chapter  4
23 Pages

British Masks

An unmasked face can show many passing changes, even in a short spell of time, which is why, apart from the voice, it is the most expressive of all human features, but a mask circumscribes what can be shown and so channels audience interpretation in a narrower way than what people can say with their faces. What masking in minstrelsy opened up, after that line was crossed, is explored in fuller detail throughout the book, but it always hinged upon 'the tension or interplay between what masquerade reveals and what it conceals', which is 'exactly what makes it intriguing the mixture of the familiar and the strange'. The experience of blackface minstrelsy is to be located most significantly between how the mask constructed a black low-Other, and how the mask permitted access to Otherness – the pleasures afforded by minstrelsy's publicly staged, fantasized construction of a black low-Other.