106: Rhetoric of Historical Discourse
Instructor(s) Michael Wintroub
In a world where visibility—being seen and seeing—constituted the ground upon which identities were constructed and fashioned, performance (dress, manners and speech) came to play a preeminent role in arbitrating power and authority. The questions that will concern us in this class grow out of early modern attempts to articulate, maintain and transgress distinctions between publicly performed persona and private persons, between “exterior masks” and “interior selves.” Where did one leave off and the other begin? What was a mask, and what was really true? Where did art stop and nature begin? And what happened to virtue—to authenticity—in a world where “appearances” seemed to mean everything and where “reality” remained hidden behind closed doors and affected masks? And what was the price of such outward conformity—frustration? cynicism? madness? Not only will we pay attention to the ways people tried to put on appearances as a means of achieving social success, but to the psychological consequences of “playing a part.” Similarly, we will also examine the ways in which role-playing; dissimulation and disguise were all potent means of inflecting, challenging and rebelling against accepted social norms of behavior.