Mirror mirror on the wall…

A quick post to plug a talk I’m giving tomorrow at the May meeting for the Being Non/Human discussion group, 6.30 – 8 pm in room S2.39 at King’s College London. This was supposed to be a quick post about a talk I gave on Monday at the Being Non/Human discussion group, but I forgot to hit “publish” and only remembered when I was having a chat with one of the organisers before the session and she mentioned the blog. I’m talking I talked about reflections of the non/human in Gregory Maguire’s Mirror Mirror. It’s a text that I haven’t presented on since 2012, and I’ve really enjoyed getting back into the the fairy tale adaptations and all the references to mirrors. As the meting report by Sophia, that you can read on their website, shows a lot of the mirrors and reflections begin to conflict and raise questions about the nature of the self and identity. The post raises a very good question that we didn’t quite get round to on the night, as we ran out of time, but that Sophia touches on when she mentions her own research into stone and matter and that we must also consider the materiality of mirrors as glass objects. Glass itself is a form of stone, forged from heat, pressure and sand and Sophia’s observation highlights the connection between the dwarves in Mirror Mirror as stone/stone like and the mirror of the title. She also references J J Cohen and theories of materiality, which overlaps with my research on monsters and the monstrous. Lots of food for thought, and certainly a very good example of why participation in interdisciplinary discussion groups is vital for researchers. The abstract for the talk is copied below and I’m hoping to turn it into a full paper and pitch it at a fairy tale journal. In other news my proposal for The Wizard of Oz and the Western Cultural Imagination was accepted, so I’ll be presenting a paper summarising my PhD research for this conference at the University of Brighton on 21-22 November. If you are interested in attending, or you want to check out what is happening with the conference you can follow them on twitter @Ozat75 or search #Ozat75

It’s good to know that I have a few abstracts “out there” looking for homes, especially after the self-imposed ban on presenting at conferences that has been in place since this time last year. The final write up can be rather lonely and daunting, and I still consider myself especially luck to be a PGR in the digital age. The blog, twitter and facebook have been indispensable in keeping connected to the other PGRs and ECRs out there in both similar and diverse fields and stages.


Abstract: There remains in popular culture a persistent appetite for adaptation, something particularly evident in the various retellings of fairy tales in literature and film. While the market is, it seems, saturated with these retellings, a change in the perspective of the original tale is evident in the most successful stories. These innovative retellings re-position the antagonist from marginalised other to the main focus of the narrative. It is a vital component of this new form of fairy tale in which the appeal is not aspiring to beautiful, demure perfection as in the Disney adaptations, but the identification of the audience with the ostracised individual who is not accepted by society. At the centre of these narratives lies the questions of what it is to be human, or what it is to be a person and how the two are not always necessarily one and the same thing. Drawing on the existing framework in fantasy, myth and fairy tale, author Gregory Maguire expands on such common tropes as talking animals to highlight the blurring of these boundaries between the human and the non-human to draw our attention to the insubstantiality of these categories. While this aspect of both Maguire’s Wicked series of novels and the Broadway musical inspired by them has been well discussed, his other works based on more traditionally canonical fairy tales have hitherto been largely overlooked in critical discourse. This paper proposes to begin to redress this imbalance by examining the non/human in Mirror Mirror, Maguire’s re-envisioning of Snow White. It will pay particular attention to the intertextual practices used by Maguire in the reforming of the familiar, both in terms of the narrative and the construction of the human within it.

3 thoughts on “Mirror mirror on the wall…

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  1. Interesting post! I have an article (work-in-progress) on the silent Spanish film Blancanieves (Snow White), released the same year as the film Mirror Mirror (and Snow White and The Huntsman!). Would love to hear more about your reading of the mirror as a symbol – it also features (in a completely distinct context) in my PhD research on Spanish cinema.

    1. Thanks! One thing I forgot to mention in this post (and in the paper) is that the film Mirror Mirror isn’t actually adapted from the Maguire novel – it’s just a coincidence. Interestingly the character origin of Bianca de Nevada (Maguire’s Snow White) is Spanish even though the story is set in Italy. Her Spanish mother is supposedly where she gets her colouring from.

      1. I wasn’t sure myself if the film was based on the book. Wasn’t aware of the book until I read your post, so thanks for bringing it to my attention (more books to add to the post-thesis to-read list!).

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