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Isabelle de Montolieu reads Anne Elliot's mind: free indirect discourse in La Famille Elliot


Russell, AL, Isabelle de Montolieu reads Anne Elliot's mind: free indirect discourse in La Famille Elliot, Persuasions, 32, (2010) pp. 232-247. ISSN 0821-0314 (2010) [Refereed Article]


Percusion, posthumously published in 1818, was first translated into French as La Famille Elliot, ou l'ancienne inclination (Paris, 1821) by the Swiss novelist Isabelle de Montolieu, who had in 1815 published a translation of Sense and Sensibility as Raison et Sensibilite, ou les deux manieres d'aimer. Studies of these translations are few and far between--Noel King (1953), Diilsep Bhagwut (1975), and, more recently, Valerie Cossy (2006). Indeed, Cossy observes that "translations of Austen's novels have received virtually no attention".

In general, scholarship tends to focus narrowly on evaluating translations as lexical and semantic equivalents of the originals at the level of the sentence. With the exception of Cossy's work, these studies are for the most part prescriptive accounts of the translations, little more than catalogues of various "infidelities" and "shortcomings." This emphasis is, no doubt, the principal reason that the early French translations have suffered so much neglect, as they have always been found very wanting on the criteria of lexical and semantic equivalence. Yet many of these translations were not intended to be "faithful" to the original: they were known as adaptations or imitations (Lambert 396). The disclaimer "traduction libre de l'anglais" (free translation from the English) would typically appear on the title page, and the common reader would have assumed that perhaps nothing more than the skeleton of the original story would be reproduced. Suffice it to say that important dimensions of these translations, such as the representation of thought and speech, have been thoroughly ignored by previous scholarship.

Jane Austen is generally hailed for her important contributions to the development of the modern novel, especially with respect to her innovations in the representation of thought and feeling. Kathryn Sutherland discusses some of the "specific features that mark Austen's contribution to the novel as a serious modern literary form". According to Sutherland, Austen's greatest achievement is her "narrative method inflected by the personal subjectivity of a sell-conversing heroine". She observes that the representation of the heroine's inwardness within the framework of "probable psychology and motive" is Austen's most significant contribution to the maturity of the novel as a literary form: in Austen's hands, the novel becomes capable of exploring the complex ethical dimensions of real human dilemmas. In a similar vein, Valerie Shaw observes that Austen makes one of her "subdued" heroines, Anne Elliot, "live more in a consciousness of life's felt complexities than in rationalistic formulations about life". Sutherland argues that Austen's modernity is most clearly expressed in her use of free indirect discourse for the representation of speech and thought in fiction, highlighting "the inwardness of the heroine, whose complex life of the mind replaces the less probable adventures in the body of her conventional counterpart".

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Language, Communication and Culture
Research Group:Language studies
Research Field:Translation and interpretation studies
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in language, communication and culture
UTAS Author:Russell, AL (Dr Adam Russell)
ID Code:79370
Year Published:2010
Deposited By:English, Journalism and European Languages
Deposited On:2012-09-06
Last Modified:2014-11-26

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