The mutable glass : mirror-imagery in titles and texts of the Middle Ages and the English Renaissance


The mutable glass : mirror-imagery in titles and texts of the Middle Ages and the English Renaissance

Herbert Grabes ; translated from the German by Gordon Collier

Cambridge University Press, 1982

  • est.


Speculum, mirror, und looking-glass

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Translation of: Speculum, mirror, und looking-glass

Bibliography: p. 400-414



This 1982 book was the first major and comprehensive survey of mirror-imagery to be found in medieval book-titles and English literature from the thirteenth to the end of the seventeenth century. Working within the tradition of the historical study of metaphor as developed by E. R. Curtius, Professor Grabes not only traces the shifting historical usages of the mirror (as the metaphor's 'vehicle') but also studies the metaphor's structural function in individual works. At the same time, the author addresses himself to the aesthetic problem of originality in literature, and, by investigating the function of a metaphor central to literature over a long period of time, he reveals the interplay between cultural history, the changing attitude towards life and the world, and literary imagination. It represents a substantial contribution to the history of ideas and to the study of iconography, which, by providing a systematic and historical contextualisation of the many varied metaphorical senses of the mirror, will be of particular value to art and literary historians, and cultural philosophers.


  • 1. Introduction
  • Part I. The Mirror as Title-Metaphor: 2. History of the mirror-title in England
  • 3. A typology of works bearing mirror-titles
  • Part II. Mirror-Conventions in Literature and Art: 4. The multiplicity of mirrors
  • Part III. Originality: general conclusions: 9. The concept of originality
  • 10. The historical dimension of metaphor, aesthetics and ideas: the age of the mirror
  • Appendix
  • Notes
  • Indexical bibliography of primary references
  • General bibliography.

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