Magical Realism as Applied to the Field of Psychology

Magical Realism as Applied to the Field of Psychology
Throughout time, one finds many different categories of literature. Magical Realism, a relatively new category, seems to be one of, if not the most, controversial category of the last century. Magical Realism combines a magical, often grotesque, element with a reality based background and allows the reader to view life in a more profound way. The field of psychology, specifically the case of the Wild Child known as Genie, parallels very closely with the ideals of Magical Realism.
Magical Realism may combine two worlds or realms, allowing the reader to see beyond his or her own world. This merging of two realms is a characteristic common to Magical Realism (Faris 172). The two worlds may be fantastic, sublime, or even realistic.

Genie, the Wild Child discovered in 1970, somehow managed to survive for thirteen years even though she was imprisoned in a solitary room by her own father. She was never loved, never spoken to, and was left strapped to a potty chair day after day. When she was not forgotten altogether, she was strapped in a straitjacket and put to sleep in a caged-in crib. She was usually left cold, naked, and hungry. When she was discovered and introduced into a world of which she knew nothing, Genie adapted as best she could. Having heard no speech for the better part of thirteen years, Genie had very obvious linguistic disabilities. Like the merging of the two different worlds in Magical Realism, this merging of Genie's world into the socialized world became essential to the understanding of linguistic acquisition.

Defamiliarization, another Magical Realist characteristic, is often employed by Magical Realist authors. The concept of defamiliarization involves an element of reality that is usually overlooked. This element is explored to new depths and understanding (Simpkins 150). This literary device can be applied to everyday life to explore such things as the acquisition of language.

When Genie's world was merged with reality, the theories of language acquisition could be explored in a new way, just as defamiliarization provides a new perspective on reality. It was proposed that there existed a critical period in a child's mental development. This period was essential for proper language acquisition, and when this period does not take place, as with Genie, the linguistic capabilities of the child are never fully accessed. When tested by physicians and psychiatrists, Genie performed amazingly well on her visual tests, but extraordinarily poorly on her auditory tests. Throughout her life, Genie never surpassed a toddler's level of speech development, usually consisting of two or three word phrases. One usually gives no thought to one's own language or speech patterns because they are so familiar. However, this mode of communication can be considered extraordinary, or "defamiliarized," when observed closely.

The field of psychology, specifically the case of the Wild Child known as Genie, parallels very closely with the ideals of Magical Realism. Magical Realism makes it possible to view reality through a clarified vision, reminding one of all the supernatural elements that exist in everyday life. However, several of the parallels of Magical Realism in reality, such as the case of Genie or even the Holocaust, contain a grotesque quality. The limitless aspect of Magical Realism as well as its ability to convey raw emotions in a way that no other type of literature does may contribute to its strong appeal. Magical Realism clarifies reality and reveals the beauty, or horror, that exists in everyday life.

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