Written By Paul Bouissac
The End of the Circus
This book analyses two features of the traditional circus that have come under increasing attack since the mid-20th century: the use of wild animals in performance and the act of clowning. Positioning this socio-cultural change within the broader perspective of evolutionary semiotics, renowned circus expert Paul Bouissac examines the decline of the traditional circus and its transformation into a purely acrobatic spectacle.
The End of the Circus draws on Bouissac’s extensive ethnographic research to chart the origins of the circus in Gypsy culture and the drastic change in contemporary Western attitudes toward animals and clowns on ethical grounds. It scrutinizes the emergence of the new form of circus, with its focus on acrobatics and the meaning of the body, showing how acrobatic techniques have been appropriated from traditional Gypsy heritage and brought into the fold of mainstream popular entertainment. Questioning the survival of the new circus and the likely resurgence of its traditional forms, this book showcases Bouissac’s innovative approach to semiotics and marks the culmination of his ground-breaking work on the circus.
Paul Bouissac is Professor Emeritus at Victoria College, University of Toronto, Canada. He is a world renowned figure in semiotics and a pioneer of circus studies. He runs the Circodata and the Smart Semiotics Platform.
“One of the first academicians to explore the substance beneath the glamorous facade, Paul has now produced a volume that reflects his love and knowledge of The Circus and it’s participants, in addition to his previous works it delivers a lasting and worthy testament to a noble profession.”
David Könyöt, Clown, Circus writer, UK
“This is a rigorous yet heart-felt account of the demise of the travelling circus. Professor Bouissac argues that both its former popularity and present opprobrium reflect the ways that sedentary societies have seen themselves, their travelling others and their relationship with nature. No-one could tell this tale better.”
Ron Beadle, Professor of Organization and Business Ethics, Northumbria University, UK