The Spirit and the Letter: Medico-Literary Uses of Translation (Lombroso and Nordau)


  • Bertrand Marquer


Taking as a corpus two famous works of the late nineteenth century, Cesare Lombroso’s L’Uomo di genio (1882) and Max Nordau’s Entartung (1892), I would like to focus on a particular type of translation which could be qualified as ‘medico-literary’. This translation is based on a double phenomenon of adaptation and transposition which exemplifies what philosopher Isabelle Stengers calls a ‘capture’: an ‘operation by which representatives of the so-called hard sciences’ annex ‘a notion or a problem culturally charged with meaning’. The medico-literary translation indeed serves a clinical reading of literature, which supposes the passage of poetic or figurative language to be a symptomatic and often literal one.