The Therapeutic Value of Literary Translation for Gérard de Nerval and Antonin Artaud

Lane, Veronique (2022) The Therapeutic Value of Literary Translation for Gérard de Nerval and Antonin Artaud. In: Popular Culture Association Annual Conference 2022, 2022-04-132022-04-16, Online international conference.

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This paper argues that translation has been an introspective and transformative process for Gérard de Nerval and Antonin Artaud, and that translation can, and should, be used as a therapeutic method in clinical context today. The paper compares Nerval’s translations of Goethe’s Faust (1828, 1840) with Artaud’s translations of Matthew Gregory Lewis’ The Monk (1930) and Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking-Glass (1944), to demonstrate how translation shaped the identity and creativity of these writers, how translation as a productive form of introspection, more than a mere mechanism of identification or sublimation, helped them negotiate mental pain and past trauma. While Anne Tomiche (2012) and Stephen Butler (2018) make a convincing case for the importance of translation and adaptation in Artaud and Nerval’s poetics, and mention it had an impact on their mental health, my comparative reading (here and in my monograph under contract with Edinburgh UP) establishes patterns across the works of these and other writers-translators, in order to theorize the relations between literary translation and mental health. Drawing on my current research project “The Therapeutic Value of Literary Translation”, methodologically, it also proposes that literary translation can be helpful in clinical context today. It is often overlooked, but Rita Charon warns against the “risks as well as the benefits” of writing in Narrative Medicine (2006): translation, I argue, can be particularly productive in clinical context insofar as working from a literary text can minimize the pressure to “be creative”, while it also offers the possibility to revisit, with more distance than with creative writing, the past. It can also empower patients with schizophrenia “hearing the voice”, enabling a therapeutic reversal whereby they become the ones choosing or manipulating the words of another – a reversal which in turn can help restore or renew patients’ relation to their past, to language, and to society.

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Contribution to Conference (Paper)
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Popular Culture Association Annual Conference 2022
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22 Jun 2022 08:50
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 14:53