Archive for the ‘translation studies’ Category

Dear Friends and Readers,

As a reasonable number of people on my three listservs and the 18th century French and English scholarly communities know, a few years ago now I prepared and put online an etext edition of a novel important for Jane Austen:  Caroline de Lichtfield by Isabelle Montolieu, a strong direct influence (perhaps gave rise to) Sense and Sensibility

Well, I was chuffed yesterday when I was told that Eighteenth Century Fiction, a respected and reasonably circulating 18th century periodical which publishes mostly in English (but also has articles in other languages — the one I’m referring to is in French) published a 3 page review and strong praise of my etext edition of Caroline de Lichtfield:

Isabelle Tremblay, "Isabelle de Montolieu (1751-18320, Caroline de Lichtfield, ou Memoires d’une Famille Prussienne, ed. Ellen Moody. http://www.jimandellen.org/montolieu/caroline.show.html," Eighteenth Century Fiction, 22:4 (Summer 2010):739-741.

I have now placed it on my website under the notes explaining some characteristics of my etext edition briefly.

What made it especially gratifying was it’s the second notice and I’ve done nothing at all to spread the word :). I’ve been sent a copy too. 

A couple of years ago a much shorter (and in English) review and praise was published in the 18th century Intelligencer, but the Intelligencer is a newsletter; it has a surprisingly large circulation unless you know how readable and useful it is.  But the review was shorter, not as detailed and didn’t tell all the things I put in the site: for example, I wrote a short biography of Montolieu, at the time the first one available in English. Since then Valerie Crossy in her Jane Austen in  Switzerland included a several paragraph life because Montolieu was the first French translator of Austen (Montolieu’s translation of S&S into French is now available at Amazon.fr — well, almost available, someone allowed an editor to "correct" it, supposedly to make it more "accurate," which loses some of the value), but mine is a real biography where I take you through Isabelle’s life — it’s accurate, readable and interesting.

I also correct the romancing and dismissal of Montolieu’s relationship with Gibbon: what happened is either exaggerated into a torrid romance or people say nothing happened at all.  In fact they had a kind of mild romance, an event that help Montolieu put her first novel into print:

Francois Boucher (1703-70), Morning Coffee (1739) — anappropriate picture, coming out of Montolieu’s milieu

I invited people to read my biography. After all I won’t be going on for any chapter 2 and I’ve told the life. I have to change my title.

She loved my bibliography, edition of part of Montolieu’s travel books, Les Chateaux Suisses, Anciennes Anecdotes et Chroniques,  that I included her preface to her translation of S&S. and links to Montolieu’s books elsewhere.

She did not approve of my giving each of the individual letters in the novel separate titles as that makes an emphasis not in the original where they are just numbered.  On the other hand, she admitted the titles are summaries of the story and help the reader not only in the reading of the book, but navigating back and forth and rereading and referring to it. In fact this is real 18th century practice. In later editions of Clarissa, Richardson included summaries of all the letters, and Everyman in its publication of the 3rd edition of Clarissa includes these summaries and they are very helpful. The recent French edition of Prevost’s translation, Clarisse_, includes modern summaries of each letter 🙂

She didn’t approve of my including some popular comments (one on Swiss Family Robinson):  I thought this snobbery.  But she also didn’t approve of my choice of a second novelist, Sophie Cottin as part of Montolieu’s milieu:  Amelie Mansfield

Popineau’s La Jouvence, 1934, Place des Thermes, Bagnères-de-Bigorre, France, where Cottin vacationed and Montolieu could have. 

It is true that I don’t explain why I link Cottin to Montolieu and so here is an explanation:  I did not make the second etext edition for the sake of the first. They were two separate projects which I linked together, and the two women’s work are alike and both influenced Jane Austen.  Here I’ll answer just one caveate: it seemed to me obvious that Cottin and Montolieu are sister-novelists. Their work has repeatedly been covered in the same or similar studies (e.g., Joan Hinde Stewart’s Gynographs) and both were directly influential on Jane Austen. Similarly I thought a study of the French influences on Fanny Burney an analogous one to the perspective which informs my sight, explicated further in my essay, "Jane Austen Among Frenchwomen."

