Media and Performance Seminar 2014/15 – Utrecht University

Magic, Media, Technology

Dates: The seminar will take place on Wednesdays, 15.00-17.00 on the following dates: 22 Oct., 26 Nov., 17 Dec., 21 Jan., 18 Feb., 18 March, 15 April, 20 May.
Venue: Utrecht University, all meetings will take place at Utrecht University, Munstraat 2A, room 1.11.
Open to: First and second year research master students in Media Studies and related fields, registered with RMeS
Offered by: the Research School for Media Studies (RMeS), as part of the RMa curriculum
Credits: 5 ECTS
Registration: register before: October 15. Amount of participants is limited
More information: please send an email to Sarah Dellmann (
Register here

As Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey once stated: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Media are important examples of such technologies, and in particular in reference to their performative uses – not in the least since the invention of the projection device that, not by accident, was named laterna magica. Conversely, new technologies not only have often been conceptualised in terms of magic (think of the expression la fée électricité that was widely used in the 19th century), the performance of magic on the stage as a spectacle generally relies on sophisticated new (media) technologies.

In this year’s seminar we will explore the intricate and intriguing relationship between magic and technology in media and performance from different angles. We will look from a historical perspective at the way magical or supernatural events are presented on stage or on screen. We will consider how these practices make use of advanced technological means, and how stage magicians have made use of media technologies to present their tricks. Questions that will be explored concern, for example, the use of media technology in connection with stage magic and other practices, either with the intention to deceive, but also in connection with deeper questions of belief. A related inquiry concerns issues of “haunted media”, to borrow Jeffrey Sconce’s term, in which media are seen as a possibility to communicate with “other worlds” or provide proof of their existence. Here, we find a compelling relation between technology, science and other, deeper, existential and mystical tropes that are so typical of modern culture.

RMA students can gain 5 EC for attending and participating in this seminar. They are expected to attend all sessions, prepare the readings, contribute to discussions, and to write a 3000-4000 words essay reflecting upon the seminar series.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *