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Magical Realism: Home

An Introduction

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magical realism /ˈmajəkəl ˈrē(ə)ˌlizəm/ "describes a work of fiction where fantasy slips into everyday life. However, the focus isn’t on the fantastical elements of the story, so much as on what those elements mean for the characters."

As we move through this unit, think about how the author uses morality and religion, as well as, the literary devices of irony & symbolism, as a commentary on humanity.

Objective (s): Students will be able to identify the magical elements A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings and analyze how García Márquez uses a realistic voice to give them credibility.

Essential Questions: How can we define something as magical/mystical? Does culture influence this consensual understanding? How can magical/mystical events tell us about the real world and ourselves? What would you constitute as a magical experience in your life?

Bellringer: How can we define something as magical/mystical? Respond on the following padlet:

Pre-Reading: Open Gale Literature: Magical Realism in Short Fiction & Read the first paragraph from the Overview by selecting the blue "Read Full Overview" button

Navigate to Bloom's Literature: How To Write About "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" and read the first paragraph of "Reading to Write."

Read the short story "The Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" and consider the structure of the story and the lack of resolution/explanation for the appearance of the old man.

Quickwrite: What is the effect of that structure? What are the characters forced to accept?

Consider the motivations of Pelayo, Elisenda and the townspeople... How does their treatment of the old man reflect what they value? What human truth does their treatment reveal? (Think-Pair-Share)

Lastly, let us consider the relationship between old age and suffering in this story.

  1. What is the condition of the old man when he arrives?

  2. Does anyone do anything to try to help him?

  3. Does anyone do anything to aggravate his condition?

  4. In what manner does his condition worsen over the course of the text?

  5. Is he offered any comfort or sympathy?

Socratic Seminar/Fishbowl Discussion: What is the larger message in a “Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” telling us about society and the world? How does motivations of the townspeople shed a light on common human attitudes? What about "The Perils of Indifference"? Secondly, can you think of any real world examples of society’s treatment of “Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” or society's treatment of people who are considered outsiders?

Here are some Latin American Authors who use magical realism in their writing:

Gabriel García Márquez, (born March 6, 1927, Aracataca, Colombia—died April 17, 2014, Mexico City, Mexico), Colombian novelist and one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, mostly for his masterpiece Cien años de soledad (1967; One Hundred Years of Solitude). He was the fourth Latin American to be so honored, having been preceded by Chilean poets Gabriela Mistral in 1945 and Pablo Neruda in 1971 and by Guatemalan novelist Miguel Ángel Asturias in 1967. With Jorge Luis Borges, García Márquez is the best-known Latin American writer in history. In addition to his masterly approach to the novel, he was a superb crafter of short stories and an accomplished journalist. In both his shorter and longer fictions, García Márquez achieved the rare feat of being accessible to the common reader while satisfying the most demanding of sophisticated critics.

Isabel Allende is one of the most popular authors in Latin America and the niece of the former president of Chile, Salvador Allende. She puts her heart into a truly romantic writing that is also very concerned with political and social causes. Her style combines dramatic features with romance and resistance. Very often, Isabel’s texts are characterized by the magic realism of Latin American literature.

Jorge Luis Borges is one of the most important figures in Argentinian literature and Spanish narrative in general.  Borges is also one of the most analyzed authors in the history of literature. His most famous works include Universal History of Infamy (1935), Ficciones (1944), The Aleph (1949), and The Book of Sand (1975).  All of them deal with fictional places and toy with the idea of infinity and mythical creatures that immerse the reader in magical worlds. The stories have been influenced by all genres of literature, from ancient Greece through the 20th-century avant-garde movements.

Alejo Carpentier (1904–1980) was one of the major Latin American writers of the twentieth century, as well as a classically trained pianist and musicologist. His best-known novels are The Lost Steps, Explosion in a Cathedral, and The Kingdom of This World.

Laura Esquivel (born 1950) is a Mexican writer who is best known for her enormously popular 1989 novel Like Water for Chocolate. The novel was made into a film in 1994, which became one of the most successful foreign films ever released in the United States. She has written children's plays, movies, short stories, and several novels, many of which offer readers a glimpse into a world similar to our own, but where sudden moments of magic highlight an otherwise realistic story line. Her novels often explore creative concepts in storytelling, as they have featured illustrations, & cooking recipes.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow, Untamed Shore, and many other books. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu's Daughters).

Carlos Fuentes is widely regarded as Mexico's foremost contemporary novelist. His overriding literary concern is to establish a viable Mexican identity, both as an autonomous entity and in relation to the outside world. In his work, Fuentes often intertwines myth, legend, and history to examine his country's roots and discover the essence of modern Mexican society. Fuentes writes: “Our political life is fragmented, our history shot through with failure, but our cultural tradition is rich, and I think the time is coming when we will have to look at our faces, our own past.” This tradition incorporates elements of Aztec culture, the Christian faith imparted by the Spanish conquistadors, and the failed hopes of the Mexican Revolution. Fuentes uses the past, thematically and symbolically, to comment on contemporary concerns and to project his own vision of Mexico's future.

The Perils of Indifference

Objective (s): Students will be able to understand the critical importance of learning from the past to better confront the conflicts of the 21st-century.

Essential Question: How does Wiesel develop his argument that indifference aids evil?

Pablo Neruda Portrait    I'm Explaining a Few Things by Pablo Neruda








Gabriela Mistral Portrait  The Sonnets of Death by Gabriela Mistral









Writing: Quickwrites, formation of 3 HLQ

Inquiry: Socratic Seminar/Fishbowl Discussion

Collaboration: Think-Pair-Share

Reading: Mark the text, reading research, critical reading- contrarian/critical lenses

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