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date: 20 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses imposture as a form of improvisation that takes place outside of traditional theatrical space and over a comparatively long timeline. The author analyzes both obscure and well-known instances of imposture over the centuries (including those of George Psalmanazar, Princess Caraboo, and Anna Anderson), differentiating them from other identity-bending activities such as impersonation and online role-play. Taking a lead from legal scholar Sheryl Hamilton, the author argues that imposture is a creative form of “passing” that calls into question both social understandings and legal definitions of personhood. She situates imposture within the field of fictive art, as an activity whose underlying logic is the attempt to reify a fiction.

Keywords: imposture, improvisation, fiction, impersonation, passing, personhood, fictive art, Psalmanazar, Caraboo

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