Magic realism in Aristophanes?

Pauw, F. (2012)

Please cite as follows: Pauw, F. 2012. Magic realism in Aristophanes? Akroterion, 57:9-34, doi:10.7445/57-0-129.

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The term ‘magic realism’, normally reserved for twentieth- century novels with a mixture of realistic and fantastic elements, has not, to my knowledge, been applied to the comedies of Aristophanes. In this article I examine whether there are similarities between Aristophanes’ comedies and magic realism. First, the origin, development and meaning of the term ‘magic realism’ are explored. Then, Italo Calvino’s 1952 novella, The cloven Viscount, is investigated as example of magic realism. The next section examines the duality of Aristophanes’ comedies: they not only allude to the socio-political realities of late-fifth-century Athens but also hinge on plots of comic fantasy. This scheme is then applied to the Aristophanic comedy Birds. In the penultimate section a comparison is drawn between magic realism, as exemplified in The cloven Viscount, and Aristophanic comedy, as exemplified in Birds. The conclusion is devoted to an attempt to account for the similarities in such disparate genres.

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