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The Echo Phase

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This article focuses on the significance of acoustical phenomena (acoumena) in the development of the subjectivity of the infant. An attribute of that development, beginning with the breakdown of psychological symbiosis for the infant, is the loss implicit in the eventual participation of the subject in a symbolic order and the consequent acquisition of language. The essay examines how such loss can contribute to the constitution of the subject and the ego of the subject. Two aspects of language, metaphor and metonymy, are examined in regard to their fundamental relationship to subjectivity. The character Echo, from the myth of Narcissus and Echo, is the namesake for a phase of development, the Echo Phase, which is postulated to begin after the third month of life. During this phase, to some extent the development of the subject depends upon intersubjectivity and concomitant auditory and linguistic phenomena. It is an implicit purpose of this essay to understand the advent of the ego as the expression of a phenomenological structure, dependent upon language and intersubjectivity, that mediates between subject and world. ... By chance Narcissus lost track of his companions, started calling "Is anybody here?" and "Here!" said Echo. He looked around in wonderment, called louder "Come to me!" "Come to me!" came back the answer. He looked behind him, and saw no one coming; "Why do you run from me?" and heard his question Repeated in the woods. "Let us get together!" There was nothing Echo would ever say more gladly, "Let us get together!" And to help her words, Out of the woods she came, with arms all ready To fling around his neck. But he retreated: "Keep your hands off," he cried, "and do not touch me! I would die before I give you a chance at me." "I give you a chance at me," and that was all She ever said thereafter, spurned and hiding, Ashamed, in the leafy forests, in lonely caverns. She frets and pines, becomes all gaunt and haggard, Her body dries and shrivels till voice only And bones remain, and then she is voice only For the bones are turned to stone. She hides in woods And no one sees her now along the mountains, But all may hear her, for her voice is living. Ovid, Metamorphoses

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