1989, 2005, 2014
James H. Johnson
- Boston University
Masks and the Making of Modern Consciousness
This project describes the paths to modern ideas of identity as seen through the use of masks, physical and rhetorical. Its central theme relates the changing practice and meaning of masking to emergent individualism in the West. It provides a vivid account of what people did and how they thought about themselves while wearing masks. Early-modern Venice and nineteenth-century Paris are the principle settings of this study. Its sources include archival court, police, and surveillance records; newspapers; legislation on dress; scientific works; and pamphlets, speeches, and plays.
Masks and Modern Consciousness
"Means of Concealment: French Identity and the Self" completes a two-volume study on the meaning of masks in modern and early modern Europe. Like its predecessor, "Venice Incognito: Masks in the Serene Republic" (2011), it considers how individuals have viewed their identity by understanding why they have hidden it. It traces masking in France, physical and figurative, from the early seventeenth century through the first decades of the twentieth. Its subjects include the codified dissembling of courtly "politesse" and those who extolled, anatomized, or denounced it; the adopted clothes and manners of young men from the provinces seeking their fortune in Paris; and the pervasive figure of the mask in fin-de-siècle novels, plays, and paintings as an emblem of hypocrisy, delusion, or madness. Together these two books chart evolving ideas of the self and the rise of modern individualism through modes of concealment and its penetration.