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Masks

  • By: Miriam M. Chirico
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Masks are any transformational adornment of the face, including everything from makeup to elaborate head coverings. Masks are often worn in combination with appropriate costuming. They derive from the human capacity for pretense, deception, and play. Cross-culturally, masks are closely associated with festival, ritual, and theater, including, but not limited to, comedy.

The term masking can also refer, figuratively, to playing any role, whether on a stage or in everyday life. The term social masking is used to refer to the disjunction between public and private face. “All the world’s a stage,” wrote William Shakespeare in As You Like It (2.7.139), and many other writers from Erasmus of Rotterdam to 20th-century sociologist Erving Goffman have similarly noted the similarities between the experience of day-to-day living and ...

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