In the reflections that follow, I refer to media-archaeological reassessments of psychoanalytic theory as a way of opening American poet Bernadette Mayer’s Studying Hunger Journals (1972–1975)to new readings. If, as argued by the likes of Jacques Derrida and Friedrich Kittler, among others, psychoanalytic models of the human mind, from the “psychic apparatus” of Sigmund Freud to the schema of Jacques Lacan, are in fact underwritten by the media-technical conditions of their respective historical eras, then how might this insight shift perspectives on Mayer’s book, a project undertaken not only as an aid to psychoanalysis, but also at the dawn of the so-called Information Age?
Jacques (Lacan) has wise words 4 me, it’s 2 good to B true, you’re 2 good to B’dette. —Bernadette Mayer, Studying Hunger Journals
Saying it all is literally impossible. — Jacques Lacan, Television
Willis Barnstone speaks disapprovingly of literal translation as like a “xerox machine.” This derogatory use of the word xerox in relation to translation is a little unfair, especially since the xerox is a much better metaphor for translation pushed to its creative extremes than is the more typical technological reference to the game of “telephone.”
Like many traditional translators, Benjamin describes a bad translation as the “inaccurate transmission of inessential content,” an inaccuracy that experimenters may revel in, as they amp up the noise between versions . . . We could say in a Lacanian moment that these new translators make a pere-version of the original, seemingly derailing the paternal metaphors and prohibitions implicit in God-as-namer and the translator as the guarantor of the name. But what would it mean to take Benjamin seriously (and, with Lacan, to avow the unavoidability of the paternal imago), to search for the Adamic patois, divine remnants of the sacred language in the infomatic jumble of disaggregated signs in our literary arcades?
In an English translation of a French transcription of a lecture delivered in 1973, Jacques Lacan proposes his ground-changing formulation: ‘Mathematization alone reaches a real’. For Lacan, what this means is that what we thought was fantasy and what we thought was knowledge are now entwined.