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In the Looking Glass: Mirrors and Identity in Early America (Hardback)
  • In the Looking Glass: Mirrors and Identity in Early America (Hardback)
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In the Looking Glass: Mirrors and Identity in Early America (Hardback)

(author)
£40.50
Hardback 232 Pages / Published: 30/08/2017
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What did it mean, Rebecca K. Shrum asks, for people-long-accustomed to associating reflective surfaces with ritual and magic-to became as familiar with how they looked as they were with the appearance of other people? Fragmentary histories tantalize us with how early Americans-people of Native, European, and African descent-interacted with mirrors. Shrum argues that mirrors became objects through which white men asserted their claims to modernity, emphasizing mirrors as fulcrums of truth that enabled them to know and master themselves and their world. In claiming that mirrors revealed and substantiated their own enlightenment and rationality, white men sought to differentiate how they used mirrors from not only white women but also from Native Americans and African Americans, who had long claimed ownership of and the right to determine the meaning of mirrors for themselves. Mirrors thus played an important role in the construction of early American racial and gender hierarchies. Drawing from archival research, as well as archaeological studies, probate inventories, trade records, and visual sources, Shrum also assesses extant mirrors in museum collections through a material culture lens. Focusing on how mirrors were acquired in America and by whom, as well as the profound influence mirrors had, both individually and collectively, on the groups that embraced them, In the Looking Glass is a piece of innovative textual and visual scholarship.

Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
ISBN: 9781421423128
Number of pages: 232
Weight: 454 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 21 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
This brief volume, meticulously footnoted, generously illustrated, and beautifully produced by the Johns Hopkins University Press, could certainly be adopted in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses. It might well teach history majors and graduate students the value of daring to ask questions for which there are no easy or complete answers, and of painstakingly piecing together fragmentary evidence from a wide range of archival, archaeological, and material collections. Shrum's intelligent use of cultural theory and interdisciplinary perspectives might also serve as a model for advanced history students. * The History Teacher *
A superb reflection of the many meanings held by an object usually taken for granted. Highly recommended. * Choice *
Shrum's work is required reading for upcoming scholars who are attempting to trace the social life of things in the formation of American identities. -- Christopher Allison, University of Chicago * Journal of Southern History *
In the Looking Glass: Mirrors and Identity in Early America is an important contribution to the fields of early American history, material culture studies, and cultural and American studies. Shrum's study will help scholars recognize how the study of records and other historical evidence, in highlighting the silence of certain groups of people, also enables us to see what forces determined those silences. -- Chiara Cillerai, St. John's University * Early American Literature *
Shrum's accomplishment is to tease out the many meanings that made looking glasses among the most widely owned and used consumer good in early America. -- Paul G. E. Clemens, Rutgers University-New Brunswick * Reviews in American History *
Rebecca Shrum's [In the Looking Glass] packs a powerful punch. Moving deftly over the course of three centuries, she presents an original, interdisciplinary and utterly fascinating reading of the multiple uses and meanings of mirrors among European Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans... an important and thoughtprovoking study of a widely used object, which we all too often take for granted, and its very exceptional history. -- Sharon Halevi, University of Haifa * Journal of Social History *

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