1st Edition

Techniques of Illusion A Cultural and Media History of Stage Magic in the Late Nineteenth Century

By Katharina Rein Copyright 2023
    334 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores stage conjuring during its “golden age,” from about 1860 to 1910.

    This study provides close readings highlighting four paradigmatic illusions of the time that stand in for different kinds of illusions typical of stage magic in the “golden age” and analyses them within their cultural and media-historical context: “Pepper’s Ghost,” the archetypical mirror illusion; “The Vanishing Lady,” staging a teleportation in a time of a dizzying acceleration of transport; “the levitation,” simulating weightlessness with the help of an extended steel machinery; and “The Second Sight,” a mind-reading illusion using up-to-date communication technologies. These close readings are completed by writings focusing on visual media and expanding the scope backwards and forwards in time, roughly to 1800 and to 2000.

    This exploration will be of great interest to students and scholars in theatre and performance studies.

    List of figures



    1 Ghosts of the enlightenment. Phantasmagoria

    2 Appearing and disappearing. Mirror illusions

    3 Bending space and time. The vanish

    Entr’acte: Magic and early cinema

    4 Techniques of weightlessness. Levitation

    5 Codes and signals. Mentalism

    Entr’acte: Magic and media around 1900. The Prestige

    Concluding remarks



    Katharina Rein currently works as a Lecturer in European Media Studies at the University of Potsdam, Germany.