Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN 1976

Second printing (paperback): University Press of America,

Lanham MD 1985


Out of print. The author presently holds the copyright

and would consider revising and augmenting the book 

for a second edition.




"The book is a collection of articles and papers, presented between 1970 and 1975, each dealing with some aspect of circus behavior. Revised into cohesive chapters, the exposition is organized around main theoretical perspective on circus performances rather than following through any single complete circus show. The first chapter encapsulates the various approaches used to explicate the circus: semiotics, cybernetics, linguistic analogy both semantic and syntactic [...] [The] main contention is that circus performance, "the circus", is in fact the transmission of cultural messages.[...] Bouissac intends to show us circus acts as communication, that is, as meaningfully encoded, transformed, and decoded statements about reality. His analyses of semiotic potential and elaboration are subtle and insightful."

Dennis Coelho

Journal of American Folklore, January-March 1979.


"Bouissac’s view on the circus are also his views on language, culture, cybernetics, poetics, and man-to-animal communication; he has attempted the interdisciplinary approach that other merely lament the lack of.[...] The aptness and relevance of the issues Bouissac raises for circuses to the study of the texts of everyday life seem clear.

Michael W. Mair

Semiotica, 32, 1-2 (119-138)


"Bouissac has given social anthropologists a pioneering book which will prove of great value to students of communication, popular culture, symbolic anthropology, and to semioticians and others in a number of fields who are concerned with "performance"as an aspect of culture. [...] From this vantage, the circus is viewed as a complex medium of mass communication with a staggering command of expressive means at its disposal [...] The quality of the analysis and its depth are best seen in Bouissac’s "Poetics in the Lion’s Den: The Circus Act as Text" (chapter 6); in this essay (brilliantly structured) Bouissac develops a methodology of examination which demonstrates that circus acts are all governed by an internal logic and that, when taken in sequence, they exhibit both complementarity and a network of cross-references that bind them into a single circus "text", rich in metacultural meaning."

Francesco Cordasco

Sociology, July-August 1977


"[...] a book rich with information that represents a rewarding foray into new (if natural) terrain for anthropology and linguistics: the multimedia texts and semiology of circus performances.[...] The circus emerges as a seminal arena for semantic analysis, and Bouissac brings the issues of pragmatic design, metacodes and semiology to the center ring.[...] The argument is persuasive. Bouissac’s work is here to stay."

Ivan A. Brady

American Anthropologist, Vol. 80, No. 3 (685)


" Paul Bouissac, fort a short period of time, had a circus of his own. This may explain the tremendous attention for many delicate details he knows and reports. [...] Moreover, the author knows how to handle the semiotic models."

Rik Pinxten

Communication and Cognition, Vol.11, No. 2 (281)

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