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Transgressive Art «Before the Mirror»

Swinburne, Hardy, Kristeva

Roger Ebbatson    Lancaster University, UK    

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abstract

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.

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