Comparative Literature | Topics in Comp Lit Studies
C603 | 26303 | Prof. Rosemarie McGerr


Department of Comparative Literature- Fall, 2007

Topics in Comp Lit Studies
Topic: The Mirror Image in Medieval Literature
CMLT-C 603/26303    1:00-2:15	MW	

Above class meets with MEST-M 502

Long before Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, medieval
texts employed the image of the mirror as a means of artistic play,
philosophical inquiry, and moral self-reflection.  One manifestation
of this image in medieval European literature is the naming of a
text as “mirror” or “speculum.”  Mirrors also serve as images of
self-conscious artistry in lyrics by Yehuda Halevi, Bernart de
Ventadorn, and Lombarda de Toulouse.  Often, references to literal
mirrors refract through a text in the form of metaphoric mirrors or
instances of narrative mirroring.  In this course, we will explore
the significance of the mirror as an image in medieval literature,
especially as the image relates to the depiction of text as mirror
and the reading/writing process as an act of philosophical
speculation or reflection.  Issues for our consideration will
include the extent to which the material world is represented as the
mirror image of God, language is represented as the mirror image of
nature, and women are represented as the mirror images of men.  How
did medieval theories of vision shape mirror images?  How do (post)
modern readings of these texts also benefit from application of the
concepts of mirroring in the theories of Bakhtin, Derrida, Lacan, or
Irigaray?

Our primary readings will include Dhuoda’s Manual for William, Alain
de Lille’s Complaint of Nature, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival,
Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun’s Romance of the Rose, Heldris
of Cornwall’s Romance of Silence, Marguerite Porete’s Mirror of
Simple Souls, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and selected lyric poems.  The
primary readings will be supplemented with readings in medieval and
modern critical and theoretical works.  Students will make two class
presentations (one on a secondary reading and one on the comparative
research project the student has chosen), prepare a written proposal
for the research project at mid-term, and complete the written
presentation of the research project for the end of the semester.