The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was: Myths of Self-Imitation

By Wendy Doniger | Go to book overview
Save to active project

CHAPTER ONE
The Mythology of Self-Impersonation

Everyone wishes to be Cary Grant. Even I wish to be Cary Grant.

Cary Grant


SELF-IMPERSONATION

The people in these stories set out to become other people but, through a kind of triple cross1 or double back, end up as themselves after all, masquerading as other people who turn out to be masquerading as them. This sort of self-imitation or selfimpersonation is a basic human way of negotiating reality, illusion, identity, and authenticity, not to mention memory, amnesia,2 and the process of aging. Many of the stories involve marriage and adultery, for stories of sexual betrayal cut to the heart of the crisis of identity; as Terence Cave has put it, “Recognition plots are full of epistemophiliacs: the knowledge they seek has the character, whether explicit or implicit, of an impossible or incomprehensible sexual knowledge.”3 A New Yorker cartoon in 2003 depicted a man in a bar saying to another man, “My wife ran off with the guy who stole my identity.”4 Some of the rejected wives in these stories win back their forgetful husbands by tricking them into committing adultery with their own wives;5 other wives (and occasionally husbands) resort to gender masquerades, face-lifts, or reincarnation.

A modern literary classic about a man who unwittingly impersonates himself is Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). When Jack, who has pretended for years to be named not Jack but Ernest, suddenly discovers his name is

-10-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was: Myths of Self-Imitation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 272

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?