The principles, pleasures & realities of translating psychoanalysis

Science & Literature seminar‘The principles, pleasures & realities of translating psychoanalysis’ by Professor Naomi Segal

5:30 pm Tuesday 26 January

This paper arises from my recently completed work of translating a psychoanalytic book from French into English –Didier Anzieu’s Le Moi-peau (1985, 1995) – which will appear as The Skin-ego in a few months. It explores in a series of ways the issues of translation in general and translating psychoanalysis in particular. Are all translators murderers, pests or parasites? Are they humble or the spokespersons of a community? Are they trustworthy or traitors, or even ‘faithful bigamists’? And as for translations, do they have to be beautiful or faithful, never both? Looking at translation theory, I examine a number of contrastive pairs, including: word for word vs. sense for sense; author-facing vs. reader-facing; process vs. product, multilingual vs. monolingual. Might translation be a feminine/feminised activity because most translators are women, or because the target -language has to be maternal, or because it embodies the paradox of the multi-skilled serving the mono-skilled? The second section tries to take a measured look at the translation of psychoanalysis, especially Strachey’s brilliant yet much-criticised translation of Freud. The paper ends with some personal observations arising from my work on Anzieu, and ending with the keyword that still, occasionally, keeps me awake at night.

Professor Naomi Segal (Birkbeck): Professor Naomi Segal is Professorial Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. In 2004 she was founding Director of the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies. She has served on or chaired numerous inter/national committees including within ESF, HERA and the AHRB/C. She is the author of 82 articles and 15 books, including monographs Consensuality: Didier Anzieu, gender and the sense of touch (2009), André Gide: Pederasty & Pedagogy (1998), The Adulteress’s Child (1992),Narcissus and Echo (1988), The Unintended Reader (1986, repr. 2010) and The Banal Object (1981). She has retranslated Anzieu’s Le Moi-peau for Karnac and has two more monographs at the planning stage. She is a Chevalier dans l’Ordre despalmes académiques and a member of the Academia Europaea.

Professor Naomi Segal’s paper will be followed by questions and discussion, and the meeting will conclude with a glass of wine at 7:30 pm. The seminar will take place in Room G24, Foster Court, University College London, Malet Place, London WC1. Directions to this building can be found here.