Hermaphroditus


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Hermaphroditus

(hərmăfrədī`təs), in Greek mythology, beautiful son of Hermes and Aphrodite. He scorned the nymph Salmacis, who prayed that they might never be separated. When Hermaphroditus swam in her stream, she combined with him, uniting male and female characteristics in one body—hence the origin of the word hermaphrodite.
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Furthermore, casting Jan as Hermaphroditus has metaphorical implications extending throughout the novel concerning the nature of Kletkin and Jan's differently gendered desires.
Casting Jan as both the model for her colleague Kletkin's statue of Hermaphroditus and as a woodcut artist whose cold demeanor can only be penetrated through analysis of her art, Wilhelm stresses that lesbian subjectivity is not wholly defined by scientific theory but is also self- constructed and always in a state of becoming.
Just as Jan's body and the statue of Hermaphroditus are "lies" that reveal the beauty and truth of their subject, so too is the misreading of Jan as a man a "lie" that reveals the truth of her subjectivity that evaded linguistic determination.
When Hermaphroditus learns his fate, that "his bath had sent him to his doom, / To weakened members and a girlish voice," he asks his parents for justice, to "make all who swim these waters impotent, / Half men, half women" (122).
Just as Hermaphroditus looks for sanctuary in Nature, Horace similarly seeks her embrace.
Her attempt to envelop him mimics Salmacis's capture of Hermaphroditus, "as though she were quick ivy tossing / Her vines round the thick body of a tree" (122).
It seems clear enough what Hermaphroditus is doing--"leading alternate arms"--it is the overarm stroke that we call freestyle or the crawl.
Note that Ovid does not write that Hermaphroditus is swimming, and yet a casual reader retelling the story might easily summarize the action with that generalization, and then translate it back into his or her own concept of the action.
My purpose in what follows is to look at the discourse of sexuality in English adaptations and translations of the myth of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus from the Metamorphoses of Ovid--a discourse that lends itself well to both Renaissance and early modern concerns (1)--in order to argue for the "pseudo" status of all univocal claims to sexual truth, for the doubleness that shadows and informs the ideology of sexual oneness, and above all for the way that the deployment of fictional letters can be said to figure and to constitute sexual difference.
In engaging the Liar's paradox, the case of Viola belies society's insistence that sexuality must have as its truth an exclusive either/or, for she is like Hermaphroditus in Ovid's Metamorphoses both "am" and "am not" at once.
When the Hermaphroditus was published in 1425, Panormita complimented its dedicatee, Cosimo de' Medici, from whom he was hoping to win patronage, as a man of acuity and taste who would appreciate the wit of the Hermaphroditus.
The main focus of this paper will be Panormita's Hermaphroditus 1.