Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

In “Migration and Displacement in Twenty-First Century Magical Realist Fiction” I discuss identity development and the search for belonging of displaced people within twenty-first century magical realist novels. In each instance, the characters undergo some form of change heralded by a magical moment or moments. The “magic” allows the authors to literalize underlying cultural tensions by physically altering some aspect of a character. The changes are not mere metaphors, they are literal, bodily transformations. The first stage of this process are magical thresholds that allow passage in space and time far beyond the conventions of reality. A magical threshold literalizes the felt reality of a displaced person who is squeezed between two or more rigid cultural norms that each seek to establish dominancy. Once a character steps beyond the threshold metamorphosis occurs. The metamorphoses in the novels are physiological changes that represent the processes of acculturation and acclimation displaced people experience. Unlike the future-oriented changes of metamorphosis, the diasporic consciousness reaches to the past to reconstruct a fragmented culture in a new place. Twenty-first century magical realist authors embody this experience in ghosts and a literal replaying of the past. Similarly, indigenous communities look to their history to reinforce the group identity and feeling of belonging. These groups reside in their traditional homeland and live within a palimpsest where their cultural landmarks are overlaid with the newer cultures’ notions of significance. Magical realist authors express this phenomenon by synchronous incidents that even the characters struggle to parse. The mixed cultures create a complicated reality that expresses multiple cultural practices at once. Twenty-first century magical realist authors use the techniques of magical realism to embody the felt realities of displaced peoples during the ongoing processes of identity formation and the creation of a sense of belonging.

Date

11-2-2022

Committee Chair

Massé, Michelle

Available for download on Saturday, November 01, 2025

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