Re: Benzon on persona(e)

From: William Benzon (
Date: Tue 24 May 2005 - 16:25:49 GMT

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    on 5/14/05 12:51 AM, Scott Chase at wrote:

    > Having an armchair interest in musicology I'm finding
    > Benzon's book _Beethoven's Anvil_ fascinating
    > (although I'm a little hesitant on the triune brain
    > stuff myself). Anyway he starts talking about
    > something he refers to as *persona* at which point my
    > ears perked up, since I have some intellectual
    > investment here myself. Like the diagrams and how he
    > defines (page 61) it as "the representation of an
    > individual distributed across all individuals in the
    > society". This overlaps with my understanding of the
    > concept, but curiously he refers to some works by Erik
    > Erikson (likening it to "a person's identity") and
    > omits reference to Carl Jung, the guy with whom I most
    > strongly associate this concept. Maybe I'm mistaken,
    > but my trusty MWCD10 explicitly refers to Jung in its
    > definitions of persona, so I think I have a case to
    > make here (ie- "an individual's social facade or front
    > that esp. in the analytic psychology of C.G. Jung
    > reflects the role in life the individual is playing").

    I haven't read any Jung in decades, and back them it wasn't much.

    I probably got the term from an article by Marcel Mauss called " A Category of the Human Spirit," which I would have read in the late 60s. it was about how personhood is categorized in various cultures.

    > Benzon's usage of the term is neutral


    > and Jung likens
    > it to the *mask* of an actor in his "Definitions"
    > section of _Psychological Types_ (CW6). But here Jung
    > is also talking about character splitting and the
    > capacity of someone to engage in deception of
    > themselves and others, so there's a negative
    > connotation implied here.

    All this sounds like Jung is emphasizing the "persona" as something an individual projects and can deliberately manipulate. That's not what interests me. I'm just as interested in the persona of A as it exists in the minds of B, C, D, and so forth. A has no direct control over his persona as it exists in the minds of others. A can engage in whatever deception he wants, but that doesn't mean the others will buy it.


    > Does anyone have an OED handy that gives actual dates
    > and usage of this term?

    Ultimately the term is Latin, where it meant "mask," as in the thing an actor wears to take on a stage role. That beats Jung (and Mauss) by 2000 years. Mauss knew the Roman usage and I assume Jung did as well.

    Bill B

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