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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 3: Tracking Anne Elliot’s Consciousness in Montolieu’s La Famille Elliot 117


Chapter 3: Tracking Anne Elliot’s Consciousness in Montolieu’s La Famille Elliot Although I concede that Cossy’s work shows how the ideology of La Famille Elliot is constructed in response to the ideology of the source text, I beg to differ with her peremptory assessment of the general orien- tation of its narration, particularly her claim regarding the loss of its inte- rior focus to the carping of a didactic narrator. In effect, Cossy claims that Austen’s discursive “pattern” mentioned above, which allowed for the almost seamless insertion of characters’ “mental reactions” into the narration, is abandoned in La Famille Elliot. In a sense she is claiming that the representation of the heroine’s “self-communion” – to borrow an evocative expression from Cohn – is no longer the predominant preoc- cupation of the narration in La Famille Elliot: This avoidance of psycho-narration is characteristic for a novel in which a hyperactive narrator deals with a multitude of characters and situations by rapid shifts in time and space. This pattern dominates in the third-person novel well into the nineteenth cen- tury. While prolonged inside views were largely restricted to first-person forms, third- person novels dwell on manifest behaviour, with the characters’ inner selves revealed only indirectly through spoken language and telling gesture. The profusion of directly quoted conversations in the typical nineteenth century novel, and the rare opportunity for self-communion, indicate this tendency toward dramatic form.1 Earlier, I argued that Cossy’s conceptual framework disqualifies her from commenting on the role of the narrator in passages...

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