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Is the Voice a Myth? A Rereading of Ovid

Is the Voice a Myth? A Rereading of Ovid

(p.171) 8 Is the Voice a Myth? A Rereading of Ovid
The Voice as Something More
Shane Butler
University of Chicago Press

For Lacanian critics like Mladen Dolar, the voice as a bearer of deep meaning is a "structural illusion," the product of unfulfillable longing for a time and a world before language. Such a view, the author of this chapter argues, is part of what we might call the "language myth" that shaped so much critical thought in the last century. But what if we turn to older myths? The voice, in fact, is key to the roles of several major figures in Greek and Roman mythology, such as Echo, Orpheus, and Philomela. This essay revisits these three myths, in the versions of the Latin poet Ovid, inviting us to close our eyes to Narcissus for a while, in order to listen for what he and we have been missing. What we hear is not just beautiful music, but a rebuke of Lacanian and other twentieth-century views of the voice. Here instead are sounds that index the bodies from which they come, reminding us that there can be no meaning, linguistic or otherwise, without matter.

Keywords:   Ovid, Echo, Orpheus, Philomela, Narcissus, myth, Lacan, language, Mladen Dolar

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