What’s lovely about website productions is you can change them 🙂

Anyway I’m really pleased at the careful attention (which I know Catherine Delors will understand) and mean to correct the place where this reviewer has a reasonable criticism and also put her review somewhere on the site as an endorsement.  Although my extext edition of both books have been picked up on large scale French sites (and used by two French classes I was told about), and are available now through some French academic sites, each academic endorsement helps give mine respect and thus lead others to trust as well as read it.  Thomas Holcroft’s English translation of Montolieu’s important book is now available through google, but the French edition until mine still had no trustworthy edition.  Tremblay says one is in preparation by one of these giant team editions, but that it will be some time before it’s published 🙂

If anyone is interested, I can send the review on as a pdf. It is in French.


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Dear Friends,

I’m delighted to be able to say that my essay on translations of Austen called Jane Austen in French has been published in ekleksographia wave two, October 2009.

Now you might say this is just another essay on Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility. You would be wrong as it is genuinely centrally about central issues in translating texts which I picture here by this oneiric lake and temple. In translating we look into the pool of art rather than nature directly.

Eugene Atget, Grand Trianon, Pavillon de Musique, 1923-24


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Dear Friends,

The last couple of weeks I’ve been despairing over my book project.  I became deeply troubled that I had again embarked on something I couldn’t do. Each time I have put down a book or article project (mostly my article projects turn into book projects), it’s not been laziness or even lack of time. It’s been I have come up against a barrier I can’t leap over. This is even true of why I went no further with Anne Finch, Vittoria Colonna, and Veronica Gambara.  In all cases I hadn’t the money or ability to travel alone, had no connections and probably lacked the credentials and know-how to do the networking, library work and private archive looking, not to omit getting a place to live for a while. For Colonna I realized I couldn’t stand the idiotic and pernicious religious readings I’d have to do.  Again I came up against the same problem with Sophie Cottin: I just can’t reach all the French sources I’d need, I felt even for an article.  For Trollope’s travel book I felt I needed to travel to Australia and New Zealand.

But this time I had seen nothing in my way, no obstacle beyond my (feeble) power. For a book on the Jane Austen Movies I could take down the scripts by stenography; I could get the stills by capturing them with the vlc viewer.

From a lovely montage late in the 1995 P&P, Jane and Elizabeth walking and talking together

It was a matter of using interlibrary loan, GMU resources on line, and buying what I needed on the Net, precisely what I did for Trollope on the Net, and all my work on Austen thus far.  I went about it realistically and controlled myself. At no point have I written madly and have produced really readale good text, piece by piece, very slowly, controlled writing. I told myself in July I would write a chapter this summer that was not overlong and there I found my first hitch.

I am now on page 39 double-spaced pages, and have two and one-half mor movies to analyze and I know I must not go over 43 pages. 

The chapter is overlong if I am to have nine chapters.  My plan was: introduce and discuss the varieties of film adaptation and my perspective; 2, the S&S movies; 3, the P&P; 4, the MP ones; 5, Emma movies; 6, NA movies; 7, Persuasion ones, 8, Biopics, self-reflexive, composite, documentaries, oddities; 9, Coda and conclusion.

My second obstacle is how long it takes to analyze a movie for real. This is one helluva job. Here I am after 4 months and I’ve written up decently a section on Austen’s S&S and then two and one-half movies.  Now in this case I began with all the transcripts done and sheets of typed out summaries, commentaries and specific topics (Point of view) across all five. I have here and there something like this for say two of the P&P movies, one Emma, one MP, but nothing complete for each set.  Gentle reader, there are right now by a modest count, 38, that’s thirty-eight movies

I’ll be dead before I finish and I so long to spend days reading books once again, following other trails, other projects.

