Jewish Cultural Production and Magical Realism - special issue of Symbolism (24 August 2012)

full name / name of organization: 
Dr Axel Staehler
contact email:

This call for papers invites contributions to a themed issue of Symbolism. An International Annual of Critical Aesthetics that will introduce a “Special Focus” on Jewish cultural production and magical realism.
Magic or magical realism, which emerged as a potent literary style in particular in postcolonial cultures, has become a significant mode of fiction also in a Jewish context, both in the Diaspora and in Israel. In a political sense, magical realism has been understood to empower the oppressed by offering alternative versions of ‘truth’; more generally, it has also been used to engage with the inexplicable. Arguably, Jewish narrative traditions, such as the Midrash, the Kabbalah, or the stories of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav, anticipate elements of magical realism. More recently, issues of identity, oppression and persecution as well as the Holocaust have been addressed in a magical realist mode by Jewish and Israeli writers, such as Moacyr Scliar, Clive Sinclair, and David Grossman. Other Jewish and Israeli writers to have engaged in magical realist style are, for instance, Melvin Jules Bukiet, Orly Castel-Bloom, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer, Dara Horn, Franz Kafka, Nicole Krauss, Clarice Lispector, Bernard Malamud, Jonathan Papernick, Thane Rosenbaum, Ruth Knafo Setton, Meir Shalev, Joseph Skibell, Steve Stern, and Richard Zimler. Jewish film directors, such as Marco Carmel, Judit Elek or the Coen Brothers, have also resorted to (elements of) a magical realist style.
Intending to bring together in a comparative approach analyses of the diverse manifestations of magical realism across transnational Jewish cultural production, this “Special Focus” of Symbolism aims to engage in the comprehensive exploration of a powerful mode of expression which has added a new dimension to the articulation of Jewish concerns and which, arguably, is in dialogue with similar forms of literary and artistic expression in different contexts.
In addition to the writers and directors mentioned above and their work, topics addressed in contributions to this themed issue of Symbolism might include but are not limited to:

Definitions of Jewish/Israeli magical realism
Is Jewish magical realism distinct from other manifestations of this style?
What is the appeal of magical realism to Jewish writers?
The influence of magical realism on Jewish writing
Forms of magical realism in Jewish writing
Jewish narrative traditions and magical realism (including the influence of Jewish narrative traditions on magical realism)
The influence of Jewish magical realism on others
Israeli magical realism
Jewish magical realism and
• the postmodern
• the postcolonial
• the re-writing of history
• the Holocaust
• the “cutesification of horror” (Austerlitz)
• anti-Semitism
• resistance
• aesthetics
• Jewish identities
• Israeli magical realism
• Zionism/post-Zionism
• Judaism
• politics
• the other

Please send abstracts of up to 300 words by 24 August 2012 to:
Dr Axel Stähler (University of Kent, Canterbury):

Deadline for the submission of articles is 31 March 2013
(This is admittedly a rather tight turnaround which is due to external factors; a negotiation of individual deadlines may be possible within a certain timeframe. However, of particular importance for British contributors thinking of their REF submissions, publication is envisaged for September 2013.)
Word count: c. 6000-8000 words

For further details and information please contact: Dr Axel Stähler (

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