Art of Deception: Performance Magic, Literature and Culture

deadline for submissions: 
March 20, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
University of Portsmouth

University of Portsmouth, UK, 26 June 2020

Keynote speaker – Dr Katharina Rein, Bauhaus University Weimar


Stage and performance magic has seen a resurgence in the early twenty-first century, both in wider culture and as a subject for cultural criticism. Simon During’s landmark study Modern Enchantments (2002) led the way in new conceptions of performance magic from the perspectives of history, literary and cultural studies, and anthropology, work most recently undertaken in monographs such as Chris Goto-Jones’ Conjuring Asia (2016) and Graham M. Jones’ Magic’s Reason (2017). Recent major exhibitions such as Smoke and Mirrors at the Wellcome Collection and Staging Magic at University of London Senate House (both 2019) have conceptualised conjuring from the perspectives of psychology and history respectively. In the age of ‘fake news’ and other modes of deception, studies of culture and art are increasingly finding performance magic a valuable subject for discussion.

This one day conference seeks to explore performance magic and its artistic representation from a cultural studies perspective encompassing disciplines including literary criticism, history, performance studies, and related approaches. It offers both critical readings of performances themselves and analyses of cultural representations of conjuring across genres including literature, film, and art. Indicative topics for papers include:

  • Early modern performance magic
  • Uses of magic in theatre
  • Magic and the Enlightenment
  • Victorian conjuring
  • (Post)modern magic
  • Modes of performance magic (mentalism, body/geek magic, etc)
  • Conjuring and popular literary genres (e.g. detective fiction)
  • Specific performers
  • Paradigmatic conjuring tricks (e.g. bullet catch)
  • Methodologies in recent critical work (psychologism, historicism, etc)
  • Magic, gender, race and class

Please send 300 word proposals for papers of 20 minutes to Dr Christopher Pittard, University of Portsmouth: The deadline for proposals is 20 March 2020, with outcomes announced by 31 March.