Greg Steirer's Colloquium

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 - 11:00am

Towards a Theory of Mythic Realism: Fate, Family, and the Politics of Representation

In this paper, I argue that the generic rules of mythic realism derive from an uncomfortable amalgamation of liberal and progressive values (feminism, multiculturalism, the celebration of urban life, etc.) with traditional conservative principles (an ontological ethics, the primacy of blood relations, etc.). The genre’s bifurcated approach to reality thus gives rise to an unusual politics of representation, in which the contest for political “truth” is staged as the protagonist’s crossing between realities. Through close readings of John Crowley’s Little, Big (1981) - usually considered the first mythic realist novel - and an episode of the CW’s Smallville (2002), I offer examples of how these values are typically coded, and demonstrate how the narrative forms themselves generally determine the contest’s resolution. My paper thus hopes to spur new critical attention to what has so far been a relatively under-theorized genre.

Cinema Studies Program
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