Christians face a conundrum when it comes to naming God, for if God is unnamable, as theologians maintain, he can also be called by every name. His proper name is thus an open-ended, all-encompassing list, a mystery the Church embraces in its rhetoric, but which many Christians have found difficult to accept. To explore this conflict, Valentina Izmirlieva examines two lists of God’s names: one from The Divine Names, the classic treatise by Pseudo-Dionysius, and the other from The 72 Names of the Lord, an amulet whose history binds together Kabbalah and Christianity, Jews and Slavs, Palestine, Provence, and the Balkans.
This unexpected juxtaposition of a theological treatise and a magical amulet allows Izmirlieva to reveal lists’ rhetorical potential to create order and to function as both tools of knowledge and of power. Despite the two different visions of order represented by each list, Izmirlieva finds that their uses in Christian practice point to a complementary relationship between the existential need for God’s protection and the metaphysical desire to submit to his infinite majesty—a compelling claim sure to provoke discussion among scholars in many fields.
American Indian Rhetorics of Survivance presents an original critical and theoretical analysis of American Indian rhetorical practices in both canonical and previously overlooked texts: autobiographies, memoirs, prophecies, and oral storytelling traditions. Ernest Stromberg assembles essays from a range of academic disciplines that investigate the rhetorical strategies of Native American orators, writers, activists, leaders, and intellectuals.
The contributors consider rhetoric in broad terms, ranging from Aristotle's definition of rhetoric as “the faculty . . . of discovering in the particular case what are the available means of persuasion,” to the ways in which Native Americans assimilated and revised Western rhetorical concepts and language to form their own discourse with European and American colonists. They relate the power and use of rhetoric in treaty negotiations, written accounts of historic conflicts and events, and ongoing relations between American Indian governments and the United States.
This is a groundbreaking collection for readers interested in Native American issues and the study of language. In presenting an examination of past and present Native American rhetoric, it emphasizes the need for an improved understanding of multicultural perspectives.
Apuleius, one of the great stylists of Latin literature, was born ca. 125 AD in Madauros to a politically prominent family and received an elite education in the provincial capital Carthage and at Athens, where he began a lifelong allegiance to Platonic philosophy. In the later 150s, he married Pudentilla of Oea, a wealthy widow, and seems to have enjoyed a distinguished public career in Africa and perhaps as an advocate in Rome.
Although Apuleius is best known for his picaresque novel Metamorphoses orThe Golden Ass (LCL 44, 453), he also wrote and declaimed on a wide variety of subjects. This edition contains the other surviving works of Apuleius that are considered genuine. Apologia is a speech in which Apuleius defends himself against in-laws who had accused him of having used sinister means, including magic, to induce Pudentilla to marry him. The Florida is a collection of twenty-three excerpts from speeches by Apuleius. De Deo Socratis (On Socrates’ God) locates Socrates’ invisible guide and protector (daimonion) within the more general concept of daimones as forces intermediary between gods and humans.
This edition, new to the Loeb Classical Library, offers fresh translations and texts based on the best critical editions.
In Colonial Transactions Florence Bernault moves beyond the racial divide that dominates colonial studies of Africa. Instead, she illuminates the strange and frightening imaginaries that colonizers and colonized shared on the ground. Bernault looks at Gabon from the late nineteenth century to the present, historicizing the most vivid imaginations and modes of power in Africa today: French obsessions with cannibals, the emergence of vampires and witches in the Gabonese imaginary, and the use of human organs for fetishes. Struggling over objects, bodies, agency, and values, colonizers and colonized entered relations that are better conceptualized as "transactions." Together they also shared an awareness of how the colonial situation broke down moral orders and forced people to use the evil side of power. This foreshadowed the ways in which people exercise agency in contemporary Africa, as well as the proliferation of magical fears and witchcraft anxieties in present-day Gabon. Overturning theories of colonial and postcolonial nativism, this book is essential reading for historians and anthropologists of witchcraft, power, value, and the body.
As a child, Lucy dreams of talking fairies and lives contentedly in the wooded suburbs of Boston; she grows up to be a successful animator of fairy-tale films. Or does she? She claims at moments to be a witch in the woods.
Like her sisters, who appeared in Bernheimer’s first two novels (The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold and The Complete Tales of Merry Gold), Lucy has a secret, but she is unable to fasten onto anything but brightness. Novelist Donna Tartt writes, “Lucy’s particular brand of optimism, blind to its own shadow, is very American—she is innocence holding itself apart so fastidiously that it becomes its opposite.”
This novel is a perfect end to the Gold family series, and the perfect introduction, for new readers, to Bernheimer’s enchanting body of work.
Ordinary people of antiquity interacted with the supernatural through a mosaic of beliefs and rituals. Exploring everyday life from 200 BCE to the end of the first century CE, Robert Knapp shows that Jews and polytheists lived with the gods in very similar ways. Traditional interactions provided stability even in times of crisis, while changing a relationship risked catastrophe for the individual, his family, and his community. However, people in both traditions did at times leave behind their long-honored rites to try something new. The Dawn of Christianity reveals why some people in Judea and then in the Roman and Greek worlds embraced a new approach to the forces and powers in their daily lives.
Knapp traces the emergence of Christianity from its stirrings in the eastern Mediterranean, where Jewish monotheism coexisted with polytheism and prayer mixed with magic. In a time receptive to prophetic messages and supernatural interventions, Jesus of Nazareth convinced people to change their beliefs by showing, through miracles, his direct connection to god-like power. The miracle of the Resurrection solidified Jesus’s supernatural credentials. After his death, followers continued to use miracles and magic to spread Jesus’s message of reward for the righteous in this life and immortality in the next.
Many Jews and polytheists strongly opposed the budding movement but despite major setbacks Christianity proved resilient and adaptable. It survived long enough to be saved by a second miracle, the conversion of Emperor Constantine. Hand in hand with empire, Christianity began its long march through history.
In this intriguing volume, Gerhild Scholz Williams explores the roles of magic and demonology in France and Germany in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. She guides the reader through a variety of texts--many of them popular and influential in their day--to illuminate how magic came to shape people's perceptions of a changing world. This comprehensive study looks at magic as an intellectual and cultural language, as an attempt to explain the world, and as a means to control and confine women, whose propensity for satanic dalliance threatened not just their own souls but the health of the larger society.
