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Doing it with mirrors: Neo-Victorian metatextual magic in "Affinity", "The Prestige", and "The Illustionist"?

Heilmann, Ann ORCID: 2009. Doing it with mirrors: Neo-Victorian metatextual magic in "Affinity", "The Prestige", and "The Illustionist"? Neo-Victorian Studies 2 (2) , pp. 18-42.

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This essay argues that at its most sophisticated and playful, neo-Victorianism engages the reader/spectator in a conjuring game of duplicity and revelatory enlightenment, mimicking the strategies of Victorian magicians. Drawing on the history of late-Victorian magic, it contends that the combination of Victorian narratives of stage illusion with the more contemporary concept of Baudrillardian simulation and simulacra allows us to access the specific levels of metatextual misdirection provided by a number of recent films and fictions: Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige (2006), adapted from Christopher Priest’s eponymous novel of 1995, Neil Burger’s The Illusionist (2006), based on Steven Millhauser’s short story ‘Eisenheim the Illusionist’ (1990), and Sarah Waters’s Affinity (1999). My argument resides in the interpretation of the trope of the trick and how it always returns us to a reflection on the nature of our engagement with and desire of the neoVictorian (literary or filmic) text.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Uncontrolled Keywords: conjuring trick; illusion; magic turn; magician; metatextual/metafilmic; misdirection; pledge; prestige; spiritualism; Victorian stage magic.
Publisher: Swansea University
ISSN: 1757-9481
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 10:39

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