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An engaging and witty cultural history that traces the evolution of the mirror from antiquity to the present day, illustrating its journeys from wondrous object to ordinary trinket. With its earliest invention, the mirror allowed us to gaze upon ourselves, bestowing a power both fascinating and terrifying. The classical myth of Narcissus warned of the dangers of self-reflection, while during the Middle Ages the mirror became associated with the soul and the seductions of the devil. Only in the 18th century did the mirror achieve true renown, reflecting brilliant light into the court of the Sun King and the parlor of Madame Pompadour. As science triumphed over art, the mirror lost some of its magical appeal, later restored with its role as a metaphor for altered states of consciousness in Lewis Carroll's looking glass and Lacan's "mirror stage." Drawing on rich sources of history, literature, art and philosophy, Melchior-Bonnet recounts the story of intrigue. Throughthe works of such writers as Dante, St.
Augustine, Flaubert, and Henry James, and its representations in the works of artists like Durer, Van Eyck, Leonardo, and Magritte, the author reveals our enduring fascination with the reflection, the image that is at once the same, and not the same, as ourselves.
Sabine Melchior-Bonnet is an instructor at the College de France in Paris. This is her first work to be published in English.