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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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Chapter 1: Austen’s Reception in France and La Famille Elliot’s Reception in Translation Studies 35


Chapter 1: Austen’s Reception in France and La Famille Elliot’s Reception in Translation Studies As a starting point to this review, I discuss the theoretical orientations of the previous studies of the first French translations of Jane Austen’s nov- els. This needs to be done within the general framework of the many ways translation has been conceptualised over the last century, focussing in particular on theorists such as Antoine Berman, George Steiner, Ro- man Jakobson, Itamar Even-Zohar, Gideon Toury and Inês Oseki-Dépré. Firstly, it must be acknowledged from the outset that studies of these translations are few and far between – Noël King (1953/4), Diilsep Bhagwut (1972), and more recently Valérie Cossy (1996/2006). Indeed, Cossy observes that “translations of Austen’s novels have received virtu- ally no attention.” After examining key theoretical accounts of transla- tion by contemporary theorists, it becomes clear that translation studies have been traditionally preoccupied with the notion of “translation equivalence” at the lexical and semantic levels of the target language. As Gideon Toury points out: Every move from the general definitions of “translation” and “literary translation” on, towards the problems inherent in translation studies, involves an examination of that property of translation, forming an essential part of its definition which has re- mained unspecified up till now, namely, the notion of “equivalence.” To be sure, the specification given to this notion is the crux of every theory of translation, and more than anything else it bears witness to its real scope and objects,...

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