Transference: A Cliché?

  • Samuel Weber Northwestern University


This essay approaches the difficult notion of “transference” by considering the general implications and connotations of the word, which vary significantly from German to English and to French. The differences are revealing of the complexity of the notion of “transference” itself, which appears as a kind of “pharmakon” in regard to psychoanalytic therapy. But not only the concept itself involves significant interlinguistic overdetermination — Freud’s invocation of a French word to describe it in German is perhaps no less ambiguous. Freud designates transference as a kind of  “Klischee”, which itself already entails a linguistic and conceptual “transfer” from French to German. That Freud should resort to this (for him) rather unusual linguistic transfer in order to characterize the psychoanalytic notion of “transference”, provides a useful point of departure for reflecting on how a movement of linguistic transference is already at work in denominating one of the defining concepts of Freudian psychoanalysis — and one of its most problematic.