Abstracts of Presentations
Session 1 ~ 9:00 - 10:15 am
Josephina Kiteou —“Performance in Masks: Concealment and Revelation in the Ancient Greek Theater”
Prosopon (Πρόσωπον) or Prosopeion is the ancient Greek word for a “face” or a “mask,” used interchangeably. Perhaps the lack of distinction between the connotations of these two words reveals how the ancient Greeks understood drama in life and drama on stage. In other words, a person’s face serves as the person’s mask and vice versa. In ancient Greek theatrical performances masks served to reveal and conceal one’s identity simultaneously. Evidence of how Drama was performed on the ancient Greek stage is scarce and rudimentary at best. Much of what is presumed about stage performance remains conjecture. The ancient Greek dramaturge or loosely termed as “playwright” wrote the script, wrote the choral song or music, taught thespians the lines and stage movement, directed the play, acted and did everything else in between. Yet, despite such daunting tasks behind each stage performance, scripts of the surviving plays reveal no evidence of such direction. In fact, modern translators of ancient Greek plays encounter difficulties even attributing lines and passages to specific characters in any given plot. So, to this day, the only evidence for the use of masks in ancient Greek theatrical performances remains archaeological. Excavated fifth century B.C. Greek pottery depicts scenes of stage performance in which actors wore masks with wigs and elaborate costumes. As severe and austere traditional ancient Greek plots may appear to the modern reader, the visual component of such plays was remarkably baroque in nature and grandiose. There remains the symbolism behind the use of masks and their impact on the ancient Greek audience. Behind such elaborate invention, the paper probes the historical significance and implications of ancient Greek masked acting.
Michael Aakhus — Masks of Mexico and Central America in Ritual and Dance
The tradition of Mask making in Mesoamerica dates to the pre-conquest period with many examples surviving from the Maya, Teotihuacan, and the Aztecs. This practice has persisted into the colonial period and continues to the present day. The university has been very fortunate to receive an exceptional collection from Michael and Mannetta Braunstein with examples dating back to the 1930’s. They include masks from the dance of the conquistadors performed on the feast days of many towns throughout this region. The light skinned European coming in conflict with the Moro Mask has Spanish origins but in Mesoamerica it is transformed to represent the often difficult coexistence between indigenous and European cultures. Masks also allow the person to take on the persona of that which they portray. In ancient times the elite would put on the mask of the God and be able to speak his words. In modern ritual it allows participants to be liberated from the social conventions to change gender and perform a social critique of society at large. Masks are part of the rich cultural traditions of many Mesoamerican groups and the Braunstein collect provides and excellent representation which we are happy to share.
Dr. Jason Hardgrave — Casanova and Carnevale: Masks of Venice, Medieval to Modern
To hide their identity or portray an alternate one, Venetians have worn masks since the Middle Ages. Masks were a convenient disguise for people perpetrating illegal or illicit acts. By the 12th century, Masks were an integral part of the pre-Lenten festival of Carnevale or Carnival in Venice and many standard personae developed, reflecting or demanding the wearer act the part of the character the mask represented (like superhero masks at Halloween). These character-based masks were also employed in the fashionable, extemporaneous comedies of the Commedia dell'arte, giving rise to the well-know Harlequin, Columbine, and Punchinello. Banned by Napoleon, masks made triumphant return to Venice in the late 20th century as a profitable tourist souvenir and decoration. This presentation will briefly trace the development and uses of masks in Venice, with copious examples and explanations. Additionally, the society and character of Venice will be unmasked through analysis of this cultural device.
Session II ~ 10:30 - 11:45 am
Dr. James Bandoli — “Natural Masks”
When it comes to the ancient art of masquerade, we humans are amateurs. The variety of life forms that use a mask to appear as something they are not is staggering in its diversity. Not only do many animals look (and frequently behave) like other animals, but some animals masquerade as plants, some plants as animals, and there is even a fungus that wears the mask of a plant. For these species, the point of masquerade is much as it is for humans – to fool others into giving you what you want: security, food, or sex.
