The Self’s Representations

  • Ian F. A. Bell


Eugenia’s mirror, strategically placed to enclose and reflect the entire novel, proposes not only the potential liberation of otherness but the place of the female within consumer culture. Rachel Bowlby has argued strongly for the connection between ‘the figure of the narcissistic woman and the fact of women as consumers’ in terms of the reflective/reflecting gaze:

Seducer and seduced, possessor and possessed of one another, women and commodities flaunt their images at one another in an amorous regard which both extends and reinforces the classical picture of the young girl gazing into the mirror in love with herself. The private, solipsistic fascination of the lady at home in her boudoir, or Narcissus at one with his image in the lake, moves out into the worldly, public allure of publicité, the outside solicitations of advertising … Consumer culture transforms the narcissistic mirror into a shop window, the glass which reflects an idealized image of the woman (or man) who stands before it, in the form of the model she could buy or become. Through the glass, the woman sees what she wants and what she wants to be.1


General Project Consumer Culture Paper Money Public Allure Social Intercourse 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Rachel Bowlby, Just Looking: Consumer Culture in Dreiser, Gissing, and Zola (London: Methuen, 1985), pp. 31–2.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Jean-Christophe Agnew, ‘The Consuming Vision of Henry James’, The Culture of Consumption, ed. R.W. Fox and T.J. Jackson Lears (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983), p. 85.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    One response to Madame Merle (William T. Stafford’s ‘The Enigma of Serena Merle’, The Henry James Review, 7, 1986, pp.117–23) is a good testimony to the sheer difficulty of deciphering her, finding ‘a deep irony in this deeply ironic book that its most troubled villain is simultaneously its most persistent enigma’ (p.117).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  6. Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith, (London: Tavistock, 1972, p. 17)Google Scholar
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  20. For a brilliant discussion of James and sexual identity, see Alfred Habegger, Gender, Fantasy, and Realism in American Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982); in particular the chapter on ‘Henry James and W.D. Howells as Sissies’ and the section on ‘The Gentleman of Shalott: Henry James and American Masculinity’.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Ian F. A. Bell 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian F. A. Bell
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KeeleUK

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