But I have conquered this first DOUBTING period.  I am seeing my way to a book on just the S&S and P&P movies.

These are not Austen’s masterpiece finest books, but they are superb, and the movies made from them of great interest, particularly some of the free adaptations of P&P. It is this stunningly well-known and respected text.

An early moment of happiness for Elinor (Irene Richards) in the 1981 S&S: she sits with Edward talking of art at Norland Park, her sketch books nearby

I have devised a sort of contrast between the two sets of movies that can provide a grid or structure to take me across the two sets with a coherent development of contrast and comparison.  The outline would now be to rely on parts.

Part 1:  This stays the same: I will define and outline the types of adaptation.
Part 2:  Seeking refuge: the S&S movies
Part 3:  Divergent paths:  the P&P movies
Part 4:   Conclusion

For Part 2 something like 61 pages (what I now project my S&S chapter will be) is not overlong. It can be subdivided in modern chunks for th reader.  P&P has twice as many movies so say Part 3 can be 120 pages and that subdivided.   30 pages before (part 1) and 15 after (part 4), brings us to 225 double spaced pages. Now that is about what I had for Trollope on the Net and it made a publishable book.

I am still not happy with myself. I haven’t finished the Part as I’m now calling it and it’s August 14th. I must begin my syllabus next Wednesday at the latest. I won’t begin it before then. I have promised myself to write two proposals to try to go the JASNA at Portand, Me, in 1020 with a paper on Northanger Abbey (and maybe Radcliffe or Smith), and I’ve read about a conference on film in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which has one panel to be dedicated to Jane Austen on film.

A Poussin I associate with Radcliffe: the mysterious woman in The Dirt Road

It’d be unlikely I (a nobody) would get a place, but I thought I’d try, for the conference is one I’d enjoy and learn from and Jim says we can go and he’ll come with me. He may come with me to Portland, or Izzy may come. I’ve promised a short essay on translations of Austen for an online magazine and in September I must write that review on wm McCarthy’s great (really fine and good) biography of Anna Barbauld.  Teaching begins August 31st.

So I have less than a week left of freedom since I must begin my syllabus next week.

Have I used my time wisely this summer?  I know I often didn’t begin work on my project until 10 am or later (11), and maybe I didn’t need to have gone over all the stuff I did again and again, but I felt I had to. I couldn’t remember the films accurately enough. I am not doing impressionistic criticism and I am taking into account the filmic and other precursor texts for each film. This is why they take such time.

I’ve come much farther and closer than I’ve done in years — since Trollope on the Net really. I have a long good piece and I can see my way to carrying on, and now I’ve cut down on the amount I will cover, I won’t despair again.

I did ask on WWTTA how others came to Austen and told my own. I don’t know if I did this on my original blog, Ellen and Jim have a blog, too. I think not. I wrote it on Austen-l (foolish Ellen). Well here is my brief concise account written this week, from the heart:

I first read S&S and P&P between ages 12 and 13, they were in a collection of high status older novels printed in sets in the 1930s by do-gooders. My father owned several such sets. I loved both immediately; I identified with both heroines, and saw a (pastoral) version of my parents in P&P (the realities I knew were much harsher) and wanted to be like Elinor, saw her as a role model and empathized very much. At 15 I read MP for the first time, and was gripped, and when I got to the end, went back to the first page and reread compulsively. I felt I was very like Fanny in what counted about her (I took couldn’t go past doors where there were people considered of high rank or esteem); I loved its strength, austerity, beauty, most of all it seemed so strong.

I cannot remember when I read Persuasion and NA; it was before I was 21 because then in college I was assigned to read Emma and knew I had read the other two. I have a period where I can’t remember much (ages 17-19), a partial blank, but I knew I loved Persuasion best at the time, and wanted to stand on Beechen Cliff and reject all Bath as being unworthy of picturesqueness; i.e., I longed to go, which I finally did in my 50s and also climbed that high high hill and looked down.

