“A General Theory of Magic” - A critical edition

“A General Theory of Magic”, an article written jointly by Marcel Mauss and Henri Hubert, is illustrative of the new orientations taken by sociology and anthropology in the early years of the twentieth century.

Published in 1904 in l’Année sociologique, the General Theory was widely received and went on to influence the majority of subsequent studies on magic, from Evans-Pritchard to Levi-Strauss via Luc de Heusch, but also classicists such as Jean-Pierre Vernant and Marcel Detienne.

Newly unearthed archival material shed new light on this text’s history, bot hits construction and reception. The various manuscripts were preserved by Henri Hubert at the Museum of Saint-Germain-en-Laye where he worked until his death in 1927. To this material must be added Hubert’s card files, preserved at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle which contains over 1’500 index cards dealing with magic. There is a third “site” for the text’s elaboration : Mauss’s library, parts of which are available at the Quai Branly museum.

At stakes in the present work is to reveal the various states of the manuscript, to carefully analyze the successive strata in the writing as well as the files and sub-files constructed by Mauss and Hubert themselves. Finally, it is an opportunity to publish the article in its totality. The General Theory has until now been published without Henri Hubert’s footnotes.

The hypermedia instrument we have selected offers numerous features for the reader :

  • Show / mask images of the various available archives ;
  • Highlight the sections written by either or both authors ;
  • Give the text’s original pagination (as in the 1904 issue of l’Année sociologique).

In addition, we have decided to append a complex set of notes, composed of :

  • biographical and contextual notes ;
  • philological notes bearing on the text’s transcription (words crossed-out or supplementary by the authors)
  • transcriptions of unpublished chapters or long notes written by Hubert.

Jean-François Bert et Nicolas Meylan