ABSTRACTS

Suzanne Conklin Akbari (University of Toronto):
“Sight Lines: The Mirror of the Mind in Pre-Modern Poetics”

This paper addresses the ways in which conceptions of the mind as a mirror are manifested in a range of late medieval texts, including Christine de Pizan’s Livre de la Mutacion de Fortune and Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. The ekphrastic decorative motifs of the palace of Fortune, in Christine’s work, posit a seeing subject who builds her own reflective subjectivity out of the building blocks of historical record. In Chaucer’s poem, by contrast, subjectivity is constructed through the self-conscious habitation of an interior space defined by affective states of mind. Building upon the late medieval English and French reception of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, the paper will conclude with some consideration of the medieval/Renaissance divide in terms of conceptions of the mirror of the mind, especially as seen in the early modern period in the garden poems of Marvell.

Filippo Andrei (University of California, Berkeley):
Specula Principis: Aspirations to Kingship and Ideal Representations of the Sovereign in the Old French Romances”

In the early Old French romances, the representation of the kingship reflects a fundamental and natural aspiration of the individual which was achieved at the end of a formative journey; the longing for kingship was expressed, on the narrative level, through a quest performed by the main hero, but also through the mediation of the narrative genre of the speculum principis which triggered in the medieval reader a process of imitation. Thus, the literature of the specula principis influenced the composition of the Old French romances by offering their authors the possibility of becoming political advisors. As a result, the political and moral teaching provided by the writers of medieval Mirrors—mirrors of duties, royal virtues, as well as scientific knowledge—idealized the image, and the features, of those who held royal power.

Elixabete Ansa Goicoechea (University of British Columbia):
“Basque Virgins: Speculum Sine Macula in the Actualization of a 17th-Century Miracle by Salbatore Mitxelena and Itxaro Borda”

This paper will analyze the imagery of the Virgin as Speculum Sine Macula in two major Basque literary works: Arantzazu: Euskal sinismenaren poema (1949) by Salbatore Mitxelena, and Basilica (1984) by Itxaro Borda. These texts actualize the first account of the Virgin’s apparition, in the historian Esteban de Garibay’s Compendio historial de las Crónicas y universal historia de todos los Reynos de España (1628). Mitxelena’s version shows the usefulness of this account in the creation of a Basque Christian community under Franco’s dictatorship (1940-1975). Borda’s Basilica demonstrates the need of capitalism to maintain the subliminal power of the Marian imagery in order to have social hegemony. Both texts depict the ongoing redefinition of the traditional image of the Virgin as Speculum Sine Macula, a key topic in order to think possible configurations of the community that could one day escape from the enchanting powers of Marian submission.

Jean-Philippe Beaulieu (Université de Montréal):
“Portraits et miroirs dans les éloges collectifs de femmes au XVIIe siècle”

Le XVIIe siècle voit le développement d’ouvrages faisant l’apologie du sexe féminin par la présentation d’une série d’éloges. Les auteurs de ces recueils d’éloges collectifs exploitent clairement la valeur spéculaire de leur texte puisqu’ils font la preuve de la valeur des femmes en présentant aux lectrices des conduites exemplaires. Ainsi, dans La Gallerie des femmes fortes (1647), Pierre Le Moyne cherche à bâtir métaphoriquement une galerie des glaces en associant le portrait abstrait de figures antiques à celui de femmes contemporaines. Nous dégagerons la nature spéculaire de quelques recueils épidictiques, de façon à souligner l’infléchissement que connaît le genre lorsque des femmes telles Jacquette Guillaume (Les Dames Illustres, 1665) et Marguerite Buffet (Traitté sur les Eloges des Illustres Sçavantes, 1668) se l’approprient. La dimension spéculaire du portrait prend ainsi un autre sens lorsque le porteur de miroir est une femme directement concernée par la démonstration.

Alison Beringer (Montclair State University):
“A Mirror of Words: Semiramis and Alexander in Late Byzantine Romance”

This paper explores a late Byzantine Romance that pairs the legendary Babylonian queen, Semiramis, with the Hellenistic emperor, Alexander the Great. The anonymous author of the romance repeatedly shapes and re-shapes both form and content to reflect the two protagonists in one another. This careful mirroring and reflection are achieved through the author’s attention to rhetorical devices, as well as the structure and content of the narrative. Most interesting, however, is the subtle yet omnipresent reflection of the classical Greek myth of Perseus and Medusa throughout this romance. In the Greek myth, a literal mirror becomes the tool of preservation for Perseus and of death for Medusa. While no physical mirror appears in the Byzantine Romance, this paper argues that words assume a similar function, protecting Alexander and—metaphorically—leading Semiramis to death.

