Michèle Roberts’s The Looking Glass Essay

Michèle Roberts’s The Looking Glass Essay

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Michèle Roberts’s The Looking Glass


The understanding of history as a linear and unproblematic narrative, dominated by kings and queens, warriors and heroes, has long been denied by women writers. As Linda Anderson argues, these events ‘take on a different meaning, a different configuration when we begin to see through them – in both senses – to women’s concealed existence in the private sphere of family and home’ (Anderson, p.130). Women have little place in traditional linear history and have come to deny its authority and question its dominance. Frieda Johles Forman, in her introduction to a 1989 collection of essays on women’s temporality, argues that women suffer from a lack of history, an unrecorded past, and that this ‘absence strikes at odd, unsuspecting moments’ (Forman, p.8). But this absence of history is changing, as women begin to write their own stories and their own conceptions of the past. Women’s time and the political implications for feminism of feminist historiography have spawned a wealth of writing in recent years. Even in the academic world of history, reliance upon major events as the narrative of history has been undermined by the possibility of a narrative of everyday lives, of everyday events and occurrences.1 However, this re-recording and re-making of history is fraught with danger, as Anderson warns:

The ‘reclaiming of history’, the discovery of how our foremothers preceded and even anticipated us, can help to assure us that, despite the evidence, we do in fact exist in the world; yet if we ignore how that existence is textually mediated we end up simply reconstituting ‘reality’ as it is. (p.134)

Anderson argues that, despite the development of a critique of history’s claim to objectivity a...


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... and Sowton, Caoran, eds., Taking Our Time: Feminist Perspectives on Temporality (Oxford: Pergamon, 1989)

Heath, Stephen, Flaubert: Madame Bovary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992)

Irigaray, Luce, Sexes and Genealogies, trans. Gill, Gillian C. (New York: Cornell University Press, 1993)

Michaud, Guy, Mallarmé, trans. Collins, Marie and Humez, Bertha (London: Peter Owen, 1966)

Millan, Gordon, Mallarmé: A Throw of the Dice (London: Secker and Warburg, 1994)

Oliver, Hermia, Flaubert and an English Governess (Oxford: Clarendon, 1980)

Pearson, Roger, Unfolding Mallarmé: The Development of a Poetic Art (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996)

Roberts, Michèle, The Looking Glass (London: Little Brown, 2000)

Spencer, Philip, Flaubert: A Biography (London: Faber and Faber, 1951)

Steegmuller, Francis, Flaubert and Madame Bovary (London: Constable, 1993.

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