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Reflections in a Serpent's EyeThebes in Ovid's Metamorphoses$
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Micaela Janan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199556922

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556922.001.0001

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Narcissus and Echo

Narcissus and Echo

The Arrows of Love's Errors

(p.114) 4 Narcissus and Echo
Reflections in a Serpent's Eye

Micaela Janan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The scholarship on Narcissus and Echo generally holds up both as cautionary exempla of what is to be avoided in human life and love. By contrast, this chapter uses Lacan's analysis of the abstract ideals Man and Woman, and their basis in Kant's epistemology, to argue that Narcissus and Echo are not ‘bad, false’ images of love, the self, the uses of language or of knowledge we can avoid by being thoughtful, humble, wary, or discreet. Rather, Ovid deploys Narcissus and Echo's paradigmatic primacy—first human, first female, of the epic to be enamoured; consequently first to suffer for it—because their cases illustrate what plagues intersubjectivity intrinsically and ineluctably, albeit in extremis. They exemplify the ways in which desire—and thus the subject founded by desire—revolves around a certain necessary ignorance, a ‘gap’ or ‘blank space’ in knowledge upon which fantasy is founded, and toward which the perpetual unrest of longing can surge.

Keywords:   Narcissus, Echo, desire, fantasy, intersubjectivity, Kant, epistemology, knowledge

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