Elizabeth Black (Old Dominion University):
“Mirror/Window, Reflection/Deflection: Regulating the Gaze Inside and Outside the House in Gilles Corrozet’s Blasons domestiques (1539)”

Gilles Corrozet’s Blason domestiques (1539) are both a paean to the art of comfortable living and an engagement with the morality of lived space. A study of the blasons’ images in conjunction with their text reveals discussions around visitors’ access to the home, and women’s confinement to the domestic sphere. This paper analyzes how the blasons negotiate the tricky relationship between the interior and exterior of the family house, in particular the concerns surrounding the male and female gaze escaping or invading the home. Representations of transparent and reflective glass—the mirror and the house’s windows—stage complex games of framing, and attempt to direct the gaze. The use of glass at the limit between the interior and outside of the house questions the absolute nature of the boundaries set up between inside and out, and casts doubts on whether the nascent ideal of privacy can be achieved in the home.

Daniela Boccassini (University of British Columbia):
“Wondrous Mirrors: The Contemplative Art of the Fedeli d’Amore, East and West”

The Islamic theologian Abû Hâmid al-Ghazâli (1059-1111) conferred supreme speculative status not to exoteric variants of the contemplative life—the mirroring quality of philosophical demonstrations as a guarantee of auctoritas—but rather to their esoteric counterparts: mystics who become true mirrors unto the Divine by emptying their minds of all speculation, as attested by their poetic visionarism. This paper begins with a reading of Al-Ghazali’s parable of the mirror and some of its re-creations in Islamic poetry and miniature, then explores the esoteric aspect of speculatio as an askêsis of love in a comparative East-West perspective. The writings of those engaged in this path of inner transmutation testify that mirroring is essentially a paradoxical reflexivity between visio and visus. The paper shows how all Fedeli d’Amore enact the process of speculatio in their writings, regardless of cultural and religious affiliations: from Nezami to Rumi, from Dante to Meister Eckhart.

Courtney Booker (University of British Columbia):
“The Dionysian Mirror of Louis the Pious”

While the various textual and pictorial mirrors of Louis the Pious’s highly self-conscious reign (814—840) have been well-studies, this paper investigates the one textual mirror Louis himself claimed as his own. After regaining the throne in 835 “thanks to the divine assistance of Saint Dionysius [= Denis],” as Louis explained, he commanded that a book be compiled with texts associated with the saint. This paper examines Louis’s final years (835-840) with this special Dionysian mirror and the cult of Saint Denis more generally in mind. That Louis turned to Denis shortly after the pope publicly abandoned him in 833, and would never again communicate with the pope, are all the more reason to look carefully at Louis’s newfound, pointedly saintly reflection and devotion. How did it differ from what he saw in those cracked, warped, or otherwise defective mirrors held up to him—-held up for him—-before?

Hélène Cazes (University of Victoria):
“Réflexions érasmiennes sur la poétique du reflet: le miroir de l’aveugle, le speculum de l’ingénieur et la géométrie de l’amitié”

Collection de commentaires et essais organisée autour d’adages anciens et modernes, l’oeuvre d’Érasme connue sous le titre Adagiorum Chiliades, commencée en 1508 et continuée jusques et après la mort de l’humaniste en 1536, est construite comme une galerie de miroirs: chaque adage y donne à lire un reflet de soi et un reflet du lecteur, tandis que le texte s’ouvre sur le thème de l’alter ego. Emprunt et appropriation de formules antiques pour une éthique moderne, d’expressions citées pour une définition de soi, les Adages tissent les traditions et y insèrent maints commentaires spéculaires sur ces mêmes traditions et sur la manière de s’y regarder. Dans ce regard porté sur le reflet de soi, le miroir apparaît comme l’emblème tant de la représentation que de l’élucidation: dans une éthique du dédoublement fondateur, Érasme propose une rêverie philologique sur le speculum, outil de l’examen de soi-même (réflexivité), de la connaissance du monde (spéculation) et de la reconnaissance de la similarité.

