Faith, Identity and Magical Realism in Leila Aboulela’s Bird Summons

Leen Arkhagha, Yousef Awad


This article adopts a literary analytical approach to illuminate the use of magical realism in the contemporary Anglophone Arab narrative of Leila Aboulela’s Bird Summons (2019). The study follows a methodology which combines two critical approaches to magical realism: first, a textual approach, and then a contextual one. Accordingly, the study uses key magical realist elements in Bird Summons to delineate the poetics of magical realism within the narrative, before determining the context in which magical realism functions in the narrative. Simultaneously, the study benefits from Christopher Warnes’s two strands of magical realism, ‘faith-based magical realism’ and ‘irreverent magical realism’ in providing a coherent basis for the use of magical realism in the text. This study aims at examining the significance of the magical realist narrative in articulating Arab British identity in Bird Summons. The analysis will interpret the role of magical realism in conveying and undermining the dominant ethnic and racial discourses which shape Arab British identities in Britain. The study’s findings demonstrate how the use of magical realism in the examined Anglophone Arab novel reinforces the fictional purposes of Aboulela as a hyphenated Arab, as it allows her to undermine dominant discourses on hyphenated Arab identities. At the same time, the use of magical realism allows Aboulela to (re)construct Arab British identities within her novel, apart from essentialist views of identity.


Leila Aboulela, Arab British, Magical Realism, Faith, Diasporic Identities

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