Studies in Modern Literature: Magic Realism and Surrealism 

English 265  Spring 2009

Welcome to the home page for one of my favorite courses, an exploration of some of the most innovative, unconventional, mind-bending fiction and poetry of the twentieth century.

In the best tradition of this course, students should know that, well, confusing things may happen here, as they have over the years. Visitations from non-terrestrial and non-corporeal beings have been reported, and then there are the Kafka phenomena . . . don't get me started.

Along with some introductory images and quotes, you will find a link to the syllabus and schedule for the course below, along with links to many more sites with more information and assorted other stuff, from the academic to the spectacularly frivolous.

NOTE: I have not had time to check all these links, and many are several years old; some may well be outdated.

If you have feedback or questions, send them on!

Jeff Gundy

René Magritte, The Treachery [or Treason] of Images, 1928-9.



Art must recreate, in full consciousness, and by means of signs, the total life of the universe, that is to say, the soul where the varied dream we call the universe is played.
                           -Teodor de Wyzewa, 1886



Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. . . .
          -Gabriel Garcia Marquez,
 One Hundred Years of Solitude (1970)

But you sit at your window when evening falls and dream it to yourself.
                                   -Franz Kafka

Syllabus and Schedule


A little introductory sampler

On Magical Realism

Magical Realism Solid material on Gabriel Garcia Marquez and magic realism.

Magical Realism Course Web site for a course taught by poet Alberto Rios at Arizona State University. Excellent set of "related links." See especially the many definitions of magical realism here

Magical Realism An overview site created by Lindsay Moore at Emory University.

Margin An online magazine "exploring modern magical realism."

Syllabus for a Magical Realism course Taught by Wendy Faris at the Univ. of Texas Arlington.

The Magical Realism Page Site with good information and some links created by Evelyn C. Leeper.

Magical Realism in Minority Literature as defined by Morrison and Anaya Essay by Jennifer Thurik with reviews of some web sites.

On Specific Authors and Ideas

Some Comments on Isaac Babel and "The Sin of Jesus"

On Pablo Neruda Academy of American Poets site with poems and links.

Nobel Prize Site on Neruda With a link to his Nobel Prize speech.

On Nazim Hikmet Biography and some poems.

Introduction to Selected Poems of Nazim Hikmet Useful biographical essay by Hikmet's translators Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk..

On Negritude A lengthy article by Nick Nesbitt.

On Max Ernst and The Hundred Headless Woman.

On Gisele Prassinos Includes a few texts in translation.

On Marina Tsvetayeva Brief biography and some poems, including "In Praise of the Rich."

Another Tsvetaeva Biography Yes, it's sometimes spelled this way too.

The Duende: Theory and Divertissement Federico Garcia Lorca's famous essay. "The duende, then, is a power and not a construct, is a struggle and not a concept.  I have heard an old guitarist, a true virtuoso, remark, "The duende is not in the throat, the duende comes up from inside, up from the very soles of the feet."  That is to say, it is not a question of aptitude, but of a true and viable style - of blood, in other words; of what is oldest in culture: of creation made act."

Federico Garcia Lorca  A short biography and five poems.

Emerson's "Circles" A "study text" version with lots of information in links to the text. Compare this essay to Borges' "The Fearful Sphere of Pascal." 

Internetaleph Borges site by Martin Hadis.

Jorge Luis Borges: The Garden of Forking Paths Extensive site about Borges.

Borges Studies Online Essays on Borges and his work.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) Good brief biography and overview of Borges.

Jorge Luis Borges Another good brief biography with a poem and some quotes and pictures.

The Library of Babel Borges' story online. Worth checking out for the large illustration of the library.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez--MACONDO Modern Word site with excellent short biography and many other links (page down to find them). Also check out "The Power of Garcia Marquez," an extensive 1999 profile from The New Yorker.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Labyrinth Good overview of GM's life and work, some links.

