ENGL428X - The "Solitude" of the New World: The Marvelous, the Fantastic, and Magic Realism

How does language shape our perception of the new? How does language break down in the face of the new? How can we communicate new experience with old words? How do we translate experience from one culture into another? It is this schism between New World experience and Old World language that the Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez has called the "solitude" of the Americas--where the "crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable"--but which has also been "a source of insatiable creativity" in the literatures of the New World. In this course, we will approach magic realism as a literary phenomenon in the Americas from a historical point of view. In the first part of the course, we will read exotic travelogues by early American explorers, such as Amerigo Vespucci and Antonio Pigafetta. In the second part, we will turn to the "fantastic" European reception of these New World travelogues in prose and drama such as Thomas More's /Utopia/, Francois Rabelais' /Pantagruel/, and Jonathan Swift's /Gulliver's Travels/. In Unit III, we will read twentieth-century American "New" or "magic realist" narratives, such as Leslie Marmon Silko's /Ceremony/; Miguel Angel Asturias' /Men of Maize/, and Gabriel García Márquez' /A Hundred Years of Solitude/. Along with these primary texts, we will read some critical and theoretical texts that will help us define the literary modes we are addressing (the fantastic, magic realism, etc.). (This course is an honors seminar, and requires either admission to the English Honors Program or permission of the Honors Director)

Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs. Course intended primarily for students in English Honors Program. English majors with strong academic records may also apply. Permission from the Director of Honors required.


Junior standing. For ENGL majors only.