Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access

Theorizing Irony and Trauma in Magical Realism: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book

Maria Kaaren Takolander


Magical realism has been commonly theorized in terms of a postcolonial strategy of cultural renewal, according to which magical realist fiction is understood as embodying a racialized epistemology allegedly inclusive of magic. The inherent exoticism of this idea has seen magical realist literature rejected as misguided. Critics have recently returned their attention to magical realist fiction, theorizing it in terms of the field of trauma studies. However, trauma readings of magical realism tend to unselfconsciously reinvigorate an authenticating rhetoric: magical realism is represented not as the organic expression of a pre-colonial or hybrid consciousness, but of colonial or other kinds of trauma. Through case studies of Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book, this paper will intervene in trauma-studies readings of magical realist literature to emphasize the fundamentally ironic nature of the iconic narrative strategy of representing the ostentatiously fantastical alongside the historical. It will also argue that these texts, while invested in representing the traumas of colonialism, are less interested in authenticating magic as part of a postcolonial or traumatic epistemology than in transforming fantasy into history and empowered futurity.



Magical Realism, Postcolonialism, Trauma, Junot Díaz, Alexis Wright

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

Follow ARIEL on Facebook