On Translation: Reading, Representation, and the Desire to Know
By Dr Chris Milson
Abstract PhD Thesis Dr Chris Milson
Congratulations to CIRCL PhD student Chris Milson for completing his PhD and viva on 11-03-2016 with his thesis ‘On Translation: Reading, Representation, and the Desire to Know’. Supervisor: Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein. Viva external examiner: Dr Hannah Anglin-Jaffe, University of Exeter, internal examiner: Dr Neil Cocks.
Abstract of thesis
This thesis was inspired by conversations with my students, but is the culmination of interests and investments I have had for many years in ideas of representation and the real, knowledge and translation. It considers multiple texts from a myriad of disciplines that make claims as to the untranslatability of certain concepts deemed too real, or too unable to be represented, to be translatable. I offer close readings of these texts, and of texts that make the opposite claim – that such concepts can indeed be translated fully and can therefore be accessible by anyone – to look what is at stake in such assertions.
My chapters are organised around a selection of the concepts claimed by the texts I offer readings of as being outside of discourse, by dint of their claimed translatability or untranslatability: identity, experience, perception, and the unconscious. In each case the texts I read are from across multiple disciplines, including psychoanalysis, children’s literature, disability theory, and others.
Ultimately, I look at how most of the current debates in academia revolve around an appeal to empathy as a way of avoiding reading. Empathy, as with the conception of translation that many of the texts I read create and operate with, is about a kind of direct access that bypasses the need for reading and interpretation. The desire for knowledge and mastery is therefore enabled in a way that reading disallows, it being based on interpretation and not a so-called direct access to that which is desired to be known.
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