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The world's first Professor of Performance Magic?
24 October 2012
Huddersfield, The University of
Todd Landman aims to open the eyes of his students to a new world of wonder. And he probes the links between magic and politics.
THE University of Huddersfield – a key centre for research into the art of magic and illusion – has appointed the world’s first Visiting Professor of Performance Magic.
US-born Dr Todd Landman, who combines a career as a magician and mentalist with a post as a professor of government, delves deeply into the history and heritage of magic and believes that it enables the world to be viewed with a fresh sense of wonder.
“We are trying to rescue magic from its worst faults – which is cheesy guys in cheesy ties with rabbits in hats!” he says. “We are interested in the deeper side of things.”
He has a special fascination for renaissance men such as Dr John Dee and Sir Isaac Newton – scientists, astronomers and mathematicians who also practised astrology and alchemy. And today, the study of magic allows for “different ways of knowing the world”, according to Dr Landman.
“Even some neuro-scientists are saying we can’t explain everything with neuro-science. There are some things, like consciousness, that can’t be explained and that is the contribution we can make.”
Dr Landman is a seasoned performer as well as a researcher and his new appointment at the University of Huddersfield is the result of his established links with its drama department, where senior lecturer Nik Taylor’s research and teaching portfolio includes performance magic. The University’s Drama Division is also home to a newly-formed Magic Research Group, which aims to be the leading forum for state-of-the-art of scholarship in the field (http://magicresearchgroup.org/).
In addition to his activities in the realm of magic and performance, Todd Landman is also Professor of Government and Director of the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Essex.
For most of his academic career he has kept the two dimensions of his life separate, but more recently he has explored intersections between illusion and politics, such as the use of rhetoric and the exploration of free will.
“I kept two worlds completely separate for over 20 years, but then I started bringing them together and realised it was fruitful intellectually,” said Dr Landman.
However, his new appointment at the University of Huddersfield is the sole academic outlet for his magic skills and the post is unique in the UK, and maybe the world.
“This is very progressive and exciting thing for Huddersfield to do,” says Dr Landman.
But the intention is not to create a whole new generation of magicians among University of Huddersfield drama students.
“There might be a few who follow me into the field, but that is not my goal. My aim is to open their minds to a whole world of performance that’s out there.”
Dr Todd Landman