Tom Conley (Harvard University):
“Lyric and Luster: Mirrored Verse in Renaissance France”

In an early and telling study of video art in 1987 critic Rosalind Krauss noted how the best work in the new field reflected critically on its own tendency to mirror itself. Taking account of their desire to turn the camera upon themselves and to yield solipsistic or self-centered creations, artists appealed to anamorphosis and other modes of visual distortion to fracture the vital narcissistic drive inspiring them. Her conclusions are telling for what concerns specular reflection in Renaissance lyric: in staging themselves composing what we read before our eyes the great poets theorize the very writing (in both aesthetic and political senses) of their signature. What results is a fabulously composite poetry at once read, contemplated and seen in its ever-moving archeology. This paper will work through “mirror poems” (by Scève, Ronsard and Du Bellay) affiliated with painting, architecture and invention of Fontainebleau and beyond.

Anna Dysert (Mc Gill University):
“Specular Art and Science: A New Typology of Mirror Imagery in Alchemical Texts”

This paper argues that the designation of “speculum” in medieval alchemical texts points to cultural understandings of the mirror, alchemy, and the nature of knowledge. It explores the mirror’s complex history as a material object (governed by scientific theories about optics and refraction) and as a site of human interaction and interpretation (making spiritual connections between the mirror and the soul). Alchemy is similarly divided into operational alchemy and speculative alchemy: one concerned with techniques, processes, and products, the other with philosophy. This division reflects the medieval concepts of ars and scientia, craft-based knowledge and knowledge based on principles. Concentrating largely on Roger Bacon’s Speculum alchymiae, this paper re-evaluates what the speculum in alchemical contexts according to these definitions of knowledge.

Monika Edinger (University of British Columbia):
“The voice from the distance: the interplay between the four classical elements and their representation in French and Spanish Renaissance re-writings of Ovid’s Narcissus and Echo

“Narcissus” also translates as sleep, numbness: literal and metaphoric representations of self-contemplation, a dichotomy between reality and imagination, linking myth to spaces of the human world, that is the coexistence of real places—heterotopias—and unreal places—utopias (Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”). The Ovidian myth’s rewritings by Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681, Spain) and Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz (1651-1695, México) show this complementing and contrasting fight of different realities, the impossibility of communication between two individuals consumed by an imaginary love, and a distant voice—Echo—as acoustic reflection of the Other, imago vocis, representing the union of vision and sound. Meanwhile, the spring as locus amoenus and the specular reflection of the water constitute the medium where virtual space and real space fuse. At the same time, a new, other space is created where the hunter—now the hunted—becomes the victim of a double illusion, acoustic and visual. Thus, Narcissus comes to know himself in an exposure to an otherness which is real and unreal at the same time.

Ulrike Feist (Humboldt University of Berlin):
“The Reflection Sundial at Palazzo Spada in Rome”

Beginning with a short description of the catoptric sundial and the fresco decorations, which were painted on the vault of a representative gallery in the Roman palace of Cardinal Bernardino Spada in 1644, the paper will analyze the iconography and iconology of this scientific artwork. It will emphasize the crucial role of the mirror by considering the several epigraphs on the walls of the gallery. Further aspects treated in the analysis will concern Spada’s collection of scientific instruments and his patronage of the sundial’s author, the French mathematician Emmanuel Maignan, as well as the question of the later reception of the artwork. Finally, I will show how the reflection sundial became the center of a sort of sun symbolism in the Cardinal’s house in its special historical context of Papal Rome in the middle of the 17th century.

Berthold Hub (University of Vienna):
Bloody Mirrors: Superstition or Science?”

The predominent ancient theory of vision assumed that there are visual rays, which are of a material nature, extend spatially, continue in straight lines, and are interrupted by an obstacle such as water, or deflected by an obstacle such as a mirror. In fact, there is nothing to be seen in a mirror, the mirror being only of such a dense matter, that it reflects the “seeing” eye beam to the object. This extramission theory of vision continued to be the predominant theory of vision throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. One of this theory’s consequences, and at the same time its proof, was the assumption “that women, when the menstrual blood flows down, often soil a mirror with bloody drops by their own gaze” (Aristotle). This paper traces the history of this “bloody mirror” in optical theory, medical treatises and religious sermons, and explores its premises, contexts and intentions.