". . . Williams has done an exemplary job of analyzing the intersection of the discourses of magic (as related to women and witchcraft), discovery, and religious diversity/dissidence to explain how the confluence of these discourses eventually 'determined who occupied society's center and who was forced to move to, or remain at, its margins.' . . . Gerhild Scholz Williams is no dilettante grazing in the greener pastures of other disciplines. She has been laboring assiduously in these neighboring fields for years now, and it is breathtaking to see how all of her disparate projects have come together so elegantly articulated in this one volume." --Susan L. Cocalis, German Studies Review
Gerhild Scholz Williams is Professor of German and Comparative Literature, Washington University, St. Louis.
A look at the history of censorship, science, and magic from the Middle Ages to the post-Reformation era.
Neil Tarrant challenges conventional thinking by looking at the longer history of censorship, considering a five-hundred-year continuity of goals and methods stretching from the late eleventh century to well into the sixteenth.
Unlike earlier studies, Defining Nature’s Limits engages the history of both learned and popular magic. Tarrant explains how the church developed a program that sought to codify what was proper belief through confession, inquisition, and punishment and prosecuted what they considered superstition or heresy that stretched beyond the boundaries of religion. These efforts were continued by the Roman Inquisition, established in 1542. Although it was designed primarily to combat Protestantism, from the outset the new institution investigated both practitioners of “illicit” magic and inquiries into natural philosophy, delegitimizing certain practices and thus shaping the development of early modern science. Describing the dynamics of censorship that continued well into the post-Reformation era, Defining Nature's Limits is revisionist history that will interest scholars of the history science, the history of magic, and the history of the church alike.
Modernity is surrounded by an almost magic aura that casts a spell over people all over the world. To connect with modernity, various ways and means are used, among them magic practices and religious ideas. Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia: Magic and Modernity deals with the magic in and of modernity and asks about its current significance for the dynamics of religion in Southeast Asia. Drawing on recent ethnographic research in this area, the contributors to this wide-ranging volume demonstrate how religious concepts contribute to meeting the challenges of modernity. Against this background, religion and modernity are no longer perceived as in contradiction; rather, it is argued that a revision of the western notion of religion is required to understand the complexity of 'multiple modernities' in a globalised world..Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia: Magic and Modernity is part of the series Global Asia, published by Amsterdam University Press (AUP) in close collaboration with the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS)
First published in Cuba in 1954 and appearing here in English for the first time, Lydia Cabrera’s El Monte is a foundational and iconic study of Afro-Cuban religious and cultural traditions. Drawing on conversations with elderly Afro-Cuban priests who were one or two generations away from the transatlantic slave trade, Cabrera combines ethnography, history, folklore, literature, and botany to provide a panoramic account of the multifaceted influence of Afro-Atlantic cultures in Cuba. Cabrera details the natural and spiritual landscape of the Cuban monte (forest, wilderness) and discusses hundreds of herbs and the constellations of deities, sacred rights, and knowledge that envelop them. The result is a complex spiritual and medicinal architecture of Afro-Cuban cultures. This new edition of what is often referred to as “the Santería bible” includes a new foreword, introduction, and translator notes. As a seminal work in the study of the African diaspora that has profoundly impacted numerous fields, Cabrera’s magnum opus is essential for scholars, activists, and religious devotees of Afro-Cuban traditions alike.
Just about every major film now comes to us with an assist from digital effects. The results are obvious in superhero fantasies, yet dramas like Roma also rely on computer-generated imagery to enhance the verisimilitude of scenes. But the realism of digital effects is not actually true to life. It is a realism invented by Hollywood—by one company specifically: Industrial Light & Magic.
The Empire of Effects shows how the effects company known for the puppets and space battles of the original Star Wars went on to develop the dominant aesthetic of digital realism. Julie A. Turnock finds that ILM borrowed its technique from the New Hollywood of the 1970s, incorporating lens flares, wobbly camerawork, haphazard framing, and other cinematography that called attention to the person behind the camera. In the context of digital imagery, however, these aesthetic strategies had the opposite effect, heightening the sense of realism by calling on tropes suggesting the authenticity to which viewers were accustomed. ILM’s style, on display in the most successful films of the 1980s and beyond, was so convincing that other studios were forced to follow suit, and today, ILM is a victim of its own success, having fostered a cinematic monoculture in which it is but one player among many.
An engaging, beautifully written account by an ethnographer who lived in the mountains of Papua New Guinea, Encompassing Others is at once a history of the encounter of two cultures and an attempt to challenge theoretically the main concepts that have informed the study of modernity. Going beyond accounts that grasp modernity solely in terms of domination, imperialism, and local resistance, it explores how capitalism, Christianity, and mass commercial culture enchant the senses, create a carnival of new goods, and open up new possibilities for thought and action.
Focusing on the Maring people of Highland New Guinea and on the Westerners who interacted with them, Edward LiPuma presents issues from the perspectives of both sides. We hear the voice of the Anglican priest from San Francisco as well as the most powerful Maring shamans. Further, the book seeks to develop a theory of generations that helps explain how change accelerates and societies take on new directions across generations.
Theoretical, descriptive, but almost entirely free of jargon, this book is intended for all those who are interested in how the West's encompassment of other peoples influences how these others conceive of their past, imagine their future, and experience the present. It will have wide appeal for anthropologists and others concerned with colonialism, globalization, and the formation of the nation-state.
Edward LiPuma is Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of Miami.
It is a widespread prejudice of modern, scientific society that "magic" is merely a ludicrous amalgam of recipes and methods derived from primitive and erroneous notions about nature. Eros and Magic in the Renaissance challenges this view, providing an in-depth scholarly explanation of the workings of magic and showing that magic continues to exist in an altered form even today.
Renaissance magic, according to Ioan Couliano, was a scientifically plausible attempt to manipulate individuals and groups based on a knowledge of motivations, particularly erotic motivations. Its key principle was that everyone (and in a sense everything) could be influenced by appeal to sexual desire. In addition, the magician relied on a profound knowledge of the art of memory to manipulate the imaginations of his subjects. In these respects, Couliano suggests, magic is the precursor of the modern psychological and sociological sciences, and the magician is the distant ancestor of the psychoanalyst and the advertising and publicity agent.
