Combining psychology, women's studies, literature, and aging studies, the article explores the experiences of the gendered, aged body through the concept of "méconnaissance"—a misrecognition of one's own image—an experience that contains the potential to rework the foundations of selfhood that most psychological theory presumes is fixed during infancy. Jacques Lacan theorizes that the first mirror stage, experienced by 6- to 18-month-old children, creates selves—the ideal, lived, and social selves. Many postmenopausal women, and men of the same age, report feeling disconnected from their own visage as reflected in a mirror or photograph. People's decreased social visibility as they age can function as a social mirror, producing a similar outcome. Feminist theorist Kathleen Woodward argues that people reject that self-image, dismantling some of the outcomes of the first mirror stage. The article uses the ideas of Julia Kristeva, Melanie Klein, Jane Gallop, Stephen Katz, Barbara Macdonald, Ellie Ragland-Sullivan, Ernest Abelin, Doris Bernstein, and others to modify Woodward's much-quoted argument, instead contending that accepting the misrecognition of the second mirror stage has the potential to positively transform the outcomes of the first mirror stage, offering people the opportunity to create those selves anew.


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pp. 52-76
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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