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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 2: Speech and Thought Representation in Fictional Narrative 67


Chapter 2: Speech and Thought Representation in Fictional Narrative Before engaging with the various accounts of FID in both French and Eng- lish, I propose a very cursory account of its theoretical emergence. The analysis of an extract from the target text mobilising the analytical catego- ries of each account of FID is proposed throughout the chapter when ap- propriate. A final analysis of short passages from La Famille Elliot (at the end of this chapter) will test the pertinence of these categories to the pre- sent study. This analysis is found in the section entitled ‘Translating FID.’ The accounts of FID that provide the most precise analytical categories capturing a broad spectrum of occurrences of FID in French and English (ranging from the formal, syntactical signals of FID, to the co(n)textually determined, unmarked occurrences) will be adopted. On the subject of the theoretical emergence of FID, Brian McHale notes that “before a phenomenon can be explained it must first exist for those who would explain it, which means that it must be constituted as a category with boundaries and a name.”1 Monika Fludernik (1995) ob- serves that the phenomenon has been the source of theoretical debate ever since its discovery. Fludernik (1993) maintains that research in nar- ratology has tended to offer inadequate accounts of the “linguistic prop- erties of free indirect discourse or of the environments in which the de- vice occurs.” This neglect exists despite general recognition of the “theo- retical centrality” of FID....

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