I had originally intended to use this time to explore Lacan's conception of the manner in which the transference arises in an analysis, discussing his notions of constitution, dialectic, and stagnation. However, I soon realized that 15 minutes would be far too little time to say anything very useful about these topics. Therefore, I should like to address a narrower topic, but one in many ways necessarily preliminary to any attempt at an expansion and development of Lacan's ideas - not transference, but translation, most particularly as it concerns our understanding of the literal meaning of Lacan's claims in his "Intervention sur Ie transfert," the "Intervention on the Transference," and in other, related writings.
Lacan, as you are aware, repeatedly urged his students and colleagues to read in the original the authors they sought to study, and not to remain content with translations. First of all, Lacan always laid great stress on what he called the "constitutive ambiguity" of language (see "Au-dela du 'Principe de realite,'" p. 83) and on the importance of analyzing precisely this ambiguity in any interpretation. In this context, it is only to be expected that he would find translations, which necessarily occlude the original ambiguity, inadequate. Of course, Lacan was particularly vehement about the importance of reading Freud in the original. As those of you who have read, for example, Freud's case histories are well aware, the constitutive ambiguity which Lacan emphasized is . absolutely crucial to an understanding both of the analyses Freud undertook, and of Chose he probably should have undertaken. Let me take an example from an essay on "Dora:
Reading the Signifiers in the Fragment of a Psychoanalysis," forthcoming in Ellie Ragland-Sullivan's new journal Askew. In connection with a ridiculous story of suicide fabricated by Dora's father to conceal his affair with Frau K., Dora remarks that her father has "einen Zug von Falschheit." This is translated, correctly, as "a streak of deceitfulness," but it also means "a train" or "a puff" of "falsity." Now consider Dora's two dreams. She wakes from the first smelling smoke. In the second, she dreams of going to a train station in connection with her father's death. Both dreams touch upon Dora's feeling that she has been deceived by her father, by Herr K., and, now, by Freud. The constitutive ambiguity of the German "Zug" - meaning streak, or train, or puff - indicates the importance of this feeling and indeed its place in the transference. Thus, for example, far from wanting a big, smokey kiss from Freud, Dora evidently finds'him blowing out a puff of falsity -einen Zug von Falschheit - in her analysis. Hence the smell of smoke appears at the end of Dora's dream, which smell Freud interprets, correctly in my view, as having profoundly transferential significance; however, I would maintain that it is not of the positive sort Freud imagines. To advert to Lacan's characterization of the positive and negative transference in Les quatre concepts, the smell of smoke does not indicate that Dora has a soft spot for Freud, as Freud thinks, but rather that she's keeping her eye on him.
A case such as this, of course, one in which, as Lacan puts it in Lé moi dans le theorie de Freud et dans la technique de la psychanalyse. "Le sujet nesait pas ce qu'il (/elle) dit" (p. 286). This, of course, is a clinical and pathological example and the constitutive ambiguity of language is particularly crucial in all pathological examples. But there are other reasons for reading Freud in the original, and for reading all of his works in the original, beyond a concern for preserving pathological ambiguities. These reasons have to do with considerations ranging from untranslatable resonances of Freud's terms in German to simple incompetence of the translations. You are all familiar with Lacan's discussion of the transmogrification of Freud's "Wo Es war, soil Ich werden," "Where it was, should I come to be," which appears in English as "Where the id was, there the ego shall be" (Lacan 1966, p. 471). In typical English fashion, Freud's technical terms were for the most part translated into Latin and, less so, Greek, rather than English. "Inkhorn words," as they are called, have been incorporated into English for centuries - resulting, for example, in our contemporary use of "re-morse" rather than the original "agen-bite." This practice was extended to such Freudian terms as "das Ich" (the I, translated as "the ego"), "das Es" (the it, translated as "the id"), "Besetzung" (filling or occupation, elsewhere investment, translated as "cathexis"), and so on, as you are well aware. Many other and in some ways more interesting cases could be cited in addition.
I would simply like to urge that the same considerations apply to Lacan. In other words, I would like to urge all of you to read Lacan in the original French or consult the original French, if at all possible, just as Lacan urged all of us to read Freud in the original German. I should like to give three brief examples of the ways in which English translations of Lacan can and do prove systematically misleading.
1) Lacan's translators are often unable adequately to convey the technical nature of Lacan's terms. In Lacan's writings, any given term might bear not only its ordinary French meaning, but another, technical meaning, derived from its function as translational substitute for a further, usually German term. Thus readers of English translations are often confused by evidently hazy passages, the originals of which are clear and precise. Sticking to the transference, let. us take a phrase from Les guatre concepts fondemonteaux de la psychanalyse. "Le transfer!," Lacan tells us, "est la mise en acte de la realite de l'inconscient" (p. 133). The English translation reads, "the transference is the enactment of the reality of the unconscious," (p. 147)'. This is first of all vague - how does one enact the unconscious, one might ask. Secondly, it is or may be misleading. It makes it appear - or might suggest to some - that the transference is a good thing. Enacting reality might sound like the sort of thing we would want to do and would want others to do. The French, however, indicates something quite different. "Mise en acte" is the ordinary French translation for the German Agieren. itself ordinarily translated into English as acting out. Thus Lacan is making the clear and, I think, relatively uncontroversial statement that "The transference is the acting out of the reality of the unconscious," hence not its recollection, not its integration into the contemporary discourse of the analysand, etc. Lacan's statement is not vague. Neither is it a revolutionary assertion that the transference is some sort of authentic being which enacts reality. It is, rather, a specific and lucid claim entirely consistent with the principles of classical psychoanalysis. Indeed, it quite clearly echoes the claims of Freud's "Recollection, Repetition, and Working Through."