Emma, I was 21 and find the scene with Miss Bates so painful I didn’t read it for a long time again.

When I was in my thirties, and living here in Alexandria (early 1980s), I read some of the juvenilia for the first time, specifically Love and Freindship. i found the texts just hilarious. I first heard of Lady Susan and the powerful unfinished The Watsons, and some of the others, Catherine, or the Bower, Sanditon, when I got onto Austen-l in 1995. I hurried up and read them, and then for the first time, the letters. They were something of a shock at first. 

And since then so much criticism and many more biographies than Elizabeth Jenkins (which was the only one I had read up to 1995).

As I wrote on WWTTA, for many readers it would probably make an important difference in our attitudes towards Austen and towards the various interpretations and schools when we first read her.  Younger serious readers (people who makes plans to read all of this kind of bok or that the way someone on WWTTA said she did when young) are deeply impressionable, and to read Austen young is to allow her to thread herself into the crevices of our development, to intertwine her texts with the very marrow of our oldest experiences and most long held thoughts and feelings so how can we not take her seriously and write about her the way many do.

Another reading session of The Jane Austen Book club; undeterred, they meet together, each with her or his copy, to discuss Jane at the hospital

And so another day of this summer comes to an end.  It hasn’t been bad. I’ve not missed teaching. I’ve enjoyed going out at night and have had pleasant experiences online for most of the summer.  I’ve only been desperately unhappy late at night, mostly because of the isolation of living in Northern Virginia and the loneliness of life.


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Dear Friends.

I’ve decided to separate this part of my blog two weeks ago out because I want to read it separately and work out some more thoughts on Feneon, and later this week add a few more.

I’ve been reading  Felix Fenelon’s delightful French translation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which he titled Catherine, signalling to the reader he didn’t mean it to be a crib of the first, but a world in its own right, all the while dialoguing in his mind with Austen — and us.  From there  I go on to Austen as she appears in two different series of French translations and finally the history of translations of her texts in Italian.

Vanessa Bell, Her granddaughters reading: it is in genre a girls’ book, but written with high maturity and sophistication

I turn to Fenelon, a figure from the 1890s (when he did this translation) first because his text is so cheering. 

I have found this wonderful text I can dive into this summer which is not Austen, well, not quite Austen.  Over on WWTTA (my small women writers through the ages list on Yahoo) our summer is not just an Austen summer, but a translation one, and we’ve been discussing translations and everyone invited to read whatever translation she (or he) wanted.  Most who have posted to the list are trying Austen in translation (not just French; one woman donig Swedish, another trying German).

I’ve tried the Pleiade P&P and S&S, dipped into the Christian Bourgeois ones of these and also read into Montolieu’s 1815 translation of S&S. I don’t give the names of the translators as I see they have followed a kind of house aims in what they did.

You can read about the provenance and origins of the Pleiades in Valerie Cressy’s "Austen and her French readers: Gender and GEnre again" in Re-Drawing Austen, edd. Battaglia and Saglia.  Basically it’s a scholarly and prestige driven enterprise where the paratexts erase Austen as a woman writer. By contrast the paratexts in the Christian Bourgeous books overemphasize her as chick-lit from the covers — not respectable and Austen has a curious non-position in French circles where the faultline is class.

Well I finally turned as I meant to to Felix Fenelon’s translation of NA as Catherine, and discovered that what I’d been told is true: it is just delightful. It is head and shoulders above what’s in the Pleiade or Christian Bourgeois texts of S&S and P&P I’ve read thus far.

It’s alive, with feeling, amusement, thought.

And it’s so difficult to say quite why except in large generalities that Fenelon has found the right words in his brain and soul to deliver an analogous experience, closely analogous to Austen’s, but with this difference: he is outside Catherine in a way Austen is not so that the accent is on the touching delight and pain of all this. Austen’s Catherine is not touched by her experience, though we may be — remember I’m at the book’s opening.

