Scholars have debated the defining characteristics of Magical Realism since its infancy as an emerging art form in the early twentieth century. From Franz Roh, the art critic who coined the term Magical Realism, to contemporary leading scholars such as Amaryll Chanady, a myriad of confusion has surrounded this term. In an effort to narrow the defining boundaries of what constitutes Magical Realism, short stories labeled as Magical Realism can be examined for their degree of adherence to the cardinal characteristics most scholars attribute to Magical Realism. Here, "The Porcelain Doll," a short story by the nineteenth century author Leo Tolstoy, can be used to illustrate common confusions surrounding the term Magical Realism. This short story was included in the 1984 book Magical Realist Fiction: An Anthology. By identifying the characteristics that seem inconsistent with the characteristics most critics ascribe to Magical Realist literature, a more concise understanding of Magical Realism can be obtained.
"The text [magical realist text] contains an 'irreducible element' of magic, something we cannot explain according to the laws of the universe as we know them" (Faris 167). In addition to these "magical" elements, Magical Realist fiction, by name, includes "realistic" elements that serve to counterbalance the "magical" elements. The plots are logically conceived (Leal 120). An amalgamation of realistic and magical elements is presented by true Magical Realist authors through specific devices. These devices serve as the first basis for evaluating a work of literature and determining whether or not it fits into the Magical Realist mode.
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...ical Realism and Postmodern Fiction." Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 163-189.
Leal, Luis. "Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature." Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 119-124.
Simpkins, Scott. "Sources of Magic Realism/Supplements to Realism in Contemporary Latin American Literature." Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 145-159.
Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Form. Cleveland: The Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1973. 168-174.
Tolstoy, Leo. "The Porcelain Doll." Magical Realist Fiction: An Anthology. New York: Longman, Inc., 1984. 33-36.
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