MLA Seminars in Cinema: House of Mirrors

Graduate Courses

CINE 513 - MLA Seminars in Cinema: House of Mirrors

COML 513
640 |Simon Richter |M 6-8:40pm

The mirror is a pervasive trope in Western cultural history. It seems to be a reliable metaphor for the way human consciousness relates to itself and the world. It is an image of the duplication that is characteristic of almost all systems of representation: the mimetic doubling that takes place in language, in art, in thought. What makes the mirror such a compelling image of human knowledge and understanding is its seductive ability to conceal and deny difference and to offer an illusion of wholeness and self-identity. But as everyone who has stood in front of the mirror knows, there are times when the encounter between the self and its reflection results in the troubling intuition that the person in the mirror is in some sense a stranger. The mirror is an image of identity and non-identity, of understanding and misunderstanding both the self and the other. As such, the image of the mirror captures a fundamental paradox of human experience -- how can the mirrored object be both the same and different with respect to its reflection? And if this is true for the primary experience of the mirror, then it follows that the same paradox will trouble every model of representation (language, art, knowledge, etc.) that depends on the structure of mirroring. The distance measured between the subject or object and its reflection is the space opened up for thought, a space at once filled with anxiety and desire. Texts for the course may include: Plato, Ovid, Hegel, Freud, Gide, Lacan, Fanon, Dallenbach, Elam. We will bring our powers of analysis to bear on works of literature, art and cinema.

last updated 06/25/2014 - 4:38pm

Cinema Studies Program
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