Mirror Stage Identity

Not to be Reproduced (La reproduction interdite), a portrait of Edward James by René Magritte, 1937

Note: The book on the mantel is a well-worn copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (written here in French as Les aventures d’Arthur Gordon Pym).


“Therefore I hate looking- glasses which show me my real face.
Alone, I often fall down into nothingness. I must push my foot stealthily lest I should fall off the edge of the world into nothingness…”

Virginia Woolf
The Waves


Dr. Heisenberg Magic Mirror, Duane Michals, 1998


“At any rate, the looking glass shame has lasted all my life, long after the tomboy phase was over. I cannot now powder my nose in public. Everything to do with dress- to be fitted, to come into a room wearing a new dress- still frightens me; at least it makes me feel shy, self-conscious, uncomfortable”

V.W. Diaries


(The source of that shame lied on the fact she was abused for her half-brother Gerald in front of a mirror)


“Let me add a dream; for it may refer to the incident of the looking-glass. I dreamt that I was looking in a glass when a horrible face –the face of an animal- suddenly showed over my shoulder. I cannot be sure if this was a dream, or if it happened. Was I looking in the glass one day when something in the background moved; and seemed to me alive? I cannot be sure. But I have always remembered the other face in the glass, whether it was a dream or a fact, and it frightened me.”

A Sketch of the Past
Virginia Woolf
(p. 69)



The Unknown Virginia Woolf
Roger Poole


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