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Title: The mask and the self : a historical exploration into the ways in which the phenomena of selfhood and the theatrical mask can illuminate each other
Author: Cawson, Matthew J.
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2013
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This is a historical and philosophical investigation into western theatrical mask practice, looking at the mask in Greek tragedy, focusing on Euripides' Bacchae, at the commedia dell' arte, focusing on the mask of Arlecchino, and at the neutral mask, focusing on the masque neutre of Jacques Lecoq. This thesis explores the historical and philosophical conditions under which these masks emerged, and enquires into how attitudes to the concept of selfhood and theatrical mask practice are related. The methodology combines the apparently disparate theories ofCarl Jung and Michel Foucault in addressing the essential, archetypal factors informing mask practice alongside the historical and the epistemic. From a philosophical perspective, my central thesis is that the mask provides a "third thing" that allows a union of opposites, in this case the self and the other, particularly in the form of the conscious and unconscious self. From a Foucauldian perspective, I argue that the development of the modem concept of the self can be characterised by three historical moments of epistemic crisis that are accompanied by significant developments in the theatrical mask. The mask, at these moments, provides, in Jungian terms, compensation for the rupturing sense of self. The apparent incompatibility of Jung and Foucault belies their common Nietzschean heritage, and I argue for a degree of functional (though not ideological) complementarity between them. I elaborate my argument to maintain that the theatrical mask has played a previously unacknowledged yet important role in the development of the western psyche, and can provide a unique insight into the development of the self. Within this context, I argue that the mask is poised to make a return to the stage, but that it has yet to find a theatrical form that transcends novelty and revivalism. I argue for the fundamental vitality of the mask as a potential force in contemporary theatre.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available