In the course of his study, Couliano examines in detail the ideas of such writers as Giordano Bruno, Marsilio Ficino, and Pico della Mirandola and illuminates many aspects of Renaissance culture, including heresy, medicine, astrology, alchemy, courtly love, the influence of classical mythology, and even the role of fashion in clothing.
Just as science gives the present age its ruling myth, so magic gave a ruling myth to the Renaissance. Because magic relied upon the use of images, and images were repressed and banned in the Reformation and subsequent history, magic was replaced by exact science and modern technology and eventually forgotten. Couliano's remarkable scholarship helps us to recover much of its original significance and will interest a wide audience in the humanities and social sciences.
On May 21, 1991, University of Chicago professor Ioan Culianu was murdered execution-style on campus. The crime stunned the school, terrified students, and mystified the FBI. The case remains unsolved. In Eros, Magic, and the Murder of Professor Culianu, award-winning investigative reporter Ted Anton shows that the murder is what Culianu's friends suspected all along: the first political assassination of a professor on American soil.
Harry G. West University of Chicago Press, 2007 Library of Congress DT3328.M35W46 2007 | Dewey Decimal 305.896397
According to the people of the Mueda plateau in northern Mozambique, sorcerers remake the world by asserting the authority of their own imaginative visions of it. While conducting research among these Muedans, anthropologist Harry G. West made a revealing discovery—for many of them, West’s efforts to elaborate an ethnographic vision of their world was itself a form of sorcery. In Ethnographic Sorcery, West explores the fascinating issues provoked by this equation.
A key theme of West’s research into sorcery is that one sorcerer’s claims can be challenged or reversed by other sorcerers. After West’s attempt to construct a metaphorical interpretation of Muedan assertions that the lions prowling their villages are fabricated by sorcerers is disputed by his Muedan research collaborators, West realized that ethnography and sorcery indeed have much in common. Rather than abandoning ethnography, West draws inspiration from this connection, arguing that anthropologists, along with the people they study, can scarcely avoid interpreting the world they inhabit, and that we are all, inescapably, ethnographic sorcerers.
Nobody knows how to tell a story like Bobby Norfolk, and here he tells his own life story. Norfolk grew up in hardscrabble neighborhoods of Saint Louis, Missouri, during the 1950s and 60s, sometimes walking to elementary school from an apartment his parents could not afford to heat. Lifting himself up by force of will and God-given talent, Norfolk defeated a childhood stutter to become a high school dramatist and later an exceptional college student. The path was never easy—and often frightening. With men of color being killed all-too-frequently in America, Norfolk sought a personal identity based upon talent and hard work, but also upon where safety and justice might be found. He tells these stories—some heartwarming or humorous, some frightful and treacherous—honestly, with a graceful mindfulness that all would do well to emulate.
All the trout at the Fishtastic Theater School can breathe out of water—except for Etta, the school’s costume designer. No matter how hard she tries, Etta can’t unlock her Fishtastic magic. When the theater troupe swims down the Iowa River to perform at Iowa City’s Hancher Auditorium, Etta discovers something very important that they’ve left behind. Can Etta save the show even though she’s not magical?
Inspired by the fish sculptures installed along the walkways welcoming visitors to Hancher, Fishtastic! is a delightful blend of lovable characters and whimsical watercolor illustrations that celebrate the joy of discovering your own path to enchantment.
A tectonic shift has occurred in the gastronomic field in France, upsetting the cultural imagination. In a European country captivated by a high-stakes power struggle between chefs and restaurants in the culinary field, the mass marketing of factory-processed industrial cuisine and fast foods has created shock waves in French society, culture, and the economy.
In this insightful book, French Gastronomy and the Magic of Americanism, Rick Fantasia examines how national identity and the dynamics of cultural meaning-making within gastronomy have changed during a crucial period of transformation, from the 1970s through the 1990s. He illuminates the tensions and surprising points of cooperation between the skill, expertise, tradition, artistry, and authenticity of grand chefs and the industrial practices of food production, preparation, and distribution.
Fantasia examines the institutions and beliefs that have reinforced notions of French cultural supremacy—such as the rise and reverence of local cuisine—as well as the factors that subvert those notions, such as when famous French chefs lend their names to processed, frozen, and pre-packaged foods available at the supermarket. Ultimately, French Gastronomy and the Magic of Americanism shows what happens to a cultural field, like French gastronomy, when the logic and power of the economic field imposes itself upon it.
In this intimate ethnography, Raquel Romberg seeks to illuminate the performative significance of healing rituals and magic works, their embodied nature, and their effectiveness in transforming the states of participants by focusing on the visible, albeit mostly obscure, ways in which healing and magic rituals proceed. The questions posed by Romberg emerge directly from the particular pragmatics of Puerto Rican brujería (witch-healing), shaped by the eclecticism of its rituals, the heterogeneous character of its participants, and the heterodoxy of its moral economy.
What, if any, is the role of belief in magic and healing rituals? How do past discourses on possession enter into the performative experience of ritual in the here and now? Where does belief stop, and where do memories of the flesh begin? While these are questions that philosophers and anthropologists of religion ponder, they acquire a different meaning when asked from an ethnographic perspective.
Written in an evocative, empathetic style, with theoretical ruminations about performance, the senses, and imagination woven into stories that highlight the drama and humanity of consultations, this book is an important contribution to the cross-cultural understanding of our capacity to experience the transcendental in corporeal ways.
What does it mean to describe cinematic effects as “movie magic,” to compare filmmakers to magicians, or to say that the cinema is all a “trick”? The heyday of stage illusionism was over a century ago, so why do such performances still serve as a key reference point for understanding filmmaking, especially now that so much of the cinema rests on the use of computers?
To answer these questions, Colin Williamson situates film within a long tradition of magical practices that combine art and science, involve deception and discovery, and evoke two forms of wonder—both awe at the illusion displayed and curiosity about how it was performed. He thus considers how, even as they mystify audiences, cinematic illusions also inspire them to learn more about the technologies and techniques behind moving images. Tracing the overlaps between the worlds of magic and filmmaking, Hidden in Plain Sight examines how professional illusionists and their tricks have been represented onscreen, while also considering stage magicians who have stepped behind the camera, from Georges Méliès to Ricky Jay.
