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Monstrous media/spectral subjectsImaging gothic fictions from the nineteenth century to the present$
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Fred Botting and Catherine Spooner

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719089770

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719089770.001.0001

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Spectrality and the deconstruction of the cinema in Neil Burger’s The Illusionist and Steven Millhauser’s short stories

Spectrality and the deconstruction of the cinema in Neil Burger’s The Illusionist and Steven Millhauser’s short stories

Chapter:
(p.116) 9 Spectrality and the deconstruction of the cinema in Neil Burger’s The Illusionist and Steven Millhauser’s short stories
Source:
Monstrous media/spectral subjects
Author(s):

Jean-François Baillon

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719089770.003.0009

In Neil Burger's The Illusionist (2006), based on Steven Millhauser's eponymous short story, the magical performances of Eisenheim the illusionist undermine the authority of the state and the reliability of the testimony of the senses, until the audience of his shows as well as the viewer of Burger's film realise he too was an illusion, some kind of ghost. While on the face of it The Illusionist looks like a rather bland Hollywood production, a closer look at the editing reveals some unsettling devices in a film where loose ends do not fit so easily. A deconstructive approach to the spectres deployed by Neil Burger suggests a parallelism between the magic show and cinema itself – a parallelism which is retrospectively confirmed in further fiction by Millhauser.

Keywords:   Neil Burger, The Illusionist, Performance magic, Steven Millhauser, Cinema

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