08 January 2010

Lacan (2)

I've brought my copy of Écrits 1 down from my "library" (spare room), and my first happy discovery was a bookmark at page 112. Did I really read that far? Probably not, since that is the second page of an essay called "Fonction et champ de la parole et du langage", which is doubtless the first essay I would have tried to read. I used to be able to explain the difference between mot, parole, langue and langage.

Second discovery is that Lacan was let down by his translator. His French has a lightness about it that the translation (in MCT) doesn't attempt to capture. Here's an example.
Nous ne nous fierons quant a nous qu'aux seules prémisses, qui ont vu se confirmer leur prix de ce que le langage y a effectivement conquis dans l'expérience son statut d'objet scientifique.
As for us, we shall have faith only in those assumptions which have already proven their value by virtue of the fact that language through them has attained the status of an object of scientific investigation.
It's not easy in either language, of course. I suppose the translator has been at pains to be as literal as possible, but there's a slight difference between prix and value, and the connotations of conquis has disappeared. Expérience has gone completely, or maybe it's there in investigation. So you can't blame the clumsiness on literalness. Better to paraphrase, surely, than to translate like this.

I've also seen that the first essay in the collection is on Poe's story "The Purloined Letter". How the French seemed to have loved Poe! Barthes used another story of his as a mini-version of S/Z. I haven't read the essay yet, but have read the story. You can understand why it would appeal to (post)-structuralists: the form of the story is of three repetitions of a similar action. One of these actions is related as taking place before the story-time; the second takes place during the story-time (but again, before the narration begins), and the third is imagined in the story-time's future (no doubt it has happened by now!).

But there's an obvious danger in building a literary theory around one type of writing. I've been reading about the development of New Historicism, which came from renaissance studies. Although it later broadened its scope, who knows what kinds of adjustments and trimmings had to be made? Not me, not yet.

No comments: