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Isabelle de Montolieu reads Jane Austen’s Fictional Minds

The First French Translations of Free Indirect Discourse from Jane Austen’s "Persuasion</I>

Adam Russell

The hallmark technique of Jane Austen’s mature writing – known as free indirect discourse (FID) – is responsible for what has become known as the «inward interest» of Austen’s writing. In Persuasion, FID is used extensively to represent the complex life of the heroine’s mind as she converses with herself. Austen’s posthumously published «late» novel Persuasion was first translated into French in 1821 by Isabelle de Montolieu as La Famille Elliot, ou l’ancienne inclination. The present study focuses on the question of how Montolieu handled FID in her French translation: At the time she was translating Persuasion into French, FID did not exist as a formal grammatical category. Neither did Montolieu have the possibility of seeking a model in the works of Flaubert – whose own extensive and innovative use of FID is comparable to Austen’s – as he was writing much later in the century.
Previous translation studies have completely ignored this very crucial aspect of this translation. The author adopts a cross-disciplinary approach encompassing the history of publication, Jane Austen studies, translation studies, and narratology. This book tests the applicability of the conceptual framework of narratology within the field of Translation Studies. The author identifies key analytical concepts from the field of narratology and applies them to Montolieu’s translation with the aim of revealing what happened to Austen’s FID when Persuasion was first translated into French.


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General Introduction 9


General Introduction The hallmark technique of Austen’s mature writing is known as free in- direct discourse (FID), style indirect libre (SIL) in French. It is responsi- ble for what has become known as the “inward interest” of her writing. In Persuasion, Jane Austen uses this technique to present Anne Elliot’s consciousness. This narrative technique is primarily concerned with the representation of a fictional character’s inner-life, as well as his or her discourse, often recalling the very “melody” of the character’s actual words. Stephen Buccleugh provides the following non-technical but highly descriptive definition of FID: Free indirect discourse occupies a middle ground between direct discourse, the di- rect transcription of a character’s speech, and indirect discourse, a narrator’s para- phrase of the contents of a speech event in the narrator’s own “style.” Free indirect discourse is not framed within quotation marks as direct discourse would be, but neither is it preceded by third person references to the speaking (or thinking) char- acter and past tense verba dicendi, such as “she said” or “she thought,” which char- acterize simple indirect discourse. Neither the content nor the style of such passages can reasonably be attributed solely to their narrators; often the idiom, the lexical and dialectical registers of such a passage, seems more characteristic of the charac- ter than of the narrator. Yet the absence of quotation marks and the presence of past tense verbs suggest the continued presence of a narrating voice positioned between the reader and the character’s discourse.1 Persuasion, Austen’s...

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