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Performing Dark Arts
A Cultural History of Conjuring
Out of Print
Price £25, $35.50
ISBN 9781841501499
Paperback 280 pages
Published August 2007
Imprint: Intellect
Books by Michael Mangan
Books in Performing Arts
Other books in this series
Chapter Titles     |      Reviews     |      Comments

Magic and conjuring inhabit the boundaries and the borderlands of performance. The conjuror's act of demonstrating the apparently impossible, the uncanny, the marvellous, or the grotesque challenges the spectator's sense of reality. It brings him or her up against their own assumptions about how the world works; at its most extreme, it asks the spectator to re-evaluate his or her sense of the limits of the human. Performing Dark Arts is an exploration of the paradox of the conjuror, the actor who pretends to be a magician. It aims to illuminate the history of conjuring by examining it in the context of performance studies, and to throw light on aspects of performance studies by testing them against the art of conjuring. The book examines not only the performances of individual magicians from Dedi to David Blaine, but also the broader cultural contexts in which their performances were received, and the meanings which they have attracted.

Chapter titles
Chapter 1: 'Binaries: early attitudes to conjuring' - Page 1
Michael Mangan
Chapter 2: '‘The evil Spirit has a hand in the Tricks of these Jugglers’: conjuring and Christian orthodoxy' - Page 19
Michael Mangan
Chapter 3: '‘Fire and faggot to burn the witch’? Conjuring between belief and unbelief in early modern England' - Page 31
Michael Mangan
Chapter 4: 'On the margins: criminals and fraudsters' - Page 62
Michael Mangan
Chapter 5: 'On the boundaries of the human' - Page 76
Michael Mangan
Chapter 6: 'Acting and not-acting: Robert-Houdin' - Page 97
Michael Mangan
Chapter 7: 'Before your very eyes: life, death and liveness' - Page 116
Michael Mangan
Chapter 8: 'Narrative ambiguity and contested meanings: interpreting Harry Houdini' - Page 140
Michael Mangan
Chapter 9: 'Mediums and the media' - Page 162
Michael Mangan
Chapter 10: 'Magic, media and postmodernism' - Page 172
Michael Mangan
'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, The Times

'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… ' – Roberta Mock, Department of Theatre and Performance, University of Plymouth

'Conjurers 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, The Commercial Dispatch

'Performing Dark Arts: A Cultural History of Conjuring looks at how the development of the modern stage magician occurred in the context of religious perceptions of miracles, priestly power, notions of the occult, the emergence of modern science and technology, and the contemporary movements of spirituality and performance art.' – Evelyn Hartogh, M/C Reviews

'Mangan exhibits a keen ability to discuss the relationship between “magic as entertainment” and “magic as [spiritual] efficacy” throughout the time periods he explores […] Mangan manages to write about some highly complex concepts relating to the history of magic and performance theory in clear, illuminating language that is accessible to readers who are neither historians of magic nor performance theorists. ' – Edmund Lingan – Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft, Winter 2008

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