Reading Notes 11/15–Mahony on Freud

“Freud and Translation”

Three parts to the subject of Freud and translation:

  1. Freud as theorist (of translation)
  2. Freud as translator
  3. Freud in translation

“Freud made translation a unified field concept that encompasses the interaction of intransystemic, intersystemic, and interpsychic phenomena…[and] deemed the following to be translations: dreams…parapaxes;fetishes” etc. etc.
Seems to me that this way of phrasing it totally removes the distinction between translation and interpretation. (or as the later note suggests, between translation and ‘transposition’) This is similar to our discussion with Professor Gillespie about different type of ‘translation’ and what can be considered a translation. I think this free ranging view is very productive. but what Mahony lacks, and our in class conversations had, is the consideration of where these similarities break down, or of how the conflation can end up blurring any meaningful difference.

“…patient may be conceived as an accumulation of translations.” Once more this seems like a conflation or an overly metaphorical approach. That doesn’t make it bad, but it does seem to be using the idea of translation to shed more light of psychoanalysis than the other way around (which would seem to the more interesting avenue)

Freud translated five books, including John Stuart Mill. (838) For all the Freud I have encountered in literary studies, I was unaware of this. His translation method seems very suspect however. It would be interesting to look at the results since so much seems to hinge on Freud’s supposed photographic memory and individual genius.

“Linguistically, Freud is one of the greatest prose writers and rhetoricians in German literature…” This is a very bold claim (which is not to say I don’t buy it), considering the number of literary (and philosophical) heavyweights who have written in German. (Though I guess it helps that several of them were poets/playwrights and so perhaps don’t figure in here) Still: Hesse, Goethe, Mann, Grass, Marx, Boell, Doeblin, Kafka etc.

The discussion of Freud in translation seems a little sparse and vapid compared to the expansive treatment in the other article. The question of macrolinguistic DNA is interesting and makes me think of Poemage.

“Hemeneutics and Ideology”

Starts with a discussion of Whorf-Sapir, so I’m already a bit skeptical, but the point about foreclosure and facilitation is one that I am willing to consider. Still, such discussions always seem to make it a one way street from language->culture. A two way street seems more likely and if it were one way, the opposite directionality seems more intuitive to me. i.e. Russian speakers aren’t able to more accurately distinguish certain colors because the language shapes there perceptions, but rather cultural distinctions of color are mirrored in the language.* (There is probably some mutual reinforcement granted, but come on)

*I believe this is one of the examples that Lera Boroditsky often uses

Next, there is a weak argument advanced about the structure of German and whether it faclitates this kind of process based thinking. Suggestion that this lends itself to psychoanalysis. Why then are all the second (or perhaps third) wave psychoanalysts of note French rather than German?

Figurative language as integral to Freud’s way of writing and thinking: This I can agree with, but I still fail to see what this has to do specifically with German. This seems much more of a stylistic argument rather than a linguistic one and is one that can be made for various ‘continental’ thinkers of many languages other than German.

The example of composition–> writing is interesting, but perhaps wrong, or at least becoming outdated. With the increasing professionalization of the mission of the liberal arts, English PhD programs have increasingly begun offering specializations in Rhetoric and Composition, and job listings now increasingly look specifically for those with such qualifications.

Where is the Sapir-Whorf stuff? There is very little that seems to link the opening paragraph to the rest of the essay, outside of a few weak examples, which he excuses by claiming the right to the same process-oriented approach that Freud used. It seems little more to me than an excuse for a scattershot and poorly thought out argument that doesn’t really know what it wants to say. The title bears witness to this. There is almost nothing here about hermenuetics or ideology in anything but the most general sense. Maybe I am totally missing something, or my own internal defenses were activated when seeing Sapir and Whorf in the first paragraph, but I really am having trouble seeing anything at all in this essay.






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