Magic Realism in a Transnational Context

A special issue of Literature (ISSN 2410-9789).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2022) | Viewed by 8553

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of English, Keio University, Tokyo, Japan
Interests: extraterritorial; posthumanism; outlaw technologist; steampunk; virtual idol
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Guest Editor
Department of English, College of Humanities and Sciences, Nihon University, Tokyo 102-8275, Japan
Interests: ethnic literature; Japanese American literature; transnational studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The term “magic realism,” first introduced in 1925 by German art critic Franz Roh in After Expressionism: Magical Realism, later became popular in South America. Latin American literary works, such as Jorge Luis Borges’s The Aleph and Other Stories (1945), Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), and José Donoso’s The Obscene Bird of Night (1970) focus on magical or supernatural phenomena that occur in the real world or a mundane setting. They also gave impacts upon North American “post-Faulknerian” writers such as Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, and Steve Erickson. However, this literary genre has not remained confined to the Americas, offering us a new perspective that illuminates ethnicity around the world.

As the ethnic movements reached its peak globally in the 1980s, some authors of Asian descent began adopting magic realism as a literary tool to express ethnicity. Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981), Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994), and Ken Liu’s The Paper Menageries and Other Stories (2016) are good examples.

Among them, Japanese American writer Karen Tei Yamashita moved from the U.S.A. to São Paulo, Brazil, where she produced a new narrative style of magic realism that reflects ethnicity beyond the historical discourse of victimization in the mainland U.S. Such transborder ethnic characteristics may be found in her novel Through the Arc of the Rainforest, in which a piece of flying debris remains attached to the forehead of the Japanese man Kazumasa Ishimaru through some kind of magnetic force, or her Tropic of Orange, in which a phantasmagoric Arcangel, a surrealistic Latin performer, transforms himself into anything he desires. Inspired by Márquez’s and Borges’s devices, Yamashita presents her magic realism within a transborder context as a fictional analog of anthropology and sociology that depicts the world as frequently humorous while inserting a critical investigation into people’s attempts to make sense of their world.

Magic realism as a genre now has transborder characteristics that lead us to reconsider our general concept of ethnicity within a nation. This Special Issue of Arts on Magic Realism welcomes ambitious and insightful papers containing new and provocative topics from a transnational perspective

Prof. Dr. Takayuki Tatsumi
Prof. Dr. Rie Makino
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • magic realism
  • transnational
  • ethnicity
  • Karen Tei Yamashita

Published Papers (5 papers)

