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Transgressive Art «Before the Mirror»

Swinburne, Hardy, Kristeva

Roger Ebbatson    Lancaster University, UK    



This article seeks to contrast and compare the function and effect of the aesthetic gaze in a group of ‘mirror’ poems, focusing upon issues of representation and the male gaze in Swinburne’s «Before the Mirror’ and three poems by Hardy, «The Cheval Glass», «I Look into My Mirror» and «Lament of the Looking Glass». The analysis is focused and theorised with reference not only to the Lacanian mirror-phase but also the notation of aesthetic and cultural transgression in Bataille and Blanchot. Discussion focuses particularly on the ‘ghostly’ sensuality of Swinburne’s ‘pleasures’ and ‘pains’ in terms of the aesthetics of decadence and the representation of the subject-in-process. It is argued that the symbolist ekphrasis of Swinburne’s poetics gives way, in Hardy, to a poetic language which echoes and transmutes the fading materiality of dialect and folk speech.

Dec. 1, 2015

Keywords: MaterialitySelfhoodMirror-imageDecadence

Copyright: © 2015 Roger Ebbatson. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.