Williamson offers an insightful, wide-ranging investigation of how the cinema has functioned as a “device of wonder” for more than a century, while also exploring how several key filmmakers, from Orson Welles to Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorsese, employ the rhetoric of magic. Examining pre-cinematic visual culture, animation, nonfiction film, and the digital trickery of today’s CGI spectacles, Hidden in Plain Sight provides an eye-opening look at the powerful ways that magic has shaped our modes of perception and our experiences of the cinema.
In Darkness and Secrecy brings together ethnographic examinations of Amazonian assault sorcery, witchcraft, and injurious magic, or “dark shamanism.” Anthropological reflections on South American shamanism have tended to emphasize shamans’ healing powers and positive influence. This collection challenges that assumption by showing that dark shamans are, in many Amazonian cultures, quite different from shamanic healers and prophets. Assault sorcery, in particular, involves violence resulting in physical harm or even death. While highlighting the distinctiveness of such practices, In Darkness and Secrecy reveals them as no less relevant to the continuation of culture and society than curing and prophecy. The contributors suggest that the persistence of dark shamanism can be understood as a form of engagement with modernity.
These essays, by leading anthropologists of South American shamanism, consider assault sorcery as it is practiced in parts of Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, and Peru. They analyze the social and political dynamics of witchcraft and sorcery and their relation to cosmology, mythology, ritual, and other forms of symbolic violence and aggression in each society studied. They also discuss the relations of witchcraft and sorcery to interethnic contact and the ways that shamanic power may be co-opted by the state. In Darkness and Secrecy includes reflections on the ethical and practical implications of ethnographic investigation of violent cultural practices.
Contributors. Dominique Buchillet, Carlos Fausto, Michael Heckenberger, Elsje Lagrou, E. Jean Langdon, George Mentore, Donald Pollock, Fernando Santos-Granero, Pamela J. Stewart, Andrew Strathern, Márnio Teixeira-Pinto, Silvia Vidal, Neil L. Whitehead, Johannes Wilbert, Robin Wright
Counterculture icon and best-selling author of the anti-authoritarian novels One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey said he was “too young to be a beatnik and too old to be a hippie.” It’s All a Kind of Magic is the first biography of Kesey. It reveals a youthful life of brilliance and eccentricity that encompassed wrestling, writing, farming, magic and ventriloquism, CIA-funded experiments with hallucinatory drugs, and a notable cast of characters that would come to include Wallace Stegner, Larry McMurtry, Tom Wolfe, Neal Cassady, Timothy Leary, the Grateful Dead, and Hunter S. Thompson.
Based on meticulous research and many interviews with friends and family, Rick Dodgson’s biography documents Kesey’s early life, from his time growing up in Oregon through his college years, his first drug experiences, and the writing of his most famous books. While a graduate student in creative writing at Stanford University in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Kesey worked the night shift at the Menlo Park Veterans Administration hospital, where he earned extra money taking LSD and other psychedelic drugs for medical studies. Soon he and his bohemian crowd of friends were using the same substances to conduct their own experiments, exploring the frontiers of their minds and testing the boundaries of their society.
With the success of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey moved to La Honda, California, in the foothills of San Mateo County, creating a scene that Hunter S. Thompson remembered as the “world capital of madness.” There, Kesey and his growing band of Merry Prankster friends began hosting psychedelic parties and living a “hippie” lifestyle before anyone knew what that meant. Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test mythologized Kesey’s adventures in the 1960s.
Illustrated with rarely seen photographs, It’s All a Kind of Magic depicts a precocious young man brimming with self-confidence and ambition who—through talent, instinct, and fearless spectacle—made his life into a performance, a wild magic act that electrified American and world culture.
“Rick Dodgson has pored over Kesey’s published and unpublished writings, interviews, and historical records to write a colorful biography of this charismatic American character. The resulting portrayal challenges assumptions about Kesey’s place in the counterculture.”—Journal of American History
“Dodgson’s painstaking research unearths hidden gems of Kesey’s life that marked him as a fascinating figure.”—H-Net
Thirteen-year-old Booker leads a sheltered life in Vermont—until a spellbinding relic throws him skidding into a world of magic and myths come to life. Anna is an Unangax̂ teenager looking for answers after her long-absent mother reappears in her life. When a mysterious bookmark brings them together on the Aleutian Islands, they’re sent on a dangerous quest to return a magical amulet to Anna’s Unangan ancestors. As they adventure across islands that glow like moonstones, they cross paths with nineteenth-century chiefs, the mysterious Woman of the Volcano, and the sinister Real Raven. While their journey is tinged with the fantastic, it’s based in real depictions of Unangan culture and history—the first historical novel set in Unangan folklore. It’s a coming-of-age-story that will resonate with young adult readers on their own journeys to discover their personal and cultural identities.
In describing the career of Abraham Yagel, a Jewish physician, kabbalist, and naturalist who lived in northern Italy from 1553 to about 1623, David Ruderman observes the remarkable interplay between early modern scientific thought and religious and occult traditions from a wholly new perspective: that of Jewish intellectual life.
Whether he was writing about astronomical discoveries, demons, marvelous creatures and prodigies of nature, the uses of magic, or reincarnation, Yagel made a consistent effort to integrate empirical study of nature with kabbalistic and rabbinic learning. Yagel's several interests were united in his belief in the interconnectedness of all thing—a belief, shared by many Renaissance thinkers, that turns natural phenomena into “signatures” of the divine unity of all things. Ruderman argues that Yagel and his coreligionists were predisposed to this prevalent view because of occult strains in traditional Jewish thought He also suggests that underlying Yagel's passion for integrating and correlating all knowledge was a powerful psychological need to gain cultural respect and acceptance for himself and for his entire community, especially in a period of increased anti-Semitic agitation in Italy.
Yagel proposed a bold new agenda for Jewish culture that underscored the religious value of the study of nature, reformulated kabbalist traditions in the language of scientific discourse so as to promote them as the highest form of human knowledge, and advocated the legitimate role of the magical arts as the ultimate expression of human creativity in Judaism. This portrait of Yagel and his intellectual world will well serve all students of late Renaissance and early modern Europe.
On the Mueda plateau in northern Mozambique, sorcerers are said to feed on their victims, sometimes "making" lions or transforming into lions to literally devour their flesh. When the ruling FRELIMO party subscribed to socialism, it condemned sorcery beliefs and counter-sorcery practices as false consciousness, but since undertaking neoliberal reform, the party—still in power after three electoral cycles—has "tolerated tradition," leaving villagers to interpret and engage with events in the idiom of sorcery. Now, when the lions prowl plateau villages ,suspected sorcerers are often lynched.
