Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Ventriloquist

"For Ventriloquy, or speaking from the bottom of the Belly, 'tis a thing I think as strange and difficult to be conceived as any thing in Witchcraft, nor can it, I believe, be performed in any distinctness of articulate sounds, without such assistance of the Spirits, that spoke out of the Daemoniacks."

From Joseph Glanvil's Saducismus Triumphatus: Or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions (1681).

After the eighteenth-century Englightenment ventriloquism was absorbed into popular culture as entertainment. But the notion of the doll that finds a life of its own was also to have its own rebirth in gothic literature, grotesque thrillers and in the horror market /film industry.

In 2000 Oxford University Press published Steve Connor's wonderful history and critical analysis of 'ventriloquism':

"By `ventriloquism', I mean, not merely the practice of making one's voice appear to proceed from elsewhere - although I am, indeed, interested in the history of this particular form of entertainment or illusion. I use the word to designate all of the many forms which may be taken by sourceless, or dissociated or displaced voices, along with the various explications of such voices and ascriptions of source to them. This makes for an exhilaratingly, perhaps even a nerve-wrackingly large subject, which has no very good reason to exclude such disparate and historically far-flung examples as the following, many (but not all) of which are discussed in Dumbstruck:"

You can read more about his book and his archive here.

Raphael Salkie, writing in the Times Higher Education Supplement stated that the book was

erudite and broad in scope. Its strength is the way it links cultural phenomena in new ways ... Connor gives us an intelligent study of a domain of skilful cultural creativity, against a background of several millennia of appalling irrational behaviour.

The book is available on Kindle and in a Hardback Edition.

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