Performative Personae? Finding Vulnerability via the Virtual, Authenticity after the Augmented

Credit: iStock.com/corradobarattaphotos
Credit: iStock.com/corradobarattaphotos
On a rainy April afternoon, students in the back row of my class whispered to each other as I, increasingly irritated with their disengagement, stood at the chalkboard lecturing on Death of a Salesman. I am usually one to let such distractions go, but I finally stopped mid-sentence, asking, “Do you have a question?” Sitting up in her chair and turning her laptop screen toward me, the student hesitated and answered, “Sorry, but we just read that Prince died.” The classroom filled quickly with questions of “What?” and “Are you serious?” Taking a few moments to check my notes, I hurriedly finished what I was saying about spectacle and sequence and dismissed class a few minutes early—a move I rarely made. Before all my students had left the room, I was visibly shaken by the news. Years later, the memory of that day still burns, in part because it was the first time my students had ever seen me vulnerable—so far removed from costume and character.

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