In this historical ethnography of sorcery, Harry G. West draws on a decade of fieldwork and combines the perspectives of anthropology and political science to reveal how Muedans expect responsible authorities to monitor the invisible realm of sorcery and to overturn or, as Muedans call it, "kupilikula" sorcerers' destructive attacks by practicing a constructive form of counter-sorcery themselves. Kupilikula argues that, where neoliberal policies have fostered social division rather than security and prosperity, Muedans have, in fact, used sorcery discourse to assess and sometimes overturn reforms, advancing alternative visions of a world transformed.
Light as a feather, stiff as a board, light as a feather, stiff as board: anyone who has ever been to a slumber party can probably still conjure these words from deep within their psyche. Sure, anyone can fly these days so long as they have a credit card and government-issued ID, but what does it take to perform that more fundamental magic, to levitate? In this fascinating book, Peter Adey hovers over the peculiar stories of those who have dreamed of, believed in, or—can you believe your eyes—practiced levitation, offering a wide-ranging history of a unique phenomenon that can be found in countless cultures.
As Adey argues, levitation is best thought of as a pre- or parallel pursuit to that of aviation—but one that doesn’t cheat by employing aeronautical machinery. As he shows, many people have been certain that it is absolutely possible to float unaided. Early modern scientists believed in the force of levity as an opposite to that of gravity. Many traditional societies have deep-rooted shamanic traditions of spirit and dream flight. And many ancient religions have age-old accounts of ascetic saints hovering in sublime ecstasy. In more recent times, magicians and mesmerists have wowed audiences by seeming to float by the powers of thought alone. Science-fiction writers and urban planners alike have countless designs of floating cities hovering high above the earth, and even artists have experimented with levitation to find new forms of expression—one need just think of Yves Klein’s “Leap into the Void.”
Touching upon these and many other examples, Adey demonstrates how significant this magical act has been in our cultural, scientific, and spiritual lives. From poetry to philosophy to technology to even law, he lifts up levitation as a fascinating wonder in our shared imaginations.
Though his work was little known outside Italian intellectual circles for most of the twentieth century, anthropologist and historian of religions Ernesto de Martino is now recognized as one of the most original thinkers in the field. This book is testament to de Martino’s innovation and engagement with Hegelian historicism and phenomenology—a work of ethnographic theory way ahead of its time.
This new translation of Sud e Magia, his 1959 study of ceremonial magic and witchcraft in southern Italy, shows how De Martino is not interested in the question of whether magic is rational or irrational but rather in why it came to be perceived as a problem of knowledge in the first place. Setting his exploration within his wider, pathbreaking theorization of ritual, as well as in the context of his politically sensitive analysis of the global south’s historical encounters with Western science, he presents the development of magic and ritual in Enlightenment Naples as a paradigmatic example of the complex dynamics between dominant and subaltern cultures. Far ahead of its time, Magic is still relevant as anthropologists continue to wrestle with modernity’s relationship with magical thinking.
During the Middle Ages, many occult rituals and beliefs existed and were practiced alongside those officially sanctioned by the church. While educated clergy condemned some of these as magic, many of these practices involved religious language, rituals, or objects. For instance, charms recited to cure illnesses invoked God and the saints, and love spells used consecrated substances such as the Eucharist. Magic and Religion in Medieval England explores the entanglement of magical practices and the clergy during the Middle Ages, uncovering how churchmen decided which of these practices to deem acceptable and examining the ways they persuaded others to adopt their views.
Covering the period from 1215 to the Reformation, Catherine Rider traces the change in the church’s attitude to vernacular forms of magic. She shows how this period brought the clergy more closely into contact with unofficial religious practices than ever before, and how this proximity prompted them to draw up precise guidelines on distinguishing magic from legitimate religion. Revealing the necessity of improving clerical education and the pastoral care of the laity, Magic and Religion in Medieval England provides a fascinating picture of religious life during this period.
“This book is nothing less than the definitive study of a text long considered central to understanding the Renaissance and its place in Western culture.” —James Hankins, Harvard University
Pico della Mirandola died in 1494 at the age of thirty-one. During his brief and extraordinary life, he invented Christian Kabbalah in a book that was banned by the Catholic Church after he offered to debate his ideas on religion and philosophy with anyone who challenged him. Today he is best known for a short speech, the Oration on the Dignity of Man, written in 1486 but never delivered. Sometimes called a “Manifesto of the Renaissance,” this text has been regarded as the foundation of humanism and a triumph of secular rationality over medieval mysticism.
Brian Copenhaver upends our understanding of Pico’s masterwork by re-examining this key document of modernity. An eminent historian of philosophy, Copenhaver shows that the Oration is not about human dignity. In fact, Pico never wrote an Oration on the Dignity of Man and never heard of that title. Instead he promoted ascetic mysticism, insisting that Christians need help from Jews to find the path to heaven—a journey whose final stages are magic and Kabbalah. Through a rigorous philological reading of this much-studied text, Copenhaver transforms the history of the idea of dignity and reveals how Pico came to be misunderstood over the course of five centuries. Magic and the Dignity of Man is a seismic shift in the study of one of the most remarkable thinkers of the Renaissance.
Ancient Greeks and Romans often turned to magic to achieve personal goals. Magical rites were seen as a route for direct access to the gods, for material gains as well as spiritual satisfaction. In this fascinating survey of magical beliefs and practices from the sixth century B.C.E. through late antiquity, Fritz Graf sheds new light on ancient religion.
Evidence of widespread belief in the efficacy of magic is pervasive: the contemporaries of Plato and Aristotle placed voodoo dolls on graves in order to harm business rivals or attract lovers. The Twelve Tables of Roman Law forbids the magical transference of crops from one field to another. Graves, wells, and springs throughout the Mediterranean have yielded vast numbers of Greek and Latin curse tablets. And ancient literature abounds with scenes of magic, from necromancy to love spells. Graf explores the important types of magic in Greco-Roman antiquity, describing rites and explaining the theory behind them. And he characterizes the ancient magician: his training and initiation, social status, and presumed connections with the divine world. With trenchant analysis of underlying conceptions and vivid account of illustrative cases, Graf gives a full picture of the practice of magic and its implications. He concludes with an evaluation of the relation of magic to religion. Magic in the Ancient World offers an unusual look at ancient Greek and Roman thought and a new understanding of popular recourse to the supernatural.
