This seminar explores the complicated relationship between magic and religion in modernity. By analyzing the cultural history of specific magic tricks – including the mechanics and aesthetics of their performance, the public and private lives of associated magicians, and the ways in which different audience members responded to them – we seek to understand better how magic shows worked simultaneously to mimic, satirize, and regulate various religious traditions. Along the way we will see also how different classes of “magicians” – including those who claim supernatural power, those who claim only to be acting, and those who seek academically to understand them both – have worked jointly and often ironically to ensure the vitality of magic and religion in modernity.
This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.
University of California, Santa BarbaraInstitution
Public College or University Institution Type
Syllabus Resource Type
Undergraduate Course, Seminar Class Type
2016 Date Published
Religious Studies Discipline
General Comparative Traditions, Other Traditions Religous Tradition
Gender/Women/ Sexuality, Popular Culture/Media/Music/Sports, Pluralism/Secularism/Culture Wars Topics