Performing Magic On The Western Stage (new book)

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Postby David Scollnik » 01/24/09 06:17 PM

"Performing Magic On The Western Stage", edited by Coppa, Hass, and Peck, with a foreward by Eugene Burger.

This book was published at the very end of 2008.

Any reviews in yet?
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Postby Richard Hatch » 01/24/09 06:29 PM

Here are a couple of reviews on the publisher's website:

The product of intense preparation by scholars and teachers trained in theatre, film, media, dance, philosophy, anthropology, literature, religion, psychiatry and, of course, magic itself, Performing Magic on the Western Stage skillfully conjures the interdisciplinary powers of performance studies to achieve an apparently impossible feat: an edited collection in which every contribution is equally strong and equally necessary.--Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater, Yale University
"Performing Magic on the Western Stage offers a much-needed and carefully compiled anthology of essays addressing some of the most important questions that have emerged out of the recent explosion of academic interest in staged magic. Drawing on work from a wide variety of fields, including Theater and Performance Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Cinema and Media Studies, Philosophy, and Anthropology, the essays collected here examine how staged magic shapes and exposes our relation to: otherness; class mobility; gender, sexuality, nationality and ethnicity; secrecy; disability; community; entertainment; ritual and religion; capitalism and money; self-deception; and the figure of the magician. This volume takes magic seriously as a meaningful art form, and explores its changing significance in specific historical and geographical locations. The collection brings together a wealth of original archival and field research, and initiates a series of interdisciplinary conversations that need to be continued. We learn, among other things, of the continued importance of the magician in film history long after the heyday of the cinema of attractions; of how contemporary bad-boy magicians like Penn and Teller pave the way for alternative relations among the magician, the assistant and the audience; of the relationship between William Robinsons yellow-faced performances of Ching Ling Soo and Chinese magician Chee Ling Qua (a.k.a. Ching Ling Foo); and of the range of magiciansincluding transgressive tricksters, retro-sexists, escape artists and clairvoyantswho provoke audiences to widen their eyes in wonder or roll them tiredly, as though the time of magic had passed. Yet as Coppa, Hass and Peck make clear, magics time has only just begun.--Karen Beckman, Jaffe Associate Professor of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Vanishing Women: Magic, Film and Feminism
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Postby Richard Hatch » 01/24/09 06:33 PM

I hadn't heard of Beckman or her book (the second review above). Here's the description of Vanishing Women: Magic, Film and Feminism from the amazon site:

Product Description
With the help of mirrors, trap doors, elevators, photographs, and film, women vanish and return in increasingly spectacular ways throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Karen Beckman tracks the proliferation of this elusive figure, the vanishing woman, from her genesis in Victorian stage magic through her development in conjunction with photography and film. Beckman reveals how these new visual technologies projected their anxieties about insubstantiality and reproducibility onto the female body, producing an image of "woman" as utterly unstable and constantly prone to disappearance.

Drawing on cinema studies and psychoanalysis as well as the histories of magic, spiritualism, and photography, Beckman looks at particular instances of female vanishing at specific historical momentsin Victorian magics obsessive manipulation of female and colonized bodies, spiritualist photographys search to capture traces of ghosts, the comings and goings of bodies in early cinema, and Bette Daviss multiple roles as a fading female star. As Beckman places the vanishing woman in the context of feminisms discussion of spectacle and subjectivity, she explores not only the problems, but also the political utility of this obstinate figure who hovers endlessly between visible and invisible worlds. Through her readings, Beckman argues that the visibly vanishing woman repeatedly signals the lurking presence of less immediately perceptible psychic and physical erasures, and she contends that this enigmatic figure, so ubiquitous in late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century culture, provides a new space through which to consider the relationships between visibility, gender, and agency.


From the Back Cover
This highly original and beautifully crafted study explores feminist film theory, psychoanalysis, and cinema through a cultural history of the vanishing woman figurefrom nineteenth-century prestidigitation and mediumship to early cinema and across the twentieth century. In positing the vanishing woman as a significant corrective to feminist film theory's staple readings of woman as absence or lack, or hypervisible spectacle, this book offers a fascinating and provocative treatment of enduring discussions that have shaped this field.Sharon Willis

Anyone read/see either title?
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/24/09 07:42 PM

Cover illustration including the ambiguous conjurer - from More Magic?
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Postby David Alexander » 01/24/09 11:23 PM

"Through her readings, Beckman argues that the visibly vanishing woman repeatedly signals the lurking presence of less immediately perceptible psychic and physical erasures, and she contends that this enigmatic figure, so ubiquitous in late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century culture, provides a new space through which to consider the relationships between visibility, gender, and agency."

An academic with too much time on on her hands. She doesn't have a clue what the metaphor is.

The sad and absurdist thing is - a number of people will take this drivel seriously.
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Postby Doc Dixon » 01/24/09 11:36 PM

Mr. Alexander,

You obviously aren't opening your mind to the ferocity of mascu-occupied dominance of a gelatinous culture impregnated as a zygote of male European ambivalence. If you would expurgate your cranial self-will or, as Voltaire phrased it ...

Either that or she's a little clueless and needs a hobby.

Smart money is on the clueless/hobby thing.

Best,

DD
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/24/09 11:37 PM

It's a textbook David - not literature and not intended for theater techies, playwrights or actors wishing to portray magicians.

If it weren't so expensive (textbooks are) I'd read it just for the amusement.
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Postby David Scollnik » 01/25/09 12:18 AM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:It's a textbook David - not literature and not intended for theater techies, playwrights or actors wishing to portray magicians.

Beckman's book is available in paperback and is only about $23, extremely cheap compared to the textbooks I'm more familiar with.

The "Performing Magic on the Western Stage" book with the intro by Burger, on the other hand, runs around $75.

I'm more interested in hearing about the latter.
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Postby NCMarsh » 01/25/09 12:35 AM

I don't see Dekolta making a point about gender status.

I think the trick does connect with wanting something you can't have...the girl sitting two rows up in history class...Dante's beatrice...the mascot moth dissolving as Devant goes to embrace it...
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Postby David Alexander » 01/25/09 12:50 PM

I've been the victim of "analysis" where people read in or project the damndest crap imaginable explaining why an author did one thing or another. Presumably these people are able to crawl into the heads of the creators and explore their motivations, conscious and unconscious, explaining how and why they did what they did. Often it is done without any contact with the creator.

No mentalist has ever claimed to be able to do what the so-called academics claim to do and if they did, theyd be laughed out of show business.

What these academics are doing is pure and unadulterated [censored].

As far a theatrical magic is concerned the metaphor is that the magician represents Man or Humanity and the female represents Nature. A great many theatrical effects are symbolic of Mans control or attempted control over Nature.
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Postby magicam » 01/29/09 10:13 PM

David Alexander wrote: An academic with too much time on on her hands. She doesn't have a clue what the metaphor is.

The sad and absurdist thing is - a number of people will take this drivel seriously.

Perhaps Im a little more forgiving than my friend David, but I certainly share his frustration. I welcome the so-called interdisciplinary study of magic and its culture (for lack of a better term) under the umbrella of a general philosophy that welcomes any work which meaningfully expands our knowledge and understanding of magic, even if the contribution is minor.

As noted in a review of Philip Butterworths Magic on the Early English Stage in Magicol:
the demands and protocols of academic writing require an author to provide, among other things, novel and extremely cogent synthesis and analysis of his subject matter, and for the lay reader, a peculiar sort of disconnect can occasionally (and perhaps unavoidably) result, with the causes ranging from rather chewy text to distinctions which are so fine that they lose their apparent relevance and/or ability to meaningfully inform.

So thats the almost universal downside to these types of books. But there are upsides, a significant one being the extensive source documentation that accompanies these works (i.e., appendices, notes/footnotes, bibliographies, etc.). For the student or researcher, such documentation is a veritable treasure trove, and nearly always with a book of any appreciable size or scope, even the most experienced and knowledgeable folks in our group will discover many previously unknown sources for future study/research. In our trade literature, it is extremely rare to find exhaustive (or nearly so) citation, the most notable exception being Eddie Dawes books (Dr. Dawes is the one who pioneered the consistent use of rigorous footnoting in magic histories and biographies, and we are doubly fortunate because, despite his extensive academic credentials and training as a scientist, he writes in a very charming and conversational and thus easy to read style without sacrificing in the slightest his high standards, critical thinking and careful attention to detail).

Other than the fact that these academic writers seem unable (or unwilling) to write as unpretentiously and engagingly as an Eddie Dawes (if he can do it, why cant they?), my biggest general criticism is that their occasionally painfully obvious ignorance of magic leads to some ridiculous assumptions, conclusions and analysis or as David bluntly wrote, pure and unadulterated [censored]. :D In some cases, this ignorance shows with appallingly sloppy research; in other cases, its the more forgivable circumstance where the writer simply doesnt have the benefit of the years of being steeped in the culture of magic and thus aware of its nuances and complexities. Ive yet to read one of these writers acknowledge the fact that the secretive nature of magic can make their research and analysis comparatively much more difficult there is simply no such thing as an adequate crash course for certain areas of magic. So theres this irony that these writers bring their analysis and expertise to bear on magic and oftentimes they seem blissfully unaware of how ill-prepared they are for such analysis, with the result that our culture of misdirection turns around and embarrassingly bites them in the ass and like any other magic layperson, they dont know it! Yet, an outsider can sometimes offer fresh thinking and analysis, but only if tempered with the humility that comes with awareness of such ignorance.

The quote kindly provided by Richard Hatch correctly observes that there has been, relatively speaking, a recent explosion of academic interest in staged magic. But these academics simply cannot dignify our art if they fail to approach magic with the same scruples that they espouse for their own disciplines.

So has anybody read either of these books?
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/29/09 10:35 PM

Send me a copy and I'll read it.
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Postby magicam » 02/03/09 06:56 AM

Jonathan, if your comment was directed at me, alas I can't help you. You may have to be content with directing research in the Erdnase thread.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 02/03/09 08:17 AM

magicam wrote:Jonathan, if your comment was directed at me, alas I can't help you. You may have to be content with directing research in the Erdnase thread.


I am content to read what some are doing as regards the "erdnase" investigation without directing. Some books have a way of attracting a certain sort of reader.

Magic before YouTube and its relation to the zeitgeist is of interest to me though I simply can't spare a hundred dollars at the moment on a book I would not likely keep on my self.

Anyone want to lend me a copy of the book for a couple of weeks?
Last edited by Jonathan Townsend on 02/03/09 10:25 AM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: like to read - not sure that books a keeper for me.
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