Performing Dark Arts: A Cultural History of Conjuring
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
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