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An English Cover-up: Masks, Murders, and Cruelty in Goncourt, Lorrain, and Schwob

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Hannah Scott


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Fin-de-siècle writers from diverse disciplines were drawn to the seductive potential of masks and disguise; mask-wearing characters of indefinite identity, indeterminate gender, and insecure psychology proliferate in their texts. However, when characters are designated as English in such stories, they are also, and with remarkable frequency, associated with cruelty or murder: the mask-wielding murderers of Marcel Schwob’s ‘MM. Burke et Hare, Assassins’ carry out their crimes in Britain upon British victims; Edmond de Goncourt weaves his theatrical narrative around the mask-like demeanour of Lord Annandale in La Faustin; and Jean Lorrain’s malicious Lord Ethal exacerbates the Duc de Fréneuse’s perverse obsessions with masks in Monsieur de Phocas. This article explores this unexpected correlation, and examines the ways that English masks are used as narrative devices – at once to mould and play with national distinctions, and to reflect upon the psychological state of the French subject.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Scott HL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Dix-Neuf

Year: 2017

Volume: 21

Issue: 2-3

Pages: 142–154

Online publication date: 15/12/2017

Acceptance date: 29/09/2017

ISSN (electronic): 1478-7318

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/14787318.2017.1386886


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