I find it both wonderful, and somewhat puzzling, to see a number of new books about magic, written by academics (who are largely non magicians). They are all studies of what we might call the 'cultural meanings' surrounding magic.
I have no idea why this academic interest is developing now... Here are some of the recent-ish academic books on magic I have spotted:
- James W. Cook, The Arts of Deception: Playing with Fraud in The Age of Barnum (2001)
- Simon During, Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic (2004)
- Philipp Butterworth, Magic on the Early English Stage (2005)
- Michael Mangan, Performing Dark Arts: A Cultural History of Conjuring (2007)
- Coppa, Hass & Peck eds, Performing Magic on The Western Stage: From The Eighteenth Century to The Present (2008)
Particularly on the relation between magic and cinema:
- Beckman, Karen, Vanishing Women: Magic, Film and Feminism (2003)
- Matthew Solomon, Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century (2010).
- Colin Williamson, Hidden In Plain Sight: An Archeology of Magic and the Cinema (2015)
Add to this list the University of Huddersfield's Journal of Performance Magic, and there's already a sizeable bibliography to be getting to grips with.
What is it about magic that is attracting the interest of university professors, and therefore students, of theatre, film, popular and visual culture? A mystery. But a lot to read up on.