Translating – Working through Martin Lefebvre’s ‘Psycho: de la figure au musée imaginaire’

I am working on a paper for my class on the figure in film and the primary text I chose to base my argument on happens to be in French – Martin Lefebvres “Psycho: de la figure au musée imaginaire”. I really enjoy the text, which essentially argues that the figural is not a property of the film, but rather a mental process that occurs within the spectator enabling them to ‘read’ the film (and ultimately make figural meaning out of it). It is more complicated than that – and to be fair, I am oversimplifying (and omitting) elements of Lefebvre’s argument (.. primarily the ‘imaginary museum’ part – which really is his core point – and I promise to get to that in another post). I really like this article, as it shifts meaning from artefact to spectator – and discusses the process in which this meaning occurs. Since my core work on (hybrid, digital) identity is all about the process, I am hoping to carry some of Lefebvre’s arguments into my own work.

But … translating … the text is in french. Which is all good since I can read and understand French, and Lefebvre writing style is clear, articulate with little jargon (or invented words). But I always find myself translating 80% of any French article simply for the purpose of using quotes in my work. This becomes problematic as sometimes words and concepts don’t quite translate. The French language is extensive in their use of adjectives, often which have no equivalent in English. I often find myself losing the emphasis of an idea through translation – and find myself interjecting lots of parenthesis with colloquial explanations to describe the emphasis found in the original text.

All that being said, I wonder about my ability to translate these texts – mainly since some of the work I have belabored through, I know have no (official) translations. Are my translations true to the real texts? And should I ever make them public (either on an amateur or professional level) since some of my colleagues who do not read French could benefit from even a layman’s translation. So the question is … how does one find themselves (professionally) translating a uni-lingual text? Who would one talk to if I were interested in doing it? Heck, is it even a project I would want to delve into?!

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2 thoughts on “Translating – Working through Martin Lefebvre’s ‘Psycho: de la figure au musée imaginaire’

  1. “which essentially argues that the figural is not a property of the film, but rather a mental process that occurs within the spectator enabling them to ‘read’ the film”

    I heard Lefebvre in a conference given at Université de Montréal. I read Lefebvre’s “Théorie, mon beau souci” in the La théorie du cinéma… enfin en crise issue of CiNéMAS. It’s amazing to see that, for now, I completely agree with everything I understand of what he says. I’ll read this article for sure.

  2. Aye, I read the article in CiNéMAS last fall – I like how his work is quite cohesive. When I first read the Psycho article, I was happy to see him address so many things I had been working through on my own (with much more articulate language of course hehe). Here is the complete reference:
    Lefebvre, Martin. Psycho. De la figure au musée imaginaire. Théorie et pratique de l’acte de spectateur. Paris : L’Harmattan, 1997 : 11-17. (we read the introduction for the figural class)

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