The Magic of Beverly Sills
Nancy Guy University of Illinois Press, 2015 Library of Congress ML420.S562G89 2015 | Dewey Decimal 782.1092
With her superb coloratura soprano, passion for the world of opera, and down-to-earth personality, Beverly Sills made high art accessible to millions from the time of her meteoric rise to stardom in 1966 until her death in 2007. An unlikely pop culture phenomenon, Sills was equally at ease on talk shows, on the stage, and in the role of arts advocate and administrator. Merging archival research with her own love of Sills's music, Nancy Guy examines the singer-actress's artistry alongside the ineffable aspects of performance that earned Sills a passionate fandom. Guy mines the memories of colleagues, critics, and aficionados to recover something of the spell Sills wove for people on both sides of the footlights during the hot moments of onstage performance. At the same time, she analyzes essential questions raised by Sills's art and celebrity. How did Sills challenge the divide between elite and mass culture and build a fan base that crossed generations and socio-economic lines? Above all, how did Sills capture the unnameable magic that joins the members of an audience to a performer--and to one-another? Intimate and revealing, The Magic of Beverly Sills explores the alchemy of art, magnetism, community, and emotion that produced an American icon.
Children’s gardens are magical places where kids can interact with plants, see where food and fibers grow, and experience the role of birds, butterflies, and bees in nature. These gardens do more than just expose youngsters to outdoor environments, they also provide marvelous teaching opportunities for them to visit a small plot, care for vegetables and flowers, and interact in creative spaces designed to stimulate all five senses.
In The Magic of Children’s Gardens, landscape architect Lolly Tai provides the primary goals, concepts and key considerations for designing outdoor spaces that are attractive to and suitable for children especially in urban environments. Tai presents inspiring ideas for creating children’s green spaces by examining nearly twentycase studies, including the Chicago Botanic Gardens and Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA.
The Magic of Children’s Gardens features hundreds of comprehensive drawings and gorgeous photographs of successful children’s outdoor environments, detailed explanations of the design process, and the criteria needed to create attractive and pleasing gardens for children to augment their physical, mental, and emotional development.
Exposing youth to well-planned outdoor environments promotes our next generation of environmental stewards. The Magic of Children's Gardens offers practitioners a guide to designing these valued spaces.
In The Magic of Concepts Rebecca E. Karl interrogates "the economic" as concept and practice as it was construed historically in China in the 1930s and again in the 1980s and 1990s. Separated by the Chinese Revolution and Mao's socialist experiments, each era witnessed urgent discussions about how to think about economic concepts derived from capitalism in modern China. Both eras were highly cosmopolitan and each faced its own global crisis in economic and historical philosophy: in the 1930s, capitalism's failures suggested that socialism offered a plausible solution, while the abandonment of socialism five decades later provoked a rethinking of the relationship between history and the economic as social practice. Interweaving a critical historiography of modern China with the work of the Marxist-trained economist Wang Yanan, Karl shows how "magical concepts" based on dehistoricized Eurocentric and capitalist conceptions of historical activity that purport to exist outside lived experiences have erased much of the critical import of China's twentieth-century history. In this volume, Karl retrieves the economic to argue for a more nuanced and critical account of twentieth-century Chinese and global historical practice.
In Magic’s Reason, Graham M. Jones tells the entwined stories of anthropology and entertainment magic. The two pursuits are not as separate as they may seem at first. As Jones shows, they not only matured around the same time, but they also shared mutually reinforcing stances toward modernity and rationality. It is no historical accident, for example, that colonial ethnographers drew analogies between Western magicians and native ritual performers, who, in their view, hoodwinked gullible people into believing their sleight of hand was divine.
Using French magicians’ engagements with North African ritual performers as a case study, Jones shows how magic became enshrined in anthropological reasoning. Acknowledging the residue of magic’s colonial origins doesn’t require us to dispense with it. Rather, through this radical reassessment of classic anthropological ideas, Magic’s Reason develops a new perspective on the promise and peril of cross-cultural comparison.
This exciting new study draws on objects excavated or discovered in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century at three Mediterranean sites. Through the three case studies, Materia Magica identifies specific forms of magic that may be otherwise unknown. It isolates the practitioners of magic and examines whether magic could be used as a form of countercultural resistance. Andrew T. Wilburn discovers magic in the objects of ancient daily life, suggesting that individuals frequently turned to magic, particularly in crises. Local forms of magic may have differed, and Wilburn proposes that the only way we can find small-town sorcerers is through careful examination of the archaeological evidence.
Studying the remains of spells enacted by practitioners, Wilburn's work unites the analysis of the words written on artifacts and the physical form of these objects. He situates these items within their contexts, to study how and why they were used. Materia Magica approaches magic as a material endeavor, in which spoken spells, ritual actions, and physical objects all played vital roles in the performance of a rite.
Materia Magica develops a new method for identifying and interpreting the material remains of magical practice by assessing artifacts within their archaeological contexts. Wilburn suggests that excavations undertaken in recent centuries can yield important lessons about the past, and he articulates the ways in which we can approach problematic data.
The Monster in the Machine tracks the ways in which human beings were defined in contrast to supernatural and demonic creatures during the time of the Scientific Revolution. Zakiya Hanafi recreates scenes of Italian life and culture from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries to show how monsters were conceptualized at this particular locale and historical juncture—a period when the sacred was being supplanted by a secular, decidedly nonmagical way of looking at the world. Noting that the word “monster” is derived from the Latin for “omen” or “warning,” Hanafi explores the monster’s early identity as a portent or messenger from God. Although monsters have always been considered “whatever we are not,” they gradually were tranformed into mechanical devices when new discoveries in science and medicine revealed the mechanical nature of the human body. In analyzing the historical literature of monstrosity, magic, and museum collections, Hanafi uses contemporary theory and the philosophy of technology to illuminate the timeless significance of the monster theme. She elaborates the association between women and the monstrous in medical literature and sheds new light on the work of Vico—particularly his notion of the conatus—by relating it to Vico’s own health. By explicating obscure and fascinating texts from such disciplines as medicine and poetics, she invites the reader to the piazzas and pulpits of seventeenth-century Naples, where poets, courtiers, and Jesuit preachers used grotesque figures of speech to captivate audiences with their monstrous wit. Drawing from a variety of texts from medicine, moral philosophy, and poetics, Hanafi’s guided tour through this baroque museum of ideas will interest readers in comparative literature, Italian literature, history of ideas, history of science, art history, poetics, women’s studies, and philosophy.
