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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 Conclusion 207


General Conclusion We recall that Kathryn Sutherland observes that Jane Austen’s greatest achievement is her “narrative method inflected by the personal subjectiv- ity of a self-conversing heroine.”1Austen uses FID to represent Anne Elliot’s consciousness in Persuasion. Indeed, the portrayal of the hero- ine’s subjective experience is central to the narration of Persuasion. This thesis analyses the translation of FID from Persuasion to La Famille El- liot. We have examined several extracts in order to determine how Mon- tolieu handles this technique. We have seen that Montolieu was aware of the propensity of Austen’s narrator to delve into the heroine’s psychol- ogy in Persuasion. However, according to Valérie Cossy, Montolieu is supposed to have “replaced the original idiosyncratic approach of Per- suasion,” namely, “the reliance on the heroine’s consciousness.”2 Yet Cossy’s translation studies-derived methodology is not designed to pro- vide the requisite data that would support such a claim. Indeed, the cru- cial problem with Cossy’s account is that she draws conclusions con- cerning the meaning of the alleged re-orientation of narrative point of view without adducing evidence on the basis of narrational analysis. In- deed, we have argued in chapter 2 that it is impossible to comment on the supposed suppression of the centrality of the heroine’s consciousness in La Famille Elliot with any precision without first describing the dis- course in terms of the protocols of narratology. In so far as these analyti- cal concepts are applied to the target text in chapters 3 and 4,...

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