When I compared any particular passage I did often see he went off literal translation.  This is not metaphrase (using Dryden’s definitions) which in a way the Christian Bourgeois texts are), nor paraphrase (the Pleiade which are scholarly I fear — so much careful thought put into how to translate key phrases in both early books), nor imitation, but poetic true translation.

My book is in feeble condition: it’s an old yellowing orignially cheaply published copy from 1946, and I’m reading it in my front room at night (relaxing to it) and am unwilling to underline the sentences lest I do damage to the pages and this morning it’s hard for me to pick out a couple of paragraphs which really impressed me. One I know is Fenelon’s translation of Austen’s opening paragraph on Mrs Allen: there is much acid in Austen’s paragraph, particularly malice as she thinks about how intelligent men marry fools (Chapter 2, paragraph beginning "Mrs Allen ws one of that numerous class of females …")

Fenelon has gotten Austen’s meaning perfectly and yet he has included a little less hatred for Mrs Allen than is intermixed in Austen’s amused controlled and tolerant paragraph. His closing line is "Elle avait un tres naif plaisir a etre belle."

There’s a kind of throbbing delight and anxiety in the passages given Catherine in Chapter 2 and the French is so light and lucid; it seems to weigh nothing.

I am half-hoping, slightly planning to try another proposal for the JASNA for Portland in 2010 and the topic is NA. Probably I’ll think of something having to do with my favorite (beloved) Anne Radcliffe’s gothic novels and poetry, but this book is certainly stirring me once again — or say Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde which I also own in the contemporary French translation (I xeroxed it all).

And I’ve not come near the gothic passages in Fenelon as yet!

As an aside I was galvanized into more curiosity and began and read the first two chapters in French of Pride and Prejudice that I have in my house: Jean-Claude Zylbertein’s Orgueil et prejuges for Christian Bourgeois and Jean-Paul Pichardie’s Orgueuil et Prejuge for Pleiade.

Both were able to convey the humor of these opening chapters: they are very much in the ironic heroic couplet mode and one can see the links between Austen’s mindset and that of comic dramatists of her era.

But there was this parallel similarity with the S&S French texts.  Montolieu, as I said, was closest to Austen’s sentence structure. One might put this down to her being of the same era (as the 1808 English translation I read of Stael’s Corinne seemed to me to sound like Radcliffe), but it is also true that the Christian Bourgeois translation of S&S as Raison et Sentiments also by Jean-Claude Zylberstein translates S&S much closer to the structure of English sentences than does the new Pleiade by Pichardie.

So here’s Austen’s

        "IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in
possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters …"

        Pichardie opens with
        "Il est universellement admis qu’un celibataire nanti d’une belle fortune a forcement besoin d’une epouse.
         Si mal connus que soient les sentiments ou les opinions d’un tel homme, des lors qu’il parait dans une certain societe, cette verite is si bein ancress dans l’esprit des familles du voisonage, qu’il est considere come propriete legitime du l’une or l’autre de leurs filles …"

         Zylberstein opens:
         "C’est une verite universellement reconnue qu’un celibataire pourvu d’une belle fortune doit avoir envie de se marier, and si peu que l’on scahe de son sentiment a cet egard, lorsqu’il arrive dans une vouvelle residence, cette idea est si fixee dans l’esprit de ses voisons qu’ils considerent sur-le-champ comme la propriete legitime de l’une ou l’autre de leurs filles.

Well I find a parallel comparison with the P&Ps. The Pleiade by Orgueil et Prejuge by Pichardie changes the syntax of the sentences to adhere to French constructions and French rhythms while (again_) Zylberstein has opted for sentences whose internal constructions and choices of words that seem closet to Austen’s original word terrains.

What to think of this I don’t know. A house style at work?  A greater willingnesss to make the French idiom take in the book in the more prestigious volumes?

