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Through A Glass, Darkly

The Mirror Metaphor in Texts by Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison


Barbara Röckl

This study is concerned with the function of the mirror metaphor in texts by three modern African-American authors. Wright’s photo-text 12 Million Black Voices, Baldwin’s early essays, and Ellison’s novel Invisible Man go back to the time before the Civil Rights Movement when their authors envisioned social and cultural integration in the American melting pot rather than a separate literature of their own. In this context the mirror metaphor leads directly to the thematic core of each text in which issues of visibility, social recognition, the formation of self-images, and the power of stereotypes play central roles. In close readings the author shows how the mirror metaphor functions as a means to model the relationship between self and other and serves to shift the readers’ attention to the complex, yet largely invisible machinery of representation.
Contents: Where a Mirror Ought to Be – The Desegregation of Representation in Richard Wright’s 12 Million Black Voices – Reading Anamorphoses of American Reality - James Baldwin’s Early Essays – Illuminations of Black Invisibility in the Literary Theatrum Catoptricum - The Mirror Metaphor in «Twentieth Century Fiction» and Invisible Man.