Despite the devastating scope of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918, curiously few references to the flu exist in literature. Katherine Anne Porter offered one of modernism's only extensive fictional treatments of the pandemic in her short novel “Pale Horse, Pale Rider,” decades after her own near-death encounter with the flu. Porter was able to give voice to an experience that had traumatized others into silence by drawing on an early form of magical realism. Magical realism's ghosts—everyday presences rather than otherworldly beings to be feared—are of particular relevance to “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” since ghosts “haunt” Porter's semi-autobiographical Miranda throughout the story, acting as correctives to Miranda's (and Porter's) desire to isolate herself from the familial and regional heritage that burdens her with unwanted and often conflicting ideologies. Ultimately, in using magical realism to explore her sense of self and to articulate the alienating effects of her near-death experience, Porter is able to embrace her complicated heritage and her fractured past, reclaiming interconnectedness while maintaining her individuality.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Nelson, Katherine Snow, "Influenza, Heritage, and Magical Realism in Katherine Anne Porter's Miranda Stories" (2015). Theses and Dissertations. 4416.
Katherine Anne Porter, magical realism, 1918 Influenza Pandemic, modernism