The Metamorphosis as a Figure of the Boundary Between Life and Death

  • Rosalba Galvagno University of Catania
Keywords: Ovide, Phantasy, Limit, Daphne, Psychoanalysis


The paper illustrates the metamorphosis as a limit’s figure, as a petrifaction. Metamorphic myth, passed on occidental culture thanks to the great poem of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, concerns, indeed, more than the transformational variety of its figurations, the fundamental structure of a subjectivity. The study presupposes the psychoanalytic fantasy’s perspective (Freud, Lacan) that considers metamorphosis not as a magic or fantastic anomaly but, beyond its paradoxical, teratological or astonishing phenomenology, as the fantasy’s essential bond which constitutes a being. Metamorphosis represents the paradigmatic figure of a Subject who places himself upon a limit or who overcomes it, venturing his life, in order to obtain the possession of an inaccessible object. Metamorphosis corresponds to a fate different from death, characterized by that entre-deux, by the limen between the living and the dead which is the only shelter for those who are in difficulties. The metamorphic hero is actually punished with a mutation but, at the same time, he escapes from death or intolerable sufferings. So metamorphosis turns out as a subjectivity form suspended between life and death, like (for choosing just one of the numerous examples of transformations disseminated all over the literature and art from time immemorial) in Daphne’s metamorphic adventures in which a nymph is transformed in a tree under the pressure of a desire that is impossible to avoid anymore.

Author Biography

Rosalba Galvagno, University of Catania

Professor of Theory of Literature. She studies in particular the relationship between literary discourse and psychoanalytic discourse. Among her works: Pizzuto e lo spazio della scrittura, Messina, 1990; Le sacrifice du corps. Frayages du fantasme dans les “Métamorphoses” d’Ovide, Paris, Panormitis, 1995; Carlo Levi, Prima e dopo le parole, Roma, Donzelli, 2001 (Ed.), Carlo Levi, Narciso e la costruzione della realtà, Olschki, Firenze 2004; I viaggi di Freud in Sicilia e in Magna Grecia, Catania, Maimone, 2010.


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How to Cite
Galvagno, R. (2011). The Metamorphosis as a Figure of the Boundary Between Life and Death. Between, 1(1).
Myths and Themes of Crossing Over