Magic and History in Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Szabadi, István
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I intend to define Clarke’s novel in terms of a postmodern pseudo-historical genre, as “historiographic metafiction”, based on Linda Hutcheon’s theory. As the issues of history and historical representation are crucial for the genre and for postmodernism as well, I discuss the way they are presented in Clarke’s novel, applying the theories of Hayden White and Frank Ankersmit. I shall also analyse the manner in which magic and history are intertwined in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and examine how the novel juxtaposes possible approaches to the issue of magic. I propose a reading of the Strangite approach as similar to primitive magic in the anthropological sense and then I describe Gilbert Norrell’s attitude in terms of magic considered as an institution with its specific cultural role; in terms of alchemy rather than “primitive” magic. Finally, I shall give an interpretation of the difference between these approaches based on the dichotomy of Nature and Culture in the sense in which it is discussed by Jacques Derrida.
mágia, postmodern