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9 pages, 275 KiB  
Article
A Japanese Santa Claus: A Nikkei Subject and Lévi-Strauss’s Gift Theory in Through the Arc of the Rain Forest
by Rie Makino
Literature 2022, 2(4), 352-360; https://doi.org/10.3390/literature2040029 - 02 Dec 2022
Viewed by 1639
Abstract
Japanese American writer Karen Tei Yamashita’s first novel, Through the Arc of the Rainforest (1990), portrays protagonist Kazumasa Ishimaru as “a Japanese Santa Claus”, depicted as having a plastic ball spinning in front of his face. Yamashita presents this magic realist hero as [...] Read more.
Japanese American writer Karen Tei Yamashita’s first novel, Through the Arc of the Rainforest (1990), portrays protagonist Kazumasa Ishimaru as “a Japanese Santa Claus”, depicted as having a plastic ball spinning in front of his face. Yamashita presents this magic realist hero as a satire of Japan in the 1990s, which became the developed nation needed to support the developing world under the new Marshall Plan. Focusing on Kazumaza’s participation in charity, this essay explores the gift economy embodied by this Japanese immigrant character. Inspired by Claude Lévi-Strauss’s 1952 essay “Burned-out Santa Claus”, Kazumasa’s Nikkei subject position not only criticizes American capitalism but also Brazil’s postcolonial mentality. Supporting the idea that Lévi-Strauss sympathizes with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s concept of innocence, the last part of the essay probes the idea of Kazumasa as an innocent subject who challenges the dichotomy between American capitalism and postcolonial Brazil. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Magic Realism in a Transnational Context)
10 pages, 241 KiB  
Article
Nonhuman Subject and the Spatiotemporal Reimagination of the Borderlands in Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange
by Heejoo Park
Literature 2022, 2(4), 278-287; https://doi.org/10.3390/literature2040023 - 01 Nov 2022
Viewed by 1028
Abstract
In Tropic of Orange (1997), Karen Tei Yamashita uses literary imagination to challenge the settler-colonial discourse on space and time in the Americas. The influence of Latin American magical realism on Yamashita is most pronounced in the orange, a nonhuman object imbued with [...] Read more.
In Tropic of Orange (1997), Karen Tei Yamashita uses literary imagination to challenge the settler-colonial discourse on space and time in the Americas. The influence of Latin American magical realism on Yamashita is most pronounced in the orange, a nonhuman object imbued with human agency. The orange magically initiates cross-border movements of people that disrupt the binaries of local/global, East/West, and North/South, challenging the unequal distribution of freedom of movement across the globe. In this paper, I engage with Wai-Chee Dimock’s concept of “deep time” to discuss the temporality of such border crossings. I propose that the cyclicality symbolized by the orange provides an alternative to linear settler-colonial management of spacetime. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Magic Realism in a Transnational Context)
8 pages, 199 KiB  
Article
The Magic Realist Unconscious: Twain, Yamashita and Jackson
by Takayuki Tatsumi
Literature 2022, 2(4), 257-264; https://doi.org/10.3390/literature2040021 - 12 Oct 2022
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Abstract
The literary topic of Siamese twins is not unfamiliar. American literary history tells us of the genealogy from Mark Twain’s pseudo-antebellum story The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy Those Extraordinary Twins (1894), Karen Tei Yamashita’s postmodern metafiction “Siamese Twins and Mongoloids: [...] Read more.
The literary topic of Siamese twins is not unfamiliar. American literary history tells us of the genealogy from Mark Twain’s pseudo-antebellum story The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy Those Extraordinary Twins (1894), Karen Tei Yamashita’s postmodern metafiction “Siamese Twins and Mongoloids: Cultural Appropriation and the Deconstruction of Stereotype via the Absurdity of Metaphor” (1999), down to Shelley Jackson’s James Tiptree, Jr. award winner Half-Life (2006). Rereading these works, we are easily invited to notice the political unconscious hidden deep within each plot: Twain’s selection of the Italian Siamese twins based upon Chang and Eng Bunker, antebellum stars of the Barnum Museum, cannot help but recall the ideal of the post-Civil War world uniting the North and the South; Yamashita’s figure of the conjoined twins Heco and Okada derives from Hikozo Hamada, an antebellum Japanese who made every effort to empower the bond between Japan and the United States, and John Okada, the Japanese American writer well known for his masterpiece No No Boy (1957); and Jackson’s characterization of the female conjoined twins Nora and Blanche Olney represents a new civil rights movement in the post-Cold War age in the near future, establishing a close friendship between the humans and the post-humans. This literary and cultural context should convince us that Yamashita’s short story “Siamese Twins and Mongoloids” serves as a kind of singularity point between realist twins and magic realist twins. Influenced by Twain’s twins, Yamashita paves the way for the re-figuration of the conjoined twins not only as tragi-comical freaks in the Gilded Age but also as representative men of magic realist America in our Multiculturalist Age. A Close reading of this metafiction composed in a way reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges, Stanislaw Lem and Bruce Sterling will enable us to rediscover not only the role conjoined twins played in cultural history, but also the reason why Yamashita had to feature them once again in her novel I Hotel (2010) whose plot centers around the Asian American civil rights movement between the 1960s and the 1970s. Accordingly, an Asian American magic realist perspective will clarify the way Yamashita positioned the figure of Siamese Twins as representing legal and political double standards, and the way the catachresis of Siamese Twins came to be naturalized, questioned and dismissed in American literary history from the 19th century through the 21st century. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Magic Realism in a Transnational Context)

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11 pages, 259 KiB  
Essay
Performance Appraisal: Reinterpreting Tropic of Orange
by Greg Bevan
Literature 2023, 3(1), 19-29; https://doi.org/10.3390/literature3010002 - 20 Dec 2022
Viewed by 1882
Abstract
Karen Tei Yamashita’s third novel Tropic of Orange (1997), set in Los Angeles and featuring an all-minority cast of characters and extensive use of magical realism, has been commonly received as an indictment of global capitalism. But the present study argues that such [...] Read more.
Karen Tei Yamashita’s third novel Tropic of Orange (1997), set in Los Angeles and featuring an all-minority cast of characters and extensive use of magical realism, has been commonly received as an indictment of global capitalism. But the present study argues that such an interpretation depends upon foregrounding the most didactic portions of the text, and that engagement with the enacted drama of the novel reveals a more fully developed and equally enduring theme, that of the performative nature of ethnic identity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Magic Realism in a Transnational Context)
12 pages, 246 KiB  
Essay
Karen Tei Yamashita and Magical Realism: Re-Membering Community, Undoing Borders
by Ruth Yvonne Hsu
Literature 2022, 2(4), 288-299; https://doi.org/10.3390/literature2040024 - 07 Nov 2022
Viewed by 1435
Abstract
Yamashita’s use of mythic verism in Tropic of Orange and a reimagined doppelgänger trope in I Hotel depicts the ir/real nature of the taxonomy of identity and of Asian America and other minority groups being constituted in and beyond the mainstream or conventional [...] Read more.
Yamashita’s use of mythic verism in Tropic of Orange and a reimagined doppelgänger trope in I Hotel depicts the ir/real nature of the taxonomy of identity and of Asian America and other minority groups being constituted in and beyond the mainstream or conventional understanding of the idea of America and of the identity of the US nation-state as being built upon discursive technologies of amnesia and misinterpellation of the subject of US history and its Other. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Magic Realism in a Transnational Context)
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