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  • Phantasmagoria and the Trump Opera

    Forrest Muelrath

    Chapter from the book: Morelock, J. 2018. Critical Theory and Authoritarian Populism.

    To examine the way our present reality is altered by a specific technology in the present communications environment, this paper seeks to identify dangerous molecules of image projection apparatuses, and relate them to the pre-20th century theatre of phantasmagoria, which maintained popularity across Europe and the United States for more than two-centuries before the advent of cinema. Phantasmagoria became a metaphor used originally by Marx, and later by Walter Benjamin and T.W. Adorno to address matters of consumer culture and illusion. By overlaying Adorno’s analysis of the phantasmagoria found in Wagnerarian opera, onto the social media eco-system that gave rise to Trump, similarities of affect are found in the elemental particles unique to each spectacle. This paper presents a structure for understanding the collective psychosis of real world phantasmagorias in the time of Trump, such as the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and the gun-violence that resulted from it. Because the relative obscurity of both the theatre of phantasmagoria and opera, some time in the paper is dedicated to explaining both.

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    Muelrath, F. 2018. Phantasmagoria and the Trump Opera. In: Morelock, J (ed.), Critical Theory and Authoritarian Populism. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book30.k

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    Published on Dec. 17, 2018