Modernism's wilderness of mirrors

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Shari Benstock - Committee Chair


Mirrors in modernism are inescapable. The same image is employed over and over again by writers to critique the different (yet intersecting) subjects of colonialism, patriarchy, and the notion of a fixed, unified, and stable self. It is no accident that in exploring complicated issues about the self, about suppression and liberation, about slippage in language, all of which have a decentering effect, modernists deliberately chose a mirror rather than another image. The mirror, by its very nature, encapsulates self and other, identification and alienation, projection and reversal. Throughout my study, I will be referring not just to the use of actual mirrors, but also to the action of mirroring, which---with its doubling, distortion, and deflection---leads to the destabilization that is of peculiar interest to modernism, as well as to post-colonial, feminist, and psychoanalytic theory.I argue that in modernist works, the mirror becomes a central trope for a battle for independence, whether of the colonized subject, of women, of children, or of artists. However, the mirror is multi-faceted, and its reflections often refracted. The struggle is not simply one of liberation (self against other), but also of separation (self from other), and alienation (self as other).


Black Studies; Women's Studies; Literature, English

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