Thinking in Mirrors: The Divine Mirror in the Epic Poetry of Dante Alighieri

Summer 2011

Megan Clement : English

Mentor: Charles Altieri, English

The mirror literally and symbolically reflects opposites. In medieval times, it seems that the mirror symbolized a gateway to the divine; now the mirror is more often associated with the monstrous. Spending the summer studying Dante's Divine Comedy, I will begin my research into how the evolution of the meaning of the mirror perhaps parallels the move from a societal focus on religion to a focus on individual actions and psyches. I aim to prove or disprove the assertion that the perceived split between the body and soul mirrors the one between the self and the other, and what light this connection can shed on defining what would constitute a modern American secular religion.

The SURF is giving me the opportunity to expand the scope of my senior thesis. Literature can be much more interesting and relevant when it is studied in an interdisciplinary context; these eight extra weeks of research before the start of the fall semester will allow me to ground my research and give me the time to do more research outside of literature and criticism.