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Sex, Lies, and Literature: Learning from Mr. Hyde

One of my first academic positions was as a visiting professor at a large university in the Midwest. Among my other responsibilities, I supervised 11 PhD students in the planning and teaching of a multi-section course called Major Figures in Western Literature. Each semester, the students had to select an archetypal character (such as the Lover, the Outsider, or the Fool) around which to base their readings. When I supervised the course, the character they chose was the Imposter. As the epigram for the syllabus, they chose a line from Oscar Wilde’s 1891 essay “The Truth of Masks”: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”