Blog Post — “Hermeneutics and Ideology: On Translating Freud” by Patrick Mahony, “Note on Freud and Translation” by Mahony, & “The Difference that Translation Makes” by Lawerence Venuti — M.Paczkowski (11.14)

“Hermeneutics and Ideology: On Translating Freud”

According to Benjamin Whorf, “our conception of the world is largely if not entirely determined by the structure of our mother tongue”. Yet, many theorists deny such claim. He says that foreclosure is one thing, facilitation is some measure another. The peculiar structure of language may lead native speakers to conceptualize in certain ways. For example, German has many verb forms to express the passive mode and is flexible in the conversion of adjectives. He says that “As my purpose is to show how the very nature of an enterprise can be changed by translations embedded in and arising out of an entirely different world-view and ideology, my presentation will focus chiefly on various aspects of Freud’s discourse which have been distorted by Strachey’s translation” (317). He says that his coverage is partial. Freud was concerned with psychoanalytic language, which was based out of the distortion of figurative language from an unconscious process. Figurative language emerged increasingly in Freud’s prose because of the nature by which he wrote. He presented the complexities of the mind and language on the move. Message was inseparable from its form. There is a shift now from the traditional understanding and teaching of composition. “College professors in English no longer speak of composition but of writing, and this very writing, rather than being chiefly a technique of communicating, is now seen to be means of inquiry and self-scrutiny, a means of discovering what one thinks and a means of generating meaning rather than of deciding or imposing closure” (318). Freud was often dispositioned towards flexible definitions and expositorily favored the use of everyday, vital German words. Another aspect would be found in Freud’s dialogic appeal, engaging readers in his ongoing venture of research. Mahony says that Freud has the qualities of a “do-it-your-self-kit”. He continuously favored fragmentary, nomadic discourse, avoiding comprehensiveness. Freud’s works are often difficult to translate due to the blinding power of his verbal genius.

“Any adopted style of reading affects our understanding of the nature psychoanalysis and has attendant implications for translating Freud”. Many debate whether or not Freud developed a hermenuetic or scientific method. Some suggest that he utilized such terminology in a non-ironic manner but tentatively and anticipatory. “In the civilized world of translation, the deliberate acts of a textual cosmetic surgeon should be considered non-gratis”. The more complex the source text, the more the translator should be self-aware of his own different positions and their contaminatory potential. Psychoanalytic translation should be different than other forms of translation.

“Note on Freud and Translation”

Mahony says that “the subject of Freud and translation can be treated in three parts: Freud as theorist of translation, Freud as translator, and the translations of Freud’s own works”. He merits to be classified among other theorists, due to his scope and depth unprecedented in history. Freud made translation a unified concept, encompassing intrasystemic, intersystemic and interpsychic phenomena. Freud portrayed the individual as a series of successive registrations representing the psychic achievement of successive epochs of life. There are two boundaries of epochs of translation. Freud continues that such a reaction constitues a “failure of translation”, otherwise known as repression. “In sum, if the patient may be psychically conceived as an accumulation of translations — when the hysterics turns into an obsessional and thus becomes a bilingual document — the analyst assumes the complementary role of a translator”. As a translator, Freud rendered five complete books into German. Freud involves three issues in translation: textual status of the primary sources in German; Freud’s magisterial use of the native language; and the nature of the extent and ideal translations of his works. Linguistically Freud is one of the greatest prose writers in German, showing his mastery in many expository factors. Freud’s works has potentially a twofold value in translation.

“The Difference that Translation Makes”

