'In the Mirror of the Dance': A Lucianic Metaphor in Its Performative and Ethical Contexts

in Mnemosyne
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Abstract

An intriguing paragraph in Lucian's De Saltatione (Salt. 81) draws upon a hodge-podge of ethical, philosophical and performative traditions in its attempt to argue that the spectating experience of pantomime dancing equips the viewer with a marvellous instrument of self-exploration and self-revelation: seeing himself in the 'mirror' of the dancer, the bearer of the gaze illuminates himself. A symbol of extraordinary range and complexity, the mirror has multiple associations with the problems of perceiving, evaluating and knowing the self. But, while in the moralising narratives of 'high' culture the mirror-like reflective surface tends to be located in the soul of the sage or the lives of illustrious individuals, in Lucian's dialogue it is the pantomime, as opposed to the wise man, who delights and educates his audience by virtue of a body that becomes a magical kaleidoscope of individual self-reflections. The present article elucidates the ways in which Salt. 81 uses the symbol of the mirror in order to align pantomime dancing with the prestige of moralising discourse and examines the 'dancer as mirror' metaphor as the most important Graeco-Roman pedigree of the 'mirror of drama' analogy that dominates the complex theatrical optics of the Medieval and Renaissance European stages.

'In the Mirror of the Dance': A Lucianic Metaphor in Its Performative and Ethical Contexts

in Mnemosyne

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