19th Century Magicians and Patter

The blog is absolutely fascinating.

Dr. Bellanta “wants to find out what popular theatre has to tell us about belief in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

The About page for the blog continues:

What did ordinary people think about religion, science, the afterlife, and the nature of reality in Anglo society? She’s especially interested in ‘mystic theatre’: public seances, magic shows, displays of mental telepathy and mesmerism, popular lectures on spiritualism and paranormal phenomena.

Dr. BalIanta’s most current article evaluates the role of 19th Century magic acts in forming and informing “Western reality.”

The magician’s ability to glibly distract the Victorian audiences was key to not only accomplishing sleights undetected but also bring the audience along into the misty world of what was then unknown.

Magicians such as Prof. Haselmayer were committed to “the enlightened point of view which became official in modernity”, he says. They campaigned against superstition and spiritualist humbug, advocating a rigorously agnostic worldview. The airy aesthetic of the magic act was part of this message of modern enlightenment.

Its whole point was to make light of the ‘dark arts’, giving them a newly-styled razzle dazzle in place of superstition and fear. Magicians such as J. N. Maskelyne and George Cooke, who performed in the turn-of-the-century period, glossed over mystery with slick talk and sophisticated mechanicals. When they whipped away the curtain from the spirit-cabinet, there was nothing inside but air.

– Provided by InsideMagic

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