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"Reader, I married him/ her": Ali Smith, Ovid, and queer translation

Ranger, Holly


Holly Ranger


This essay discusses Ali Smith's queer translation of Ovid Metamorphoses 9.666-797 in her 2007 novel Girl meets boy. I argue that Smith's presentation of a contemporary gender-queer Iphis and Ianthe not only fictionalizes the critical argument proposed by Judith Butler's Gender Trouble, but repoliticizes Ovid for our modern world. Building upon theories of feminist translation, I first draw upon Butler to propose a queer translation praxis. Reading Girl meets boy through this Butlerian lens, which foregrounds multiplicity and insists upon the politically subversive potential of repetition—that is, the production of queer copies that disrupt the original—I illuminate how Smith translates, re-translates, and re-writes Ovid’s text, making queer identities that are apparently made to disappear in the Latin original visible, or 'loosed' in translation. Second, I draw out the queer implications of Smith's use of repetition throughout the novel, in which three alternative translations of Ovid’s tale appear in the novel, in literal, dialogue, and creatively transformed forms. Finally, I draw out some of the political issues at play in Smith’s choice to translate Ovid's tale of Iphis and Ianthe in 2007 before same-sex marriages were legalized in the UK.


Ranger, H. (2019). "Reader, I married him/ her": Ali Smith, Ovid, and queer translation. Classical Receptions Journal, 11(3), 231-255.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 9, 2019
Online Publication Date Jul 23, 2019
Publication Date Jul 23, 2019
Deposit Date Oct 7, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jul 24, 2021
Journal Classical Receptions Journal
Print ISSN 1759-5134
Electronic ISSN 1759-5142
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 3
Pages 231-255
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Classical Receptions Journal following peer review. The version of record Holly Ranger, ‘Reader, I married him/her’: Ali Smith, Ovid, and queer translation, Classical Receptions Journal, , clz009, is available online at:


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