This article deals with the cultural-historical change of public self-presentation and construction of identity at the end of the 19th century with the examples of William F. Cody (“Buffalo Bill”) and Karl May. The impact of the various public, both real and virtual, stages, the change of selfrepresentation as response to public reaction, and the interaction of public and private self-perception will be examined in particular with regard to the question how authenticity and illusion are negotiated individually and socially (within the media and publicly). The importance of physical presentation (as a sign of authenticity) and the increasing necessity to claim and proof (and thus to simulate) “reality” are particular objects of study. Both sample cases, within the specific cultural-historical context of their time, demonstrate change and diversification of public self-presentations which already display in their increasing virtuosity and plurality important aspects of modern mass mediality.
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