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Theory in Magic: A Capstone Course for Majors in Religious Studies

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.

David Walker

University of California, Santa Barbara

Public College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course, Seminar
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies

General Comparative Traditions, Other Traditions
Religous Tradition

Gender/Women/ Sexuality, Popular Culture/Media/Music/Sports, Pluralism/Secularism/Culture Wars

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