12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m.
Buchanan A101

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.


12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m.
Buchanan A201

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.