(letters – 13 | syllables – 5)
(scrabble score – n/a)
- |noun| the marked and rapid transformation of a larva into an adult that occurs in some animals
- |noun| a striking change in appearance or character or circumstances
- |noun| a complete change of physical form or substance especially as by magic or witchcraft
- |noun| a typically marked and more or less abrupt developmental change in the form or structure of an animal (as a butterfly or a frog) occurring subsequent to birth or hatching
Origin and Etymology of metamorphosis:
1530s, “change of form or shape,” especially by witchcraft, from Latin metamorphosis, from Greek metamorphosis “a transforming, a transformation,” from metamorphoun “to transform, to be transfigured,” from meta- “change” (see meta-) + morphe “form” (see Morpheus). Biological sense is from 1660s. As the title of Ovid’s work, late 14c., Metamorphoseos, from Latin Metamorphoses (plural).
1570s, from Middle French métamorphoser (16c.), from métamorphose (n.), from Latin metamorphosis (see metamorphosis). Related: Metamorphosed. The Greek verb was metamorphoun.
Sidestepping the not insignificant biological implications posed by the term, I’d like to focus instead upon its literary iterations. Being the title and theme of Ovid’s, the famed Roman writers, ‘ poetic opus, ‘metamorphosis’ existed as a high brow term through most of its English history. Ovid’s poem itself is extensive and encompasses 15 books taking the reader from the flood myth through the life of Julius Ceaser; incorporating the metamorphosis theme throughout.
In Ovid’s work this theme many times takes the form of inversion; putting things on their heads. Most notably the relative position of Man and the Gods Many of Ovids Gods are seen as slaves to their desires while humans are portrayed having the ability to transcend such base limitations.
Thus it becomes doubly ironic that ‘metamorphosis’ comes to its own inversion in the work of Franz Kafka, in eminently more readable form, in his work of the same name. Far from being transcendent any longer, a man takes on the odious position of metamorphosizing into a beetle or even cockroach (though scholars dispute which). It is Kafka’s work that influences the modern mind to greater degree, in large part due to its proximity and dissemination.
What are we to make of this inversion?
In an earlier evaluation, I discussed the term ‘fecund’ and it’s relationship to ‘feces,’ and the inversion it endured by means now lost in time. Mental association is indeed a magic being played upon the mind, but where the spell cast upon ‘faeces’ is the work of unknown sorcery, at least with ‘metamorphosis,’ we have the names of the principal magicians in question.