“This Rough Magic I Here Abjure” Performativity, Practice and Purpose of the Bizarre


This paper argues that through the theatrical application of defamiliarization (ostranenie) the performer of 'bizarre' magic seeks to achieve an 'illusion of reality' which transcends the traditional performance-magic desire to deceive and rather create a long-lasting impression in the minds of the spectator that artistically confabulates, instilling a realistic memory spawned of a pretended reality. The article distinguishes 'presentational' from 'representational' theatrical approaches to argue that the 'bizarre' magician performs within a hyper-representational mode that the author terms 'paratheatre', meaning theatre and performance that the audience fails to recognize as such. Tracing the history of magic from its application among, inter alia, the priestly classes through stage magicians, this article discusses the 'bizarrist' aim to remove magic from the expectation of deception and any willing suspension of disbelief, and, via convincing storytelling, re-situate the magic moment into an atmosphere of genuine acceptance and even belief.


Defamiliarization, Illusion of Reality, Vaudeville, Maskeleyne, Robert-Houdin, History of Performance Magic, Bizarrist, Bizarre Magic

How to Cite

Corrigan B. J. (2018) ““This Rough Magic I Here Abjure” Performativity, Practice and Purpose of the Bizarre”, Journal of Performance Magic. 5(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.5920/jpm.2018.05






Brian Jay Corrigan (University of North Georgia)




Peer Review

This article has been peer reviewed.

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