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Making the Unconscious Conscious: A Reflection on the Concept Translation in Freud

Elinor Hållén


In The Unconscious Freud uses the concept translation alongside transformation and replacement to describe the process in which dynamically unconscious mental content takes conscious form. This paper inquires into how translation should be understood in the psychoanalytic context and if translation can capture conscious-making. Intuitively there seems to be a problem: translation is typically used for translations from a language with an articulative structure to another while it is distinctive of the repressed unconscious that it is lacking in conceptual and logical structure. Can translation account both for the meaning that is there and what is lacking? In dialogue with contemporary psychoanalytic writers, philosophers in the Wittgensteinian tradition and Benjamin’s The task of the translator the author presents a reading in which translation as used to describe the therapeutic work of making the unconscious conscious is understood not as as mediating meaning but as creation and development.


Articulation; Translation; Replacement; Becoming conscious; Psychotherapeutic conversation

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