Reality, Interrupted: New Perspectives on Magical Realism

deadline for submissions: 
February 28, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Liverpool John Moores University
contact email: 

5th July at Liverpool John Moores University

Keynote Speaker: Dr Chris Warnes (St. John's, University of Cambridge)

It has been over twenty years since the publication of Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community (1995), a collection of seminal essays which challenged the perception of magical realism as a form strictly reserved for Latin American writers. The collection instead repositioned magical realism as an international form used by writers from across the globe and to depict a variety of historical contexts. However, Netflix’s critically acclaimed Narcos (2015), a biopic of Pablo Escobar, firmly attributes magical realism to the Latin American context once again, opening with the statement:

‘Magical realism is defined as what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe. There is a reason magical realism was born in Colombia’.

Taking this as an indication that the debates about the origins, politics, and aesthetics of magical realism have not yet been resolved, we ask: how should texts featuring the supernatural, marvellous, and magical be categorised and understood today? How have debates evolved over the last two decades, both within and outside the field of literary studies? Can we now consider magical realism a global form or is the term only applicable to specific texts and contexts? Where do the generic and formal boundaries lie between texts dealing with folk magic and belief systems, and works by authors such as Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende, and Günter Grass, whose novels form a firmly established canon of magical realism? What divides and unites such disparate texts?

With these questions in mind, this one-day conference seeks to explore understandings of magical realism in the twenty-first century. It aims to interrogate the category of ‘magical realism’ through an examination of its conventions, forms, and features as well as its relationship with political, historical, and cultural contexts. There are no chronological or geographical boundaries for the conference and we welcome proposals from literature, history, cultural studies, film and screen studies, art, and social science, in the hope that this will be an interdisciplinary conference with a transnational scope. Potential topics for papers or panels might include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Defining /differentiating magical realism, marvellous realism, and the fantastical 
  • New sites and politics of the magically real 
  • Discourses of race, gender, and class in works of magical realism 
  • Magical realism and postcolonial writing 
  • Genealogies of magical realism (realism, modernism, surrealism, postmodernism…) 
  • Religion, spirituality, and faith 
  • Fairy tales, fantasy, and children’s fiction 
  • ‘Peripheral modernism’ and ‘critical irrealism’ in world-literature 
  • Myths, legends, and folklore in art, film, and literature 

We welcome proposals from scholars at any stage in their career and are able to offer a limited number of travel bursaries to postgraduate students. Individual paper proposals should be no more than 300 words in length and accompanied by a brief biography. Proposals for panels or roundtables should be no more than three speakers per session and should consist of abstracts for each paper, along with a short abstract describing the panel as a whole. Please send proposals to magicalrealismconf2018@gmail.com before 28th February 2018.