Living to Tell the Tale: Male and Female First-Person Narrators of Metamorphosis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Ovid’s Metamorphoses is well supplied with variant narrators, many of whom are female. Among the few characters who live to tell the tale of their own metamorphosis, there are some interesting gendered effects: I shall concentrate on Cornix, Ocyroe, and Hippolytus. Of these three, Hippolytus-Virbius maintains the greatest control over his post-metamorphic existence. Ocyroe does not, strictly speaking, live to tell the tale, in that her account of her metamorphosis into a horse is prophetic. Cornix, the first female storyteller of the poem, retains the ability to speak in crow-form, but remains caught in a web of storytelling delay. After suggesting negatively-charged gendered implications arising from these first-person narrators, I shall address a problem in contemporary feminist theory, in which attempts to expose female suffering and to pay attention to female voices risk re-enacting the very oppression they seek to expose. If access to the Symbolic is more available to Hippolytus than to Ocyroe, is that because my act of reading has made it so?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Gendered ‘I’ in Ancient Literature
Subtitle of host publicationModelling Gender in First-Person Discourse
EditorsLisa Cordes, Therese Fuhrer
Place of PublicationBerlin
Publisherde Gruyter, Walter GmbH & Co
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783110795257
ISBN (Print)9783110795196
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Publication series

NamePhilologus. Supplemente / Philologus. Supplementary Volumes
PublisherDe Gruyter


  • Ovid
  • Metamorphoses
  • symbolic
  • storytelling
  • author-poet
  • narrators


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