Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 59–75 | Cite as

A voice of her own? Echo’s own echo

  • Lisa Folkmarson KällEmail author


This article approaches Ovid’s story of Echo and Narcissus in the Metamorphoses through some of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s writings on expression and speech. Echo’s speech as portrayed by Ovid clearly illustrates how Merleau-Ponty describes speech in Phenomenology of Perception as a “paradoxical operation” through which we use words with already given sense and in that very process both stabilize and alter established meaning. Instead of reducing Echo to a moment of the identity and fate of Narcissus, I bring out Echo’s own voice and the expression of her subjectivity through creative repetition. The short dialogue between Echo and Narcissus makes manifest that Echo’s words cannot be reduced to a simple repetition of a clear and distinct original. Rather, her speech emerges in relation to an original that is only made present as an original of a repetition in that very repetition. Echo’s voice is disruption of the words she repeats and each repetition is also its own origin. Echo’s own voice is only made present when we listen to it as something other than a simple repetition of the voice of Narcissus. The fragments she returns through her echo, lose their fragmented character through modifying and altering their already given meaning. What Echo lacks is not primarily a voice of her own but rather an unbound origin which by itself remains mute and thereby runs the risk of not expressing anything at all. Echo is repetition but it is precisely as repetition that she is also originating speech.


Merleau-Ponty Echo Ovid Repetition Voice Expression 



The seeds of this article were presented at the 2009 conference with the Nordic Society of Phenomenology hosted by the University of Tampere, Finland. An earlier different version was published in Swedish as “Reclaimad röst: Ekos eget eko” in G(l)ömda historier, edited by Johannes Siapkas and Dimitrios Iordanoglou, Uppsala 2011. I am grateful to everyone with whom I have had the opportunity to talk about the topic of this article and who have generously shared their own thought with me and commented on earlier drafts. I am especially indebted to Anna Danielsson for motivating me to think about echoes as physical phenomena, to Dimitrios Iordanoglou for discussions about the use and abuse of tradition, to Michael Deere for long talks about creative repetition and the vulnerability of subjectivity and to Linda Fisher for her critical questioning of my reading of Echo’s possibilities of expressing her own voice, which keeps me thinking about what it means to have a voice of one’s own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Dementia Research (CEDER)Linköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  2. 2.Department of Culture and Communication, Section for PhilosophyLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden

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