Of course, this is not to say that 'mise an acte' should be translated as acting out. Lacan frequently uses this English term - acting out - and we must thus assume that he intends something different by mise en acte and acting out. If, for example, we were translating into German, this would be no problem. We would leave acting out in English and adopt the German Agieren for the French mise er» acte. I take it that for Lacan acting out is a sort of debased, ego-psychological version of Agieren or mise en acte. Beyond all this, there is the more narrowly psychiatric and sociopathological passage a 1'acte. which is different still. The point is not that we should confuse these in translation, but that, however we translate, consulting the French allows us to understand the different and technical senses of each term, and this can make quite literally all the difference in our interpretation of Lacan.
2) As we have already indicated, no matter how proficient the translator, the resonances of the original, sometimes important in the overall conception of a work, are almost inevitably lost. For example, in the "intervention sur le transfert" and frequently elsewhere, Lacan refers to analysis as a "proces." This term is invariably translated "process." Though "proces" has this sense, the usual French term for the English "process" is "processus," orthographically identical with the Latin "processus," process also. "Proceeding" might possibly be a better general translation of "proces." But neither is ideal, and precisely because we have no term in English which captures exactly the sense of the French "proces," as I understand it. While in its most general sense, "proces" may be taken to mean "proceeding," or even "process," the term is, in the first place and primarily, juridical, meaning a legal proceeding. Cognate with the German "der Prozess," "Ie proces" would, for example, translate the title of Kafka's famous novel, rendered into English as The Trial.
This may appear relatively unimportant. However, in .my reading of Lacan I find fairly consistent, if implicit use of a juridical model for psychoanalysis. Most psychoanalytic writing tacitly adopts a medical model for analysis. Lacan firmly opposed the use of such a model, as Stuart Schneiderman has discussed at length in his Jacques Lacan; The Death of, an Intellectual Hero. However, I believe that a careful reading of Lacan"s work reveals a sort of counter model which is, as I say, juridical. Thus when the medical model encourages us to think of analyst and analysand as doctor and patient, Lacan1s juridical model asks us to think of them as dialecticians in a "quaestio," the Latin for proces. which of course is cognate with the English "question" and "inquest." Where the medical model turns our attention to diagnostic tests, Lacan's juridical model returns us to speech, where the medical model attends to 'developmental normalcy,' Lacan's juridical model considers the subject's relation to the law. Where the medical model leads us to speak of sickness, health, and cure, Lacan's juridical method asks after truth - indeed, in this case Lacan himself emphasized the connection, claiming in Encore that "tout usage du terme de verite" has an "origine juridique" (p. 85). And so on. Of course, no model of psychoanalysis can be perfect and a juridical model of psychoanalysis is no exception to this general rule. On the other hand, a juridical model can, I think, help indicate some of the weaknesses of the now dominant medical model and thus help to displace that model from its position of dominance. However, to a great extent the presence of the model is obscured when the force of the claim that psychoanalysis is a proces. a proceeding or even a trial or inquest, is reduced to the bland claim that psychoanalysis is a process, like the composition of drafts in English 101 where, we are repeatedly told in auspicious tones, "Writing is not a product, but a process."
3) Often enough translations of Lacan are, I think, somewhat insensitive. "Intervention sur Ie transfert" is, as you know, a re-reading and re-interpretation of Freud's Bruchstuck einer Hysterieanalyse. Thus the essay takes part in the return to_ Freud which was a fundamental part of Lacan's project. But what does this return mean? What was Lacan seeking? Why did he seek to return? Was he longing after a golden age, a time when the truth, now buried, was fully uncovered? In the "Intervention sur Ie transfert," Lacan tells us precisely what he is undertaking in returning to Freud. Lacan says that "en repensant 1'oeuvre de Freud," "in rethinking the work of Freud," we might "retrouver Ie sens authentique de son initiative" (p. 217) - the English translation reads, "retrieve the authentic meaning of his initiative" (p. 64). Of course, this doesn't make much sense - an initiative doesn't appear to be the sort of thing that would have a meaning, let alone an authentic one. However, it does indicate that the task of a return to Freud is a hermeneutic or ezegetical task. The truth is there - it is the authentic meaning - and it is merely up to us to go back to Freud's texts and excavate. However, the French does not indicate this at all. First of all, "retrouver" is to find trouver again, not to retrieve. Note that one can retrieve only objects, but one can find again a path, one's way, etc. Secondly, in his writings, Lacan rarely used "sens" as a synonym of "signification," which latter term he equated with the German "Bedeutung" and thus implicitly the English "meaning" (see the dual, French/German title to "La Signification du Phallus/Die Bedeutung des Phallus"). In general, "sens" is more akin to the German "Sinn" and hence English "sense." However, in this context another meaning of "sens" is clearly most germane - direction. The French thus tells us that "in rethinking the works of Freud" we may "find again the authentic direction of his initiative." Thus the phrase is clear -an initiative is precisely the sort of thing which has a true or authentic direction - and the project is shown not to be bermeneutic and exegetical, but rather scientific. We do not seek to uncover a lost and absolute truth, but rather a direction of research. We are not seeking to find the inspired Logos in the sacred texts of Freud's Gesammelte Werke, but rather seeking to go forward in the direction in which Freud began, questioning, developing, scrutinizing, and revising his theses, but still following his project - the study of the unconscious - and not abandonning it for another'project - for example, the study of adaptation.
I could cite further examples of the ways in which a knowledge of the English alone tends to distort our understanding of Lacan. However, these three examples should indicate clearly enough that, at least at the present time, the English text alone will often frustrate and mislead us. If we want to follow Lacan in "le sens authentique de son initiative," we should, as we are able, turn to the German of Freud and the French of Lacan.
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