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Circus as Multimodal Discourse
Performance, Meaning and Ritual


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Circus as Multimodal Discourse
Performance, Meaning and Ritual

by Paul Bouissac (Author)



ISBN: 9781441125637


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Now available in paperback, this volume presents a theory of the circus as a secular ritual and introduces a method to analyze its performances as multimodal discourse. The book's fifteen chapters cover the range of circus specialties (magic, domestic and wild animal training, acrobatics, and clowning) and provide examples to show how cultural meaning is produced, extended and amplified by circus performances. Bouissac is one of the world's leading authorities on circus ethnography and semiotics and this work is grounded on research conducted over a 50 year span in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas. It concludes with a reflection on the potentially subversive power of this discourse and its contemporary use by activists. Throughout, it endeavours to develop an analytical approach that is mindful of the epistemological traps of both positivism and postmodernist license. It brings semiotics and ethnography to bear on the realm of the circus.


ISBN 1441125639
ISBN13 9781441125637
Publisher Continuum Publishing Corporation
Format Hardback
Publication date 11/10/2012
Pages 288
Weight (grammes) 529
Published in United States
Height (mm) 234
Width (mm) 156

Introduction, 'Playing with Fire'
1. Circus performances as rituals: participative ethnography
2. The 'textility' of circus acts: disentangling cognition and pleasure
3. Magic in the ring
4. Horses which speak, count, and laugh
5. Steeds and symbols: multimodal metaphors
6. The staging of actions: heroes, anti-heroes, and animal actors
7.Circus animals as symbols, actors, and persons
8. Dancing with tigers, lying with lions: translating biology into art
9. Clowns at work: a socio-critical discourse
10. The imaginary circus
11. Ideology and Politics in the Circus Ring
12. The post-animal circus