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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 4: The Marriage of FID and ON: A Marriage frequently Made in this Translation 165


Chapter 4: The Marriage of FID and ON: A Marriage frequently Made in this Translation What do occurrences of a pronoun unavailable in English do to the trans- lation? Does the usage of the pronoun reproduce the PDV of selected passages of the source text or change it? To answer these questions, we need to interpret each occurrence of the pronoun with reference to its global context. The interpretation of the pronoun ON ultimately involves two dis- tinct, but related processes. The first process concerns the determination of the value of individual occurrences of the pronoun with reference to characters within the fictive universe. By value, I refer to the polysemy of the morpheme ON, that is to say its semantic content, as it potentially shifts from its usage as an indefinite pronoun (in which it has no specific referent) to its function as a definite personal pronoun, where it refers specifically to first, second or third persons (singular or plural) across the narration. As Larbi Oukada observes, one can never assume parallelism between the morpheme’s syntactic property (or grammatical function) as a third person pronoun and its semantic content.1 The second process involves the attribution of fictive subjectivity to the occurrence of the pronoun within the narration. The pronoun’s value (or semantic content) is not considered to be equivalent to the subjectiv- ity ultimately attributed to the pronoun, although they may sometimes coincide. In the previous chapter, we noted that the value of this pronoun is unstable and depends...

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