934.
Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Longinus. On the Sublime. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995.
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