Alessandra Violi

Shuffling the Times of Modernism: Primitive Magic and the Making of Modernity

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Keywords: tarot reading, visuality, occult, cinema

This article discusses the role of the occult in the making of modernity through the material practice of tarot reading, a relatively marginal form of magic that gained surprising currency in a vast array of modernist cultural spaces, ranging from psychological laboratories to the visual and performing arts, from the esoteric rituals of High Magic to the secular magick of popular entertainments. This is taken as a test-case to reconsider the much debated opposition between modernity and primitive enchantment in the light of more recent historiographic accounts of modernity as a multilayered phenomenon, fractured into alternative and competing cultural conceptions. While making room for the occult among these other modernities, we suggest that the temporal montage allowed by tarot cards was a strategy already devised to shuffle the times of modernism.

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