Another introductory Garcia Marquez site

Colombia Site with current information and a map.

An Interview with Carlos Fuentes from the Austin Chronicle, Nov. 2000. " The writer is telling us basically that history is not over. Against these fantastic inventions that history has ended, the writer is saying, "No, history has not ended." . . . The writer says we must imagine the past, the writer says we live in a variety of cultures, and the writer says that the windmills are giants, believe it or not."

On Carpentier and the Baroque Some intriguing notes.

An essay by Alejo Carpentier "For what is the history of Latin America but a chronicle of magical realism?"

On Axolotls Everything you wanted to know about the lizards in Cortazar's story.

On Clarice Lispector A brief introduction.

"But at least to understand that I do not understand." A google translation of a brief Lispector quote.

On Michaux and "Asemic" Writing Asemic? Writing that looks like it should mean something . . .

On Henri Michaux Brief biography and introduction to his work.

Michaux Short note on him and some slides of his art work.

Miserable Miracle Complete text of Michaux's 1956 book about taking the hallucinogen mescaline.

On Rilke Brief and unreliable introduction, with a couple of photos and a somewhat disorienting "English" translation of bits of a German web site on Rilke. Mainly for comic effect.

Rainer Maria Rilke A much better introductory page from the Academy of American Poets, with a number of links.

What No Eye Has Seen, nor Ear Heard A fascinating article on Rilke and early sound recording techniques by Karl-Erik Tallmo. A brief excerpt:

    But, speculates Rilke, what would happen if one used the phonograph needle to play something that was never recorded - if one decoded something never encoded? If one, for instance, was to put the needle into the coronal suture and tried to play the wave pattern of the bone seam? There would be sound, of course, but which ones, and how would we react to hearing them? With incredulity, timidity, fear - or awe?

    One traces the search for a kind of primordium, something older than man, maybe a pronouncement from the tailor who made that seam; an abstruse, spellbinding sound, like the ones we receive from particle storms in space, or when monitoring whales in the depths of the seas. We have always been dissatisfied with the silence of God.

Deep into private mythology with Bruno Schulz Essay by Robert Fulford.

Bruno Schulz: The Street of Crocodiles Essay by Eric Mader-Lin.

On Nabokov's "The Visit to the Museum" Summary and some commentary on the story.

The Kafka Project by Mauro Nervi Most of Kafka's writings in the original German, plus photos, a gallery of quotes, and other material. (Updated address!)

Das Schloss. Modernword site for Kafka. Very nicely produced and managed.

Franz Kafka Biography. Not very scholarly; but lots of information.

UPDATE, 25 March 2009: the Kafka sites listed below have now moved or are defunct, without exception. I have deactivated the links, but left the listings. Somehow I think Kafka would have wanted it that way.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) Good introductory site, with links.

Kafka on the Web  Nice set of links, set up by graduate students at Univ. of Pittsburgh.

The Kafka Project by Mauro Nervi Most of Kafka's writings in the original German, plus photos, a gallery of quotes, and other material.

The Castle: Joseph K's Franz Kafka Site Quirky and intriguing.

The Libyrinth Cool-looking site with material on Borges, Garcia Marquez, Kafka, and others. Possibly defunct as of 8/6/03.

On Dada and Surrealism

History of Surrealism Introduction to Surrealism maintained by Monica Sanchez.

!Surréalisme! Not just an "explanation," but a hint of the experience as well.

The Surrealist Movement in the United States "This site is the voice of the Surrealist Movement itself." At least they say so . . .

ArtLex on Surrealism Nice overview, especially on surrealist art, with lots of links to paintings by major surrealists.

What is Surrealism? A crucial essay by early surrealist Andre Breton.

The Dada Server Somewhat flaky, fun page in the Dada tradition.

Dada Online Brief history of Dada with timeline and other material.

Women Artists in Dada and Surrealism From a book by Margaret Barlow.

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Last modified August 21, 2003