CFP: The Golden Age of Stage Conjuring, 1880-1930 — Early Popular Visual Culture

This is a call for papers for special issue 16.3 (August 2018) of Early Popular Visual Culture that I’ll be editing with Matthew Solomon (University of Michigan). Please circulate it widely:

The Golden Age of Stage Conjuring, 1880-1930

The Golden Age of Stage Conjuring (1880-1930) in North America and Western Europe encompasses a period of rapid technological advances in the performing arts, cinema, photography, lithography, transportation and more. It also marks a fifty-year period of social and cultural transformations across the globe: power shifts in Europe and North America’s colonial empires, a new wave of Orientalism, disillusionment during WWI, the zenith of spiritualism, victories in women’s suffrage, and the stock market crash of 1929. What were the social functions of stage illusions and their performers during this tumultuous period? What pre-1880 conditions led to this Golden Age of magical entertainment? Finally, how does the legacy of this period influence the role that stage illusions play in society today?

This special issue of Early Popular Visual Culture seeks articles investigating these and other questions that engage primary source materials from 1880-1930, that think about such documentation in relation to public or private collections, and that apply those lines of thought to specific areas that have been overlooked or understudied in today’s scholarship dedicated to the performing art of magic. Investigators are encouraged to visit the McCord Museum’s online catalogue, which features a wealth of newly digitized material related to Harry Houdini and many others (search for Chung Ling Soo, Thurston, etc. as keywords). These scans are a glimpse into the exquisite 3-million-dollar collection of lithographs and Houdiniana gifted to the McCord by La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso to honour her husband Allan Slaight. The arrival and digital documentation of this material create new possibilities for the kind of research that other institutions, such as the U.S. Library of Congress, the Harry Ransom Center and the National Library of France make possible.

Proposals of articles (5,000-7,000 words) and an archive piece (300-400 words and 5-10 images) are invited. For consideration, please send an abstract of no more than 300 words for proposed articles and 150 words (and one image) for archive pieces. Abstracts should be attached as individual Microsoft Word documents along with a brief CV (degree, work experience, and recent publications) and sent to: The deadline for article proposals is July 4, 2017. Proposals will receive a response in two to three weeks from special issue co-editors Joseph Culpepper (Concordia University) and Matthew Solomon (University of Michigan).

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