Kathleen Kasten (University of Pennsylvania):
“Reflections of Luxury: Mirrors and Mirror Imagery in the Letters of the Marquise de Sévigné”

The letters of the Marquise de Sévigné to the Comtesse de Grignan hold a special place in French literary history because of their emotional intimacy, offering a more personal history of the consumption of luxury goods in late seventeenth-century France. This paper explores the importance of mirrors in the Marquise’s letters to the Comtesse, paying particular attention to the Frenchness of mirrors during this period, as well as to their cultural importance. The Marquise’s letters illuminate what it meant to purchase and own a mirror in France at the turn of the eighteenth century. In them, the Marquise describes the practical and economic aspects of owning a mirror, including how a mirror could be used in a home; inscribing mirrors, and luxury goods in general, in a discourse on taste, moderation and the superfluous, a concept which was just becoming important at the turn of the eighteenth century.

Sergius Kodera (University of Vienna):
“Between Stage-Prop and Metaphor: Mirrors in Giambattista della Porta and Giordano Bruno”

This paper examines the different uses of mirrors in the works of two important sixteenth-century philosophers of the Italian South: Giambattista della Porta and Giordano Bruno. The former being a Neapolitan Nobleman, expert in the art of physiognomy and astrology, professor of secrets and writer of nearly twenty stage plays; the latter a runaway Dominican friar, master of the art of memory and self-appointed prophet of the infinite heliocentric universe: both thinkers—albeit in different ways and for diverse audiences—contributed to the forging of radically naturalistic, anti-metaphysical philosophic anthropologies. In doing so, they use different sets of mirrors as literary metaphors and they describe them as real specular instruments. My paper will outline these divergent and mannerist intellectual approaches and briefly relate them to Caravaggio’s contemporary technique of visual representation.

David Napolitano (University of Cambridge):
“Adjusting the Mirror”

One of the earliest vernacular encyclopedias, Brunetto Latini’s Tresor (1260-66), is an important variation on the Latin speculum tradition. I will present the thesis that the original production of this specchio della città, culminating in an instruction manual for the city magistrate (podestà) of an Italian comune, was both reactive and pro-active. It fulfilled not only a mirroring function, but also a legitimating function. I will also examine its translation into Old Italian, the Tesoro. For this paper I will focus on a particular transition, embodied by manuscript L4 (1284-99). I will hold that this manuscript, written by Bondì Testario, a Pisan scribe imprisoned in Genoa, is not a passive imitation of its source-text. A detailed analysis of the Tesoro‘s title, prologue and historical section points to a deliberate adjustment of this specchio. Not only is this work carefully stripped of its most identifying characteristics, but its political orientation is also completely altered.

Yvonne Owens (University College, London):
“Mirrors, Menstruation, Basilisks, and Poison Maids: Reflections of Toxic Femininity in Hans Baldung Grien”

This paper will examine the clerical tome, De secretis mulierum, which is thought to have been published in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century by a disciple of Albertus Magnus. On the subject of menstruation’s effect on mirrors, De secretis makes profitable use of the popular analogy likening the destructiveness of the feminine gaze with that of the basilisk. Pseudo-Albertus’ argument follows the same line of logic as that dealing with the venomous gaze of basilisks and the use of mirrors to kill them. The effect of menstrual women’s gaze upon mirrors originating in Aristotle’s treatise on dreams was reprised by Pliny, thereafter appearing in the works of Isidore, Albertus Magnus, Michael Scot, and subsequent natural philosophers. Passages dealing with women’s menstrual gaze and mirrors, citing an exalted roster of authorities, also appear in the witch hunter’s handbook, the Malleus Maleficarum, making the traditional analogies between the effects of woman’s gaze, basilisks, and mirrors. Art historical images will be shown to illustrate the ubiquity of these tropes in elite, humanist treatments of mirrors and the feminine gaze.

Leila Rahimi Bahmany (Free University of Berlin):
“Convergence of Symbols: The Mirror of Divinity in Persian Sufi Literature”

This paper will start by defining the key metaphor “mirror of the heart” in Persian Sufi thought and literature. It will discuss the origin of this metaphor as inherited from the Hellenistic tradition, adopting from Plato by the way of Neoplatonic thinkers, particularly Plotinus. This metaphor will be examined in the writings of early Muslim philosophers such as Kindi, Farabi,and Avicenna. That will be followed by a consideration of the further appropriation of this metaphor in Persian Sufi poetry, from its initial stage to its full blossoming. The paper will conclude by exploring the augmentation of this metaphor with other figurative topoi from Persian mythology and literature.