To conclude, whatever may be said in mockery (and the article on Montolieu was about as misoynistic a piece as one can come across — feminism has at least most of the time in the academia stopped this kind of automatic sneering) of Montolieu, her version of S&S is really felt. She really puts feeling into the text which I don’t feel that strongly in Joubert. He’s workmanlike and conveys the meaning and feelilng accurately but no more. I rather like the idea of bringing Eliza Williams into the story — which is no more than Davies does in his 2009 film, only he makes Brandon the great carer and protector still.

Fenelon is really consistently ironic, humorous and yet has feeling. The text is close to Austen in vocabulary and the movement of the sentences and yet feels like French, not pastiche and alive.

Like Montolieu, Fenelon ought to be republished in a modern edition and made available to French readers. I’ve begun reading the last third of Re-drawing Austenland which contains a number of articles on Austen in other countries and languages and hope to report back — as I eventually will on the articles on Austen film adaptations (including Lake House and Lost in Austen) in Persuasions 30.

I thInk I shall have to give up getting near Austen in Italian this summer, and I had originally hoped to read Possession in French, even bought myself the beautiful French text (based on the full British text in English).


Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell’s partner, The Coffee Pot, a feminine painting

I am surprized to have to report from an essay in Re-Drawing Austen by Mirella Agorni and Elena di GIovanni that Jane Austen came to Italy for Italian readers very late.  While the first editions of Austen in French begin just about the same years as the first in English, the first Italian text of Austen appeared in 1932.  It was Pride and Prejudice.  Only in 1945 did the first Sense and Sensibility in Italian appear, and then another in 1951. Emma appeared for the first time in 1945, and then (highly praised no doubt becasue of his fame and because he is a man) Mario Praz did an Emma (! — you would not think he would spend time on such a non-gothic book).  NA first emerges in Italian in 1959, and we don’t get a Persuasion until the 1960s.

Lastly except for Praz and a couple of others, all the translators have been women, and the books placed in women’s novels — not put up for greatness by men and placed with male authors and discussed as if male values were universal as in the French Pleiades (but that’s only recent we should remember).

Further in most cases the titles have either been Italianized (and sometimes the terms reversed from the original) or changed a great deal:  Persuasion becomes Riterono a Te.  More:  there have been a huge number of either translations or editions of Pride and Prejudice in Italian since the first in 1932, and these have way outnumbered all others texts. Also frequently the texts are cut or abridged.  (Abridgement often means rewriting to hollow out the specifics.) 

All this suggests to my mind the average (not the more intelligent or small number of perceptive people) that average Italian readers really don’t like what is most typical or deepest about Austen.  Trollope is not much in evidence in Italy either.

Against this we can remember that Italian readers have a long tradition of reading books in French and that Austen wuld have been available and read in French.  Many English texts were disseminated this way (French and German ones too).  Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi was available and read in French as well as Italian dialect and Tuscan from the very beginning of its first publications. But the French reader is an elite reader.  Going into this in detail shows the thinnness or shallowness of real penetration of Austen’s texts despite the enormous advertisement and heritage and romancing campaigns we see everywhere.

The Article to read is Mirella Agorni and Elena di Giovanni’s Pride and prejudice in Italy (not JA in Italy) and it’s in Re-drawing Austen, edd. B. Battaglia and D, Saglia.


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Dear Friends,

I thought I’d mention that Anny Ballardini wrote me and said:  "I mentioned you and your impressive work at a reading I had at the Diocesan Museum in Trient about a week ago on the occasion of an evening dedicated to Vittoria Colonna and women’s poetry." She also invited me to contribute to a special issue of a online beautiful magazine of contemporary poetry, translations and reviews she will be editing:  Ekleksographia (http://ekleksographia.ahadadabooks.com/) .  Topics will include translations of poetry; reviews of translations; drama related to the act of trans/lating;  art work dedicated to the topic. As I have no new work and do not plan to translate poetry ever again, I have nothing for her, but I am so grateful to her for thinking of me. 