A great many theorists have argued that the defining feature of modernity is that people no longer believe in spirits, myths, or magic. Jason Ā. Josephson-Storm argues that as broad cultural history goes, this narrative is wrong, as attempts to suppress magic have failed more often than they have succeeded. Even the human sciences have been more enchanted than is commonly supposed. But that raises the question: How did a magical, spiritualist, mesmerized Europe ever convince itself that it was disenchanted?
Josephson-Storm traces the history of the myth of disenchantment in the births of philosophy, anthropology, sociology, folklore, psychoanalysis, and religious studies. Ironically, the myth of mythless modernity formed at the very time that Britain, France, and Germany were in the midst of occult and spiritualist revivals. Indeed, Josephson-Storm argues, these disciplines’ founding figures were not only aware of, but profoundly enmeshed in, the occult milieu; and it was specifically in response to this burgeoning culture of spirits and magic that they produced notions of a disenchanted world.
By providing a novel history of the human sciences and their connection to esotericism, The Myth of Disenchantment dispatches with most widely held accounts of modernity and its break from the premodern past.
Vast like the subcontinent itself and teeming with outrageous and exotic characters, Net of Magic is an enthralling voyage through the netherworld of Indian magic. Lee Siegel, scholar and magician, uncovers the age-old practices of magic in sacred rites and rituals and unveils the contemporary world of Indian magic of street and stage entertainers.
Siegel's journeys take him from ancient Sanskrit texts to the slums of New Delhi to find remnants of a remarkable magical tradition. In the squalid settlement of Shadipur, he is initiated into a band of Muslim street conjurers and performs as their shill while they tutor him in their con and craft. Siegel also becomes acquainted with Hindu theatrical magicians, who claim descent from court illusionists and now dress as maharajahs to perform a repertoire of tricks full of poignant kitsch and glitz.
Masterfully using a panoply of narrative sleights to recreate the magical world of India, Net of Magic intersperses travelogue, history, ethnography, and fiction. Siegel's vivid, often comic tale is crowded with shills and stooges, tourists and pickpockets, snake charmers and fakirs. Among the cast of characters are Naseeb, a poor Muslim street magician who guides Siegel into the closed circle of itinerant performers; the Industrial Magician, paid by a bank, who convinces his audience to buy traveler's checks by making twenty-rupee notes disappear; the Government Magician, who does a trick with condoms to encourage family planning; P. C. Sorcar, Jr., the most celebrated Indian stage magician; and the fictive Professor M. T. Bannerji, the world's greatest magician, who assumes various guises over a millennium of Indian history and finally arrives in the conjuring capital of the world—Las Vegas.
Like Indra's net—the web of illusion in which Indian performers ensnare their audience—Net of Magic captures the reader in a seductive portrayal of a world where deception is celebrated and lies are transformed into compelling and universal truths.
To find out why reasonable people are drawn to the seemingly bizarre practices of magic and witchcraft, Tanya Luhrmann immersed herself in the secret lives of Londoners who call themselves magicians. She came to know them as friends and equals and was initiated into various covens and magical groups. She explains the process through which once-skeptical individuals—educated, middle-class people, frequently of high intelligence—become committed to the ideas behind witchcraft and find magical ritual so compellingly persuasive. This intriguing book draws some disturbing conclusions about the ambivalence of belief within modern urban society.
Ryan J. Stark presents a spiritually sensitive, interdisciplinary, and original discussion of early modern English rhetoric. He shows specifically how experimental philosophers attempted to disenchant language
From Peter Pan to Harry Potter, from David Copperfield to levitating toys, there is magic in conquering gravity. In this first-ever popular introduction to “maglev”— the use of magnetic forces to overcome gravity and friction—James D. Livingston takes lay readers on a journey of discovery, from basic concepts to today’s most thrilling applications.
The tour begins with examples of our historical fascination with levitation, both real and fake. At the next stop, Livingston introduces readers to the components of maglev: gravitational and magnetic forces in the universe, force fields, diamagnetism and stabilization, superdiamagnetism and supercurrents, maglev nanotechnology, and more. He explores the development of the superconductors that are making large-scale levitation devices possible, and the use of magnetic bearings in products ranging from implanted blood pumps to wind turbines, integrated circuit fabrication, and centrifuges to enrich uranium. In the last chapters, we arrive at the science behind maglev transportation systems, such as Chinese trains that travel 250 miles per hour without touching the tracks.
Packed with fascinating anecdotes about the colorful personalities who have “fought friction by fighting gravity,” the book maintains accuracy throughout while it entertains and informs technical and nontechnical readers alike. With so many new applications for magnetic levitation on the horizon, Rising Force is sure to retain its own magic for years to come.
In Shakespeare the Illusionist, Neil Forsyth reviews the history of Shakespeare’s plays on film, using the basic distinction in film tradition between what is owed to Méliès and what to the Lumière brothers. He then tightens his focus on those plays that include some explicit magical or supernatural elements—Puck and the fairies, ghosts and witches, or Prospero’s island, for example—and sets out methodically, but with an easy touch, to review all the films that have adapted those comedies and dramas, into the present day.
Forsyth’s aim is not to offer yet another answer as to whether Shakespeare would have written for the screen if he were alive today, but rather to assess what various filmmakers and TV directors have in fact made of the spells, haunts, and apparitions in his plays. From analyzing early camera tricks to assessing contemporary handling of the supernatural, Forsyth reads Shakespeare films for how they use the techniques of moviemaking to address questions of illusion and dramatic influence. In doing so, he presents a bold step forward in Shakespeare and film studies, and his fresh take is presented in lively, accessible language that makes the book ideal for classroom use.
Sorcery in the Black Atlantic
Edited by Luis Nicolau Parés and Roger Sansi University of Chicago Press, 2011 Library of Congress BF1584.B7S66 2011 | Dewey Decimal 133.4308996
Most scholarship on sorcery and witchcraft has narrowly focused on specific times and places, particularly early modern Europe and twentieth-century Africa. And much of that research interprets sorcery as merely a remnant of premodern traditions. Boldly challenging these views, Sorcery in the Black Atlantic takes a longer historical and broader geographical perspective, contending that sorcery is best understood as an Atlantic phenomenon that has significant connections to modernity and globalization.
