, Volume 98, Issue 1, pp 161–176 | Cite as

The Minds Behind the Mask: Reading for Character in the Masquerade

  • Karin Kukkonen


This article reassesses the masquerade trope as a catalyst for the development of characterisation in the eighteenth-century novel. The mask and costume not only protect one’s social identity from scrutiny and thereby enable subversion, as Terry Castle has argued. They also screen the mental worlds of those involved in the intrigues and revels. The masking of one’s intentions engenders struggles of cognitive superiority and embodied disorientation, and thereby the masquerade contributes to textual strategies of characterisation. Spotlight analyses of the masquerade scenes in Eliza Haywood’s The Masqueraders, Daniel Defoe’s Roxana, Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones and Amelia, and Frances Burney’s Cecilia show how the trope gives rise to textually rich encounters between fictional minds and their experience of the fictional world. By giving an occasion for mental struggles and cognitive complexities, the masquerade works as a catalyst of characterisation—it pushes characters from type to individual, and thereby forms part of a historical shift in narrative technique.


Masquerade Fictional minds Narratology Cognitive approaches to literature Eighteenth-century novel Characterisation 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OxfordUK

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