Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Greg Smith - Chair

Second Advisor

Angelo Restivo

Third Advisor

Gayle Austin

Fourth Advisor

Shirlene Holmes

Fifth Advisor

Thomas Flynn

Sixth Advisor

Raphael Miller


The use of masks in performance and actor training is often linked to the imagination, but there is seldom discussion of the nature of this imaginary link. Using the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre (most especially his work The Imaginary) and the writings of modern mask theorists, this dissertation examines the relationship between masks and the imaging consciousness in both masked actors and the audiences who observe them. We discover that a mask is an analogon for an Other and that a mask authorizes games of identity which play out imaginatively in the performance milieu. In fact, generally speaking, a mask in performance is apprehended in a more imaginative way than a non-masked performance. Further than this, the mask illustrates the basic nature of the human consciousness and identity espoused by Sartre: that who we are is not a product of our psychology, but rather, the product of our imaginations and our choices. The dissertation concludes by suggesting that masks point to an alternative approach to character creation which likewise rejects psychology, and instead relies on physicality, abstraction, and ambiguity, all of which are essential to activating the imaging consciousness.


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