Freud's Conceptualization of Translation: Turning the Repressed into Art in Waltz with Bashir and Ezekiel's World

A. Kohn, A. Weissbrod

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Freud and translation are related in more than one way: Freud was a translator, his works pose challenges to translators, and he was a theoretician of translation in a broad sense of the term. We are interested in his work as a theoretician which has been described as follows: "Freud merits to be classed among the principal theorists and innovators of translation, for he gives it a scope and depth unprecedented in history" (Mahony 2001: 837). In his letters to Wilhelm Fliess (Freud 1985) and in other writings (e.g., Freud 1964, 2006), Freud described the individual as an accumulation of translations, each entailing a move to a higher level of consciousness. He regarded repression - a defense mechanism that drives memories, emotions, impulses and thoughts threatening the ego from the conscious to the unconscious - as a failure to translate (Mahony 2001). Freud also emphasized the role of artistic creation in sublimating unacceptable impulses (Edwards 2004: 52), and thus he created an indirect link between translation and art. Interestingly, some of his ideas about translation as transformation and as a process of growing awareness are not far from concepts referred to in Translation Studies, such as intersemiotic translation (Jakobson 1987) and explicitation (e.g. Englund Dimitrova 2005). In the proposed presentation, Freud's ideas will be applied to Waltz with Bashir (an animated film by Folman 2008 and a graphic novel by Folman and Polonsky 2009; see Kohn and Weissbrod 2012), and Ezekiel's World (a graphic novel by Kovner 2013). These works by Israeli artists - late responses to the First Lebanon War (1982) and the Holocaust, respectively - deal with guilt, trauma, repression, and the return of the repressed in flashbacks, fragmentary memories, dreams and hallucinations. Such themes invite the application of Freudian ideas and provide an opportunity to examine their contribution to Translation Studies.  
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2017
EventThe 1st World Congress of Translation Studies - French Society for Translation Studies, Paris, France
Duration: 10 Apr 201714 Apr 2017 (Website)


ConferenceThe 1st World Congress of Translation Studies
Internet address


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