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Display and Disguise

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Manon Mathias, Maria O'Sullivan and Ruth Vorstman

In a culture increasingly obsessed with the visual, self-image and extreme self-exposure, in which reality is constantly obscured and misrepresented through concealment and spin, the roles display and disguise play in literature, thought and visual culture are particularly prescient. This collection, developed from papers presented at a postgraduate conference in Oxford in September 2008, presents a coherent view of key developments in the notions of display and disguise in French culture and provides a thought-provoking contribution to contemporary criticism. The volume includes essays from both senior researchers and graduate students using close readings and theoretical approaches from the psychoanalytic to the postcolonial. These are arranged in four main sections, dealing with notions of performance, disclosure, illusion and concealment respectively. Drawing on new research in a wide range of periods, in fields including art, photography, theatre, travel writing and the novel, the authors consider the notions of display and disguise in relation to works by artists such as Molière, Flaubert, Proust, Dalí, Vinaver and Sophie Calle.
This volume contains ten contributions in English and one in French.

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Part III - Authenticity in Times of Change: Writers in Disguise - 127

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Part III Authenticity in Times of Change: Writers in Disguise Kate Rees Machines, Modernity and Masquerades in Flaubert’s Salammbô In the late 1850s, struggling with an attempt to find ‘la note juste’ for his new novel, Salammbô, Flaubert embarked on a trip to Carthage in order to immerse himself in the ancient world which would provide the sub- ject matter for his project. On his return from Carthage, he recorded the lingering sensation of his journey in his travel notes: ‘C’est maintenant comme un bal masqué dans ma tête, et je ne me souviens plus de rien’.1 The masquerade image is appropriate in a number of ways. Not only does it evoke the confused imagery of the journey and the shadowy ways in which dif ferent worlds intersect – Flaubert’s desk in Normandy, the ruined cities of nineteenth-century Tunis and the echoes of ancient Carthage that they conjure up – but the masked ball also indicates the elements of mystery and disguise which will characterise the finished novel. Salammbô is a text written to enable Flaubert, according to his letters, to escape from the banalities of contemporary France. Its setting, distant in time and place, is a deliberate attempt to evade the preoccupations of nineteenth-century society. Yet Salammbô can also be read as a masquerade, a novel which disguises its reaction to the modern, mobilising world of the nineteenth century behind a veil of antiquity. In so doing it raises questions about the purposes and practice of disguise. Flaubert claims he...

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