Echo, Narcissus, and the Translator's Distress*1

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This article argues that the story of Echo and Narcissus as told in Ovid's Metamorphoses can serve as a fruitful, suggestive metaphor or myth of the translator, especially of the driving passion and the unavoidable frustrations characteristic of the translation process. The connection between Echo and the translator seems obvious - they both share the principle of repetition, echoinga primary text - but there are also interesting differences between the two: whereas Echo's repetition is forced, partial, and mechanic, that of the translator is a creative and holistic choice. As for Narcissus, I suggest that both Narcissus and the translator are engaged in a magic yet futile dance of intimacy, reflection, and passion with their beloved (image or text). They both try to get as close as possible to their beloved while risking its loss paradoxically from getting too close. I conclude with a table, mapping important similarities and differences between the story of Echo, Narcissus, and the storyof the translator, emphasizing that, unlike the tragic ending of Echo and Narcissus, the activity of the translator is a vital and fertile part of literary life.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)11-32
Number of pages22
JournalLiteraturwissenschaftliches Jahrbuch
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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