A distinguished group of contributors here examine sorcery in Brazil, Cuba, South Africa, Cameroon, and Angola. Their insightful essays reveal the way practices and accusations of witchcraft spread throughout the Atlantic world from the age of discovery up to the present, creating an indelible link between sorcery and the rise of global capitalism. Shedding new light on a topic of perennial interest, Sorcery in the Black Atlantic will be provocative, compelling reading for historians and anthropologists working in this growing field.
At the end of his long, prolific life, Titian was rumored to paint directly on the canvas with his bare hands. He would slide his fingers across bright ridges of oil paint, loosening the colors, blending, blurring, and then bringing them together again. With nothing more than the stroke of a thumb or the flick of a nail, Titian’s touch brought the world to life. The clinking of glasses, the clanging of swords, and the cry of a woman’s grief. The sensation of hair brushing up against naked flesh, the sudden blush of unplanned desire, and the dry taste of fear in a lost, shadowy place.
Titian’s art, Maria H. Loh argues in this exquisitely illustrated book, was and is a synesthetic experience. To see is at once to hear, to smell, to taste, and to touch. But while Titian was fully attached to the world around him, he also held the universe in his hands. Like a magician, he could conjure appearances out of thin air. Like a philosopher, his exploration into the very nature of things channelled and challenged the controversial ideas of his day. But as a painter, he created the world anew. Dogs, babies, rubies, and pearls. Falcons, flowers, gloves, and stone. Shepherds, mothers, gods, and men. Paint, canvas, blood, sweat, and tears. In a series of close visual investigations, Loh guides us through the lush, vibrant world of Titian’s touch.
Tokyo today is one of the world’s mega-cities and the center of a scintillating, hyper-modern culture—but not everyone is aware of its past. Founded in 1590 as the seat of the warlord Tokugawa family, Tokyo, then called Edo, was the locus of Japanese trade, economics, and urban civilization until 1868, when it mutated into Tokyo and became Japan’s modern capital. This beautifully illustrated book presents important sites and features from the rich history of Edo, taken from contemporary sources such as diaries, guidebooks, and woodblock prints. These include the huge bridge on which the city was centered; the vast castle of the Shogun; sumptuous Buddhist temples, bars, kabuki theaters, and Yoshiwara—the famous red-light district.
"An outstanding and innovative study on hunting, gardening, and love magic among the Aguaruna. . . . [It is] both highly useful ethnographically and an important contribution to the understanding of how a primitive culture conceptualizes its transactions with nature. The book touches on cosmology and religion as well as the ethnoecology of hunting and agriculture--with an interlude on sex."
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 moments—in Victorian magic’s obsessive manipulation of female and colonized bodies, spiritualist photography’s search to capture traces of ghosts, the comings and goings of bodies in early cinema, and Bette Davis’s multiple roles as a fading female star. As Beckman places the vanishing woman in the context of feminism’s 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.
An engaging study of how Victorian-era representations of ancient Egypt blended science and mysticism.
With its material remnants paradoxically symbolizing both antiquity and modernity to Victorian audiences, ancient Egypt was at once evocative of ancient magical power and of cutting-edge science, a tension that might be productively conceived of as “alchemical.” Examining literature and other cultural forms including art, photography, and early film, Eleanor Dobson herein traces the myriad ways in which the Victorian fascination with ancient Egypt evoked the entwined forces of magic and science, providing more than a mere setting for Orientalist fantasies and nightmares. From imaging technologies and astronomy to investigations into the electromagnetic spectrum and the human mind itself, this book demonstrates how conceptions of modernity were inextricably bound up in the contemporary reception of the ancient world, illustrating how such ideas took root and flourished in the Victorian era and persist to this day.
Persecuted as evil during colonial times, considered charlatans during the nation-building era, Puerto Rican brujos (witch-healers) today have become spiritual entrepreneurs who advise their clients not only in consultation with the spirits but also in compliance with state laws and new economic opportunities. Combining trance, dance, magic, and healing practices with expertise in the workings of the modern welfare state, they help lawyers win custody suits, sick employees resolve labor disability claims, single mothers apply for government housing, or corporation managers maximize their commercial skills.
Drawing on extensive fieldwork among practicing brujos, this book presents a masterful history and ethnography of Puerto Rican brujería (witch-healing). Raquel Romberg explores how brujería emerged from a blending of popular Catholicism, Afro-Latin religions, French Spiritism, and folk Protestantism and also looks at how it has adapted to changes in state policies and responded to global flows of ideas and commodities. She demonstrates that, far from being an exotic or marginal practice in the modern world, brujería has become an invisible yet active partner of consumerism and welfare capitalism.
Imagine a stage full of black cats emitting electrical sparks, a man catching bullets with his teeth, or an evangelist jumping on a transformer to shoot bolts of lightning through his fingertips. These and other wild schemes were part of the repertoire of showmen who traveled from city to city, making presentations that blended science with myth and magic.
In Wonder Shows, Fred Nadis offers a colorful history of these traveling magicians, inventors, popular science lecturers, and other presenters of “miracle science” who revealed science and technology to the public in awe-inspiring fashion. The book provides an innovative synthesis of the history of performance with a wider study of culture, science, and religion from the antebellum period to the present.
It features a lively cast of characters, including electrical “wizards” Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison, vaudeville performers such as Harry Houdini, mind readers, UFO cultists, and practitioners of New Age science. All of these performers developed strategies for invoking cultural authority to back their visions of science and progress. The pseudo-science in their wonder shows helped promote a romantic worldview that called into question the absolute authority of scientific materialism while reaffirming the importance of human spirituality. Nadis argues that the sensation that these entertainers provided became an antidote to the alienation and dehumanization that accompanied the rise of modern America.
Although most recent defenders of science are prone to reject wonder, considering it an ally of ignorance and superstition, Wonder Shows demonstrates that the public’s passion for magic and meaning is still very much alive. Today, sales continue to be made and allegiances won based on illusions that products are unique, singular, and at best, miraculous. Nadis establishes that contemporary showmen, corporate publicists, advertisers, and popular science lecturers are not that unlike the magicians and mesmerists of years ago.