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Title: Before and beyond the glass : women and their mirrors in the literature and art of nineteenth-century Britain
Author: Cohut, Maria-Silvia
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 1428
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis explores the interplay between reflective objects (mirrors, mirror-like surfaces, but also representational media such as painted portraits) and female figures in nineteenth-century British literature and visual art. The theme of the woman with or at the mirror is a persistent presence in art and literature throughout the nineteenth century, as in Alfred Tennyson's 'The Lady of Shalott' and its pictorial interpretations, Pre- Raphaelite and Neo-Pre-Raphaelite depictions of 'woman with / at the mirror'. This interplay is here considered as a significant cultural phenomenon. The thesis argues that an engagement with its expressions can help us understand the aesthetic and social means of negotiating female identity in this period. The overall argument is that the various interpretations of the 'woman / reflective object' juxtaposition throughout the nineteenth-century self-consciously use the reflective objects as a means of engaging with a traditional dichotomous understanding of femininity and of questioning its validity. In the period under scrutiny, the mirror appears as a symbol of the knowledge and development of feminine identity, as it alternately reveals or conceals the self and/or reflects the world to which the self is tied. Additionally, the mirror often creates an intimate space for femininity, opening up to the woman, but guarding against the intrusion of an external viewer by refracting his or her gaze. These readings are made in light of the historical importance of the mirror as a household object, especially in considering its role within the female sphere. What emerges from the consistent juxtaposition between women and mirrors in nineteenth-century British imagination is the beginning of a cultural dialogue about notions of womanhood: female figures are shown increasingly not just as 'either/or' entities (angels or demons, Magdalens or Madonnas), but potentially as 'both/and' (both angel and demon, virgin and whore).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature