Marvellous real in the Middle East: a comparative study of magical realism in contemporary women’s fiction
Alshehri, Ameerah Saleh
Magical realism has been studied extensively in relation to Latin America and subsequently in other parts of the world, yet the Middle East has not received adequate attention in academic scholarship. This PhD study examines a selection of contemporary female-authored narratives from the Middle East to establish an understanding of the practice of magical realism in this region. The selected texts for this study are: Raja Alem’s Fatma and My Thousand and One Nights; Shahrnush Parsipur’s Women Without Men and Touba and the Meaning of Night; Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul and Gina B. Nahai’s Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith. This study firstly explores the concept of magical realism as a mode of writing and determines its relationship to the Middle Eastern context. It then evaluates the texts under scrutiny by examining how the narrative of magical realism is constructed and what the sources are of the magical component in these texts, specifically in relation to Middle Eastern mythology. It also investigates the ideological aspect behind the employment of magical realism and whether it serves any political goal. The analysis of the selected texts is approached from three standpoints, that is, from literary, mythological and ideological perspectives. I argue that magical realism serves various purposes and that it is applied from perspectives that can be regarded as marginal to their communities’ dominant values, to subvert mainstream ideology. I also demonstrate that the Middle East is a crucial place to investigate magical realism because of the numerous complex cultural values that interact with each other in this region, and which enrich the practice of magical realism.