Techniques of Illusion : A Cultural and Media History of Stage Magic in the Late Nineteenth Century book cover
1st Edition

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

  • Available for pre-order on March 31, 2023. Item will ship after April 21, 2023
ISBN 9781032220796
April 21, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
368 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations

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USD $170.00

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Book Description

This book explores stage conjuring during its “Golden Age”, from 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 Sigh”, 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.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1. Ghosts of the Enlightenment. Phantasmagoria

Chapter 2. Appearing and disappearing. Mirror illusions

Chapter 3. Bending space and time. The Vanish

Entr’acte: Magic and early cinema

Chapter 4. Techniques of weightlessness. Levitation

Chapter 5. Codes and signals. Mentalism

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



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Katharina Rein is Research Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Study “Media Cultures of Com-puter Simulation” (MECS) at Leuphana University Lueneburg, Germany.