Many translation choices seem to be based on linguistic and cultural values. Weaver mainly stresses personal preferences and antipathies, in addition to the other linguistic and cultural resources that a translator often internalizes over the course of his or her professional career. One thus wonders whether or not such choices are motivated by unconscious desires or rules. Scholars of psychoanalytics often seem to also have overlooked such consideration. Instead, choosing to follow Freud in understanding translation as a psychic process or as the hermeneutic process that occurs during analysis. Freud often is seen as the interlingual translator that treats linguistic error as the sign of unconscious motivation. Venuti’s aim is to pursue such line of thinking. However, he will diverge in that psychoanalysis will be a thoery of translation, a formulation of the fundamental linguistic and cultural issues that translation raises. He serves to illuminate different aspects of the translator’s unconscious, between the translatorly and the personal, the cultural and the political. No similarity of form and meaning or reception preexists the translating process. Any such similarity is constructed on the basis of irreducible differences. Translation ultimately amplifies the differences that exist between cultures and languages. We should study these differences, even when occuring unconsciously, but not in hope of eradicating such. The goal is ethical. Venuti relies first on poststructuralist theories of language and textuality, specifically Derrida. The mentality of a word cannot be translated into another language. It’s the materiality in the sense of the chain of the acoustic signifiers that constitutes it. Often the displacement results in a twofold loss: loss of intratextual effects and loss of intertextual effects. Translation is often radically decontextualizing, which is the first difference produced. “Translation creates another signifying chain accompanied by intratextual effects and intertextual relations that are designed to reproduce the source text, but also work in the translating language and culture”. Translation often exceeds the communication of any univocal signified which the translator establishes in the source text. Translators may decide to release the remainder. Intentional variation can be considered compensation, the creation of a feature or effect that compensates for the loss of some aspect in the source text resulting from linguistic and cultural differences. Remainder can be released unintentionally. Conversation and writing can produce variations of standard dialect that escapes the langauge’s user’s conscious control. To account for such error, we often must rule out sheer incompetence. Translator’s dream: that a translation will restore the source text in its entirety, in its materiality, without loss or gain, that the translation will establish such a similarity to the source text as to overcome the irreducible differences between languages and cultures. Translation is a dream scene in its own. This desire is often implicit. Walsh seems to be over idealistic in believing that these differences make any transparency an illusionary effect produced by the translator.

False congates represents another kind of verbal slip or misreading that sometimes occurs in translations, often depending upon experience and the source text. They may reveal an unconscious desire. A false cognate is a translating-language word that closely resembles a source-language word in form, often because of a shared etymology, but nonetheless signifies a very different meaning becasue the two languages have undergone different historical developments. Resemblance tends be to superficial. False cognates tend to be chosen by beginning translators. However, when occurs in an experienced translator, it can be considered as an unconscious motivation. Venuti introduces the Oepidal triangle that lies at the heart of Freudian psychoanalysis, but rethinking it according to Lacan’s language-based theories. Name-of-the-father represents various manifestations of the law/social institutions that carry social authority of cultural prestige. It intervenes in the psychological development of the child. For the male, the intervention is the effect of castration. Now, turn to translation, noticing that the translator is situated between two signifying points: the name of the father in the form of a source other and text and the mother tongue and translation produced in it. The source author and text symbolically lay down the law of translation, while the mother tongue leads the translator towards language use that is familiar and competent. The name of the father represented by the source author intervenes to prevent the translator’s investment in the mother tongue from assimilating the text too closely and with too much distortion to the translating language and culture. The translating process may reveal the translator’s unconscious desire to challenge the source author by releasing such an unconscious remainder, which may assume a position of authority in translation. Freud’s commentary suggests that the unconscious desire revealed in the omission was at once collective, possibly nationalist, clearly political. Omissions in a translation may also point to other, more personal motives or relate generally to the status of the translator and the translation in relation to the source author and text. Omissions can often be considered as an unconscious process. However, Weaver was not an experienced translator by any means. Venuti desires to argue that the omission is symptomatic of the translator’s unconscious desire to compete against the foreign author. The notion of similarity can be understood as two different kinds of relationship: first, as resemblance between the source and translated text, and second, as  resemblance between the translation and other values and practices in the receiving situation. These two are usually mutually undermining. However, they often work together to guide every translation practice. Translation is always established and constructed din regards to irreducible differences between cultures, languages, and ideologies. Differences always precede similarities. A cause of these differences is the translator’s unconscious, which remains beyond the translator’s cognitive grasp and available only to another investigator. Some of the effections and connections may be intentional, while others unintentional. Sometimes the trigger may lie outside the immediate context of the error but nonetheless connected to it. Venuti says that “my examination of the translator’s unconcious must nonetheless remain provisional in the absence of more cases.” The translator must bring to the translation process or product a set of theoretical assumptions drawn from the psychoanalytical tradition.

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