Robyn Rossmeisl (University of British Columbia):
“Opening the Spiritual Aperture: Reflections of Perfect Piety in The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia

Made famous by its evocation of the medieval stage, Jean Fouquet’s fifteenth-century illumination, The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia, illustrates theater’s role as a living mirror. St. Apollonia’s devotional purposes, however, reveal the hidden, ethereal, and divine. Apollonia’s bound figure exemplifies Mikhail Bakhtin’s description of the classic body, and represents the official, spiritual world. A whorl of near-by figures are exemplified by orifices which open interior spaces to the exterior world. These grotesque bodies are manifestations of the base and popular realm. Apollonia’s physical otherness demarcates a fundamental spiritual otherness. The saint’s inviolable body reveals the ideal, intangible space of extreme devotion. For the prayerful viewer Apollonia is an instrument—a speculum—which opens a spiritual aperture unto a perfected piety rarely encountered in the quotidian routine of the physical world.

Martin Sastri (University of Notre Dame):
“The Reflection of Visio Absoluta as Adequate Metaphor of Emanation in Nicholas of Cusa’s De Visione Dei

In the treatise De Visione Dei Nicholas of Cusa claims that God not only sees all things within himself, but also that God alone is the maximally visible object of vision. This paper will argue that Nicholas’ goal in making God the simultaneous subject and object of his own vision is to articulate a metaphor of emanation. This Neoplatonic model of causality allows Nicholas to explain how God’s creation, like his vision, is never wholly directed ad extra, but involves an unfolding of the divine essence into otherness. In making the simultaneity of seeing and being seen a productive activity, in which God is said to create and to be created, Nicholas establishes the device of reflected vision as the paradigmatic image of how God produces what is both similar and dissimilar to himself.

Sophia Rose Shafi (Iliff School of Theology):
“When the Mirror Shatters It Becomes a House of Mirrors: The Religious Function of Aineh-Kari in Imamzadeh

This paper examines the history and use of aineh-kari (mirror-work) in Shi’a shrines. My earlier published work on this subject focuses upon the institution of Imamzadeh as well as the origins and use of the decorative technique known as aineh-kari. In this paper, I focus more closely on the roles of glass and mirrors in religious contemplation at these holy sites. I begin with a brief summary of the origins and use of aineh-kari in vernacular and religious architecture and then move on to explore why mirror-work is placed in Shi’a shrines in which the bodies of the Imams and other relatives in the ahl-al-bayt are interred. Aineh-kari, while stunning, are not simply aesthetic and as I demonstrate, they are an expression of Shi’a beliefs surrounding the the presence of al-Nur (Divine Light) at the mazaars (tombs) of the ahl-al-bayt.

Louis Shwartz (University of Toronto):
“The Mirror of Scripture: Papal and Imperial Interpretations of the Two Swords: the Case of Frederick II, Gregory IX, and Castel Sant’Angelo”

Key to their struggle for control of the Italian penisula was the heated correspondence between Pope Gregory IX and Emperor Frederick II on the interpretation of the Gospel passage “ecce gladii duo” (Luke 22:38), debating how this sword should be used and when it should be sheathed: the former arguing for papal control over imperial policy, the latter insisting that the state had final say in political affairs. Caught in the crossfire, the papal diplomat and imperial sympathizer Bartholomew of Trent expressed his frustration with this seemingly unresolvable conflict in a revolutionary new way. After both pope and emperor died unreconciled, Bartholomew lamented his failure in securing peace. Unable as papal diplomat to establish peace with the empire, he expressed instead his deeply irenic longings through hagiography, representing the earlier miracle at Castel Sant’Angelo as an ideal solution to opposed papal/imperial interpretations of the “two swords.”

Danijela Zutic (University of British Columbia):
“Contour of the World/Contour of the Soul: Opicinus de Canistris (1296 –c.1354), Mirroring as Mystical Method”

Opicinus de Canistris, a fourteenth-century priest and visionary, produced a complex collision between images and text in an effort to create a diagrammatic ‘view’ of the celestial and terrestrial Church. With each image exploring the question of faith and how it should be made manifest in the world, Opicinus created a systematic journey where various aspects of the ‘physical world’ construct ‘spiritual geography’ so that the human soul that dwells in the world would find its way. Opicinus’ maps are a diagrammatic sequence of Mediterranean topography, medieval mappaemundi, portolan charts, schematized bodies, among many elements drawn together in an effort to confront personal destiny and that of the fourteenth century Christian world. These linear views, I argue, serve to create, order, and uncover spaces in which divinity and the divine nature of a created universe are mirrored in earthly things.

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