“Specular Reflections: The Mirror in Medieval and Early Modern Culture”
The Early Romance Studies Research Cluster, along with the Committee for Medieval Studies at the University of British Columbia, solicits contributions for the 40th Annual UBC Medieval Workshop, to be held on March 16-17, 2012. The conference will be held at Green College on the beautiful UBC campus in Vancouver, Canada.
As Margot Schmidt suggests in the Dictionnaire de spiritualité, the mirror’s multiple uses as an object translate into highly diversified symbolic functions. Thus, while they have long been associated with scientific exploration, knowledge, and contemplation, owing largely to analogies with their instrumental use—analogies that lead to the book as speculum, as explored by Herbert Grabes, for example—reflective surfaces also function as metaphors for the illusory nature of representation. They can create false, shadowy, or deformed images of earthly reality, as suggested both by the ubiquitous Ovidian theme of Narcissus at the fountain and the Pauline per speculum in aenigmate. The contradictory uses of mirrors in iconography mean they can stand as figures of virtue or vice, depending on whether they accompany Prudence or Venus, or represent Mary—the speculum sine macula—or Eve. Mirrors are not only ambivalent, but also Janus-like: whether examined as objects, in their instrumental, decorative, or other functions, or as visual or textual figures, mirrors have fascinated humankind, not least because they seem to serve as a kind of threshold phenomenon allowing for the contemplation of inner and outer worlds, as well as the otherworldly. While these thresholds promise access to other worlds—earthly, imaginary, or divine—they are also suggestive of the limitations of human perception, knowledge, and wisdom.
We are looking for papers dealing with any aspect of ‘specular reflections’ through text, image, music or any branch of learning, especially those that engage with the paradoxical ways mirror images are used in all periods, places, and disciplines from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period. Areas of interest might include, but are in no way limited to: literature, translation, history, art history, philosophy, science and optics, musicology, etc.
Submissions are invited for 20-minute papers and for full panels (three papers and a chair). Selected papers from the workshop will be collected as part of a thematic volume of proceedings to be published with a major scholarly press. Proposals (250 words) for papers and panels should be sent by August 1, 2011 to:
or by email to:
|Pre-conference speculation and reflection in action.
UBC Nitobe Memorial Garden, March 2010: ducks diving.
Image: Szymek S. (Flickr)