Performing Dark Arts

A Cultural History of Conjuring

Michael Mangan

Michael Mangan

Distributed for Intellect Ltd

280 pages | 6-3/4 x 9 | © 2007
Paper $35.50 ISBN: 9781841501499 Published August 2007
From David Blaine’s death-defying feats of will to Harry Potter’s boarding-school victories against evil forces, the darker side of magic and its performance clearly strikes a cultural nerve. The conjuror’s act of bringing the impossible into being and summoning both the grotesque and marvelous with a sudden gesture challenges spectators’ assumptions of reality and fantasy. Performing Dark Arts explores the paradox of the conjuror and the broader cultural implications of magic’s assault on human perception.
Michael Mangan illuminates the history of the conjuring arts and tests the boundaries of theatrical scholarship by analyzing magic acts alongside more conventional dramatic forms. This bracingly original volume discusses the performances of individual magicians and public reception of their acts and locates the mysterious cultural significance of the dark arts and those who practice them. Shining a light on the grey area between acting and being, perception and reality, Performing Dark Arts is a book that will open your mind to the possibilities of magic.
 
“If you want to learn about the one trick that all good conjurers have up their sleeve, the oldest in the book—here it is, rehearsed across the centuries. It is to make sure that whichever cup the audience looks under—mere chicanery or actual sorcery—the ball is not there.”—Mark Stafford, Times (UK)
 
“Conjurors as performers have always had a special niche in exploiting the marvelous or the uncanny and trading upon our hope or fantasy that some real magic may be at work. Mangan’s delightful book shows that they will always be able to do so.”—Rob Hardy, Commercial Dispatch
 
“This is an erudite book which wears its scholarship lightly and is a pleasure to read. Complex theoretical frameworks are introduced in ways that will make them accessible to the general reader, and the book's argument opens up new implications and applications for the study of magic as performance. . . . I was genuinely surprised and delighted with many of Mangan's observations.”—Roberta Mock, University of Plymouth, United Kingdom
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mark Stafford | Times (UK)

“If you want to learn about the one trick that all good conjurers have up their sleeve, the oldest in the book—here it is, rehearsed across the centuries. It is to make sure that whichever cup the audience looks under—mere chicanery or actual sorcery—the ball is not there.”

Roberta Mock, University of Plymouth, United Kingdom

“This is an erudite book which wears its scholarship lightly and is a pleasure to read. Complex theoretical frameworks are introduced in ways that will make them accessible to the general reader, and the book's argument opens up new implications and applications for the study of magic as performance. . . . I was genuinely surprised and delighted with many of Mangan's observations.”

Rob Hardy | Commercial Dispatch

“Conjurors as performers have always had a special niche in exploiting the marvelous or the uncanny and trading upon our hope or fantasy that some real magic may be at work. Mangan’s delightful book shows that they will always be able to do so.”

Joel Moskowitz | Magicurrents
"One of the most stimulating, learned, well-researched books addressing the role of magic in our lives. . . . Witches, wizards, warlocks, devotees of legerdemain, prestidigitation, quick mount your broomstick . . . and if you can't enroll in Exeter University, do the next best thing, buy and read this fine, readable work."
Contents
Preface and acknowledgements
Introduction: magic and performance
 
Chapter One
Binaries: early attitudes to conjuring
 
Chapter Two
"The evil Spirit has a hand in the Tricks of these Jugglers':
conjuring and Christian orthodoxy
 
Chapter Three
'Fire and faggot to burn the witch'? Conjuring between
belief and unbelief in early modern England
 
Chapter Four
On the margins: ciminals and fraudsters
 
Chapter Five
On the boundaries of the human
 
Chapter Six
Acting and not-acting: Robert-Houdin
 
Chapter Seven
Before your very eyes: life, death and liveness
 
Chapter Eight
Narrative ambiguity and contested meanings:
interpreting Harry Houdini
 
Chapter Nine
Mediums and the media
 
Chapter Ten
Magic, media and postmodernism
 
Endnotes
Bibliography
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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