She actually put a biography of me on her site.  It includes links to my complete translations of the poetry of Vittoria Colonna and Veronica Gambara, the book-length biography I planned for Vittoria Colonna:

This is an image of a Madonna of Charity found in a church in Ischia; it is meant as an idealized portrait of Colonna. She liked to present heself as bountiful strong mother figure.

Anny also include a link to the portrait biography I of Veronica Gambara (which another biographer of her commended to me in a letter sent me by her son):

This is one of three illustrations in the 1759 edition of Gambara’s poetry.  She liked to present herself as a widow after her husband’s death; it protected her.

Her kind remembrance and invitation have cheered my spirits considerably tonight.

I have been reading Austen in French; I’ve read two different contemporary French translations of Sense and Sensibility (one for the Pleiade, Joubert, and the other for Christian Bourgeois) and Isabelle de Montolieu’s (at long last in print and inexpensively), and last night began a comparison of Pride and Prejudice.  I’ve found an article on the history of French translation and could probably cobble together a brief article.


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Dear Friends,

I meant this to be an Austen summer on Women Writer through the Ages, and hope for others on the list, they are reading more than one Austen novel, trying the criticism or biographies, and for those who want to, reading a translation of their favorite Austen novel.  That’s what I partly meant to do myself.  What is happening though is it’s taking me unconscionable amounts of time genuinely to write a chapter of a book, and as I determined not to begin with Chapter 1 (a survey of types of adaptations which I have tried to write several times now and ended up with over-detailed analyses getting nowhere) but Chapter 2, and that that would be the movies adapted from Austen’s first published novel, well, voila, I’m having a Sense and Sensibility summer.  As I wrote on WWTTA, I know that the truly virtuoso performances by Austen are her Mansfield Park (and a deeply profound book to boot) and Emma (endlessly intriguing with her full entry into the consciousness of a woman who is an utter egoist, through whom she nonetheless allows us to glimpse numbers of other presences, there fully in their own right, with their own only partly uncovered stories), so think I’m a little nuts.

I’m also worried the chapter I’m writing is stiff and boring as I find I must write in a mandarin style and follow good scholarly methodology or I wouldn’t dare send it out.  So I’m deep in a quandary and at night asking myself why I am doing this. During the day I don’t as the task absorbs me sufficiently and entertains me (Austen’s books stand up to endless scrutiny and I just love all the Austen movies it seems) and keeps the black presence of depression, anger and all the concomittant feelings of panic, anxiety, feelings of helplessness, nervousness at bay, not to omit genuine worrying over our lack of money to do what we want to do for ourselves and Isabel. But at night when I’m too tired for my mind to work intently, Doubt comes flooding back.

Sigh.  Then some idea comes into my mind from the project and I am happy again, as when I gaze at this still from the 71 S&S, Marianne is characterized as innocent and unworldly; after her great illness and the way she’s been treated, she thinks only to read more poetry, does not appear to understand the forces that have done her in:

Ah the Cowper she (Ciarhan Maddan) will read; and the mother (Isabel Dean), who knows better than she why what’s been done to her has occurred, is shown as rightly fond

Tonight I thought I’d follow up two earlier reverie-meditations which include material on the Cinematic Austen and criticism of the S&S movies (their deep patterns).  Here I’ve put together some comments I’ve written on criticism of Austen’s S&S, a translation I’ve begun reading, the audio-commentaries I listened to for the 1995 Sense and Sensibility, and my discovery that another angle of typology has led people to group films as Heritage films and discuss the Austen films as part of these.

Elinor (Emma Thompson) at long last angrily telling Marianne what she has been enduring for four months (95 S&S)

First, criticism:   I’ve rereading the chapter in Claudia Johnson’s book on Austen on S&S and