Psychoanalytic interpretations: Word-music and translation

Beatriz Priel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


A perspective on psychoanalytic interpretations as a special case of artistic translations (i.e. translations of both content and formal aspects of discourse) is proposed. Mutative interpretations are seen as creative endeavours that always presuppose a prior text, which is itself already a translation. Freud's main uses of the metaphor of translation as an intrapsychic as well as an intersubjective phenomena, their resonance among later psychoanalytic thinkers and their convergence with classic theories of translation are presented. A perspective on psychoanalytic interpretations as an evolving self-other dialect is developed within the framework of Borges's theory of translation and Bakhtin's concept of exotopy. This framework questions the possibility of an original source, proposes the translator's inevitable implication in translation and underscores intersubjectivity as a necessary way towards the translation of absent meanings. The work of translation also highlights the relevance of space and time contexts, as well as the necessary role of a different other for the interpretation of unconscious processes. Differences between theories of translation reiterate contemporary psychoanalytic controversies about the pre-eminence of the analysand's subjectivity and the intersubjective approach to treatment. Borges's 'The Aleph' and an excerpt of Dora's case offer paradigmatic demonstrations of the limits and possibilities of understanding through translation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-142
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Psychoanalysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2003


  • Borges
  • Dora
  • Intersubjectivity
  • Mutative interpretation
  • The Aleph
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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