Dr. Steve Williams — “Facebook or Maskbook: Social Networking and Impression Management”
Erving Goffman developed the unique sociological perspective of dramaturgy in order to frame interpersonal interaction as a series of performances. Impression management includes presenting a public “face” that varies with social context. While it is tempting to think of these faces as actually masks that hide a “true” self underneath, Goffman insists this is not the case; that the performances themselves are our true selves. The recent advent of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook offers an excellent opportunity to analyze the process of impression management at work.
Dr. Betty Hart — “We Wear the Mask: Blackface and Minstrelsy”
Black minstrel shows were an instant and popular form of entertainment for nineteenth century white American audiences. This was especially the case in Northern cities where laborers, who were mostly immigrant populations, were looking for a temporary equalizer in regard to differences in social class. The performers in these pre–Civil War shows were mostly white men who blackened their faces and caricatured both southern slaves and northern freedmen. Though such shows nowadays are regarded as racist, performances still occur, especially in rural areas. Nineteenth century poet Paul Laurence Dunbar replies to the blackface tradition of smiling, simple-minded happy darkies in his lyric poem, “We Wear the Mask” (1896). The poem is a testament to black folks who were forced to hide their pain and frustration behind a façade of happiness and contentment in order to survive. This presentation will consider the origins and heydey of the minstrel tradition against an ironic contrast found in Dunbar’s theme of masked oppression.
Session III ~ 12:00 - 1:15 pm
Dr. Todd Schroer — “The Evolution of ‘Masks’ Within the White Racialist Movement: From Hoods to Suits”
Beginning in the First Era of the Ku Klux Klan, the use of hoods served the dual purposes of allowing members’ true identities to remain secret while also reducing the risk of prosecution they might have faced from engaging in illegal activities. Overtime, others in the movement have attempted to modify negative perceptions of themselves and their organizations by presenting a different sort of mask, that of respectability, through various methods, including how they dress, speak and through the avoidance of known hate symbols such as swastikas. This presentation will focus on these “masks” used by members of the White Racialist Movement to either hide, or modify their personal and public identities.
Dr. Susanna Hoeness-Krupsaw — “Veiled and Sequestered but not Silenced: The Women Writers of Heian Japan”
My presentation will familiarize the audience with a group of women writers who lived and worked at the royal court in Kyoto around the year 1000 C.E. These were courtly ladies who lived secluded lives behind bamboo screens while writing novels, diaries (their nikki), letters, and collections of proverbs and aphorisms. Sequestered and working in the shadow of male writers, it is these women, however, whom we credit today with laying the foundations of literature written in Japanese. Despite their physical limitations, they gained a significant amount of personal freedom, including the possibility of expressing their feelings in writing, determining their personal welfare, taking lovers, and owning personal property. The audience will become acquainted with passages from Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji, one of the first novels ever written, and with examples of pithy passages from the Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon and the Sarashina Nikki. While physically sequestered and veiled, these voices still speak to us loud and clear.
Dr. Tamara Hunt — “Masking and Unmasking: Late Georgian Caricature and Public Opinion”
The late eighteenth century was a period of political instability in Britain, as the political roles of the public, the elite and the monarchy were in the process of being redefined. Political caricature played a highly significant role in this process; as the only widespread images about politicians, events, and issues, they shaped – and were shaped by – public opinion. Through the work of artists such as James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, Issac Cruikshank and his son George, caricature’s use of exaggeration and the grotesque served an “unmasking” purpose, creating images that suggested hidden motivations and character flaws in the leading political figures of the day. One contemporary worried that this “unmasking” would be taken as a “test of truth” by the public, who would then lose respect for their leaders and possibly take the country down the road to revolution. Yet at the same time artists were “unmasking” and castigating the nation’s rulers, they were also using a “masking” technique to create idealized heroic and positive images of the British “everyman” that met the needs of a country undergoing significant social and political stresses.
Session IV ~ 1:30 - 2:45 pm
Nicole Reid — prose
Matthew Graham — poetry
John Gibson — poetry
The Colloquium is presented by...
the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, with support of the Center for Academic Creativity, College of Liberal Arts, and the Society for Arts and Humanities.
For more information, contact:
Pat Aakhus, Director of International Studies
Interdisciplinary Programs |