Masks and Monsters: On the Transformative Power of Art

Pli 29:102-112 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Drawing on texts in psychology, philosophy, and literature the paper argues that art avails us of a distance from ourselves. Art has a potential to change our perspective on monstrosity and to make us question our moral categories and presuppositions. The study focuses on a single painting by Paul Gavarni, Two Pierrots Looking into a Box (1852), which I have discovered holds two images in one representation. I turn to Gavarni's work in order to prompt a literal gestalt shift in my readers. I direct the readers' viewing so that, at first, Gavarni's pierrots appear as handsome, albeit licentious youths, but then, through a shift in focus, I reveal their hideous, monstrous profiles. At this point, I argue that if we treat Gavarni's pierrots and the sorts of desires that they represent with single-minded opprobrium, then we run the risk of perpetuating the ugliness we scorn. There is, then, a double change in vision, which I seek to effect. The first one is the alteration of the visual, and the second, of the ethical perspective. The latter has to do with a realization that Gavarni's Pierrots can elicit from us — depending on how we see them — either complicity or reprehension, which is not so much a commentary on the drawing, as it is a reflection on ourselves (our biases, opinions, desires, values, etc.). The phenomenon that underlies the change in how we see what Gavarni portrays and how we, thereafter, relate to what we notice — the malleability of the human psyche — is what allows for and calls the many masking images we, ourselves, wear and perceive. The final question that I address in the paper is whether we can claim mastery over those images, which mask the monstrous or whether, if we do, then far from getting rid of the callous, the cruel, and the inhumane, we stand the risk of giving these expressions a freer playground?



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 86,507

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Foucault and the Enigma of the Monster.Luciano Nuzzo - 2013 - International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue Internationale de Sémiotique Juridique 26 (1):55-72.
Superficial Dispositionalism.Lauren Ashwell - 2010 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (4):635-653.
Transformative Choices.Ruth Chang - 2015 - Res Philosophica 92 (2):237-282.
Colonialism, han, and the transformative spirit.Grace Ji-Sun Kim - 2013 - New York, NY: Palgrave-Macmillan.
Précis of Transformative Experience.L. A. Paul - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (3):760-765.
Where monsters dwell.David Israel & John Perry - 1996 - In Jerry Seligman & Dag Westerståhl (eds.), Logic, Language and Computation. Csli Publications, Stanford. pp. 1--303.
Gezi Park and the Transformative Power of Art.Stephen Snyder - 2014 - ROAR Editorial: Gezi and the Spirit of Revolt.
Modal monsters and talk about fiction.Stefano Predelli - 2008 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 37 (3):277-297.
Freedom and Empowerment: A Transformative Pedagogy of Educational Reform.Roberta Levitt - 2008 - Educational Studies: A Jrnl of the American Educ. Studies Assoc 44 (1):47-61.
Monsters and Philosophy.Charles T. Wolfe (ed.) - 2005 - College Publications.


Added to PP

59 (#232,164)

6 months
8 (#128,520)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Marina Marren
American University in Cairo

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references