ACLA 2024 (Montreal) Panel: Mirror/Mirror

deadline for submissions: 
September 29, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association)
contact email: 

We're accepting paper proposals for the following seminar at the ACLA annual meeting, which will be held in Montreal, March 14–17, 2024. Papers should be submitted online through the ACLA portal. Feel free to email with any questions.

Mirror / Mirror

Organizers: Hilary Bergen (The New School), Sandra Huber (Concordia University)

What is the significance of the mirror in literature, philosophy, and interdisciplinary humanities? Often attributed to Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire and metal, the mirror can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Mycenea, Greece, Etruria, and Rome. Our English word “mirror” comes from the Latin mirari, to wonder or marvel at. Rife with taboos, omens, and secrets, the mirror draws our imagination through its reflective surface and into its churning depths. From Sylvia Plath’s speaking mirror, to Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage, to Michel Foucault’s mirror-as-heterotopia (a non-place or passage), to Sylvia Wynter’s idea of mimesis and the reproduction of capital M-Man, mirrors have long fascinated writers and thinkers.

Because the mirror gives us a “virtual” image, it is both reflective and productive. Today, the act of mirroring draws further technological significance with the rise of AI, chatGPT, and other virtual entities that both learn through mimesis and reflect human society, with all its potentials and shortcomings, back to us. Mirrors hold contradictions: as objects on a wall, they perform cold surveillance; as screens on the devices we carry with us, they are marked with our body heat. The mirror suggests that on its other side is the unreflected, the unthought, the double, the Other, the shadow, the unconscious. Mirror/mirror.

Our seminar will draw together discourses of the mirror in comparative literature and the (broad) humanities. We are interested in the mirror, not just as symbol, but as an object that gathers various uses and practices. What kinds of subjectivities, positionalities, and communities does the mirror create (and uncreate)? For example, dancers use mirrors in acquiring technique; magical practitioners use mirrors in divination; consciousness-raising feminists of the 1970s used mirrors–namely the speculum–for vaginal self-examination; and special effects technicians use mirrors to create ghost-like holograms. The rise of social media-proliferated selfies and the practical use of video apps like Zoom have made it so that our faces are mirrored back to us nearly everywhere we look. Although the function of the mirror has changed across history, associations with subjecthood, magic, and the slippery boundary between truth and deception remain.

We invite proposals on the significance of the mirror. Possible approaches could include (but are not limited to):

    • The role of the mirror in contemporary fiction and film

    • The mirror in discourses of science, technology, and media

    • The mirror and its relatives (the screen, the mimetic interface) in the creation of modern desires and anxieties

    • The history of self-portraiture as a practice of mirroring

    • Mirroring and mimesis, particularly in critical race theory, feminist studies, queer studies, disability studies

  • The mirror as either magical and/or domestic item: its relation to both heimlich and unheimlich realms

Submit your abstract through the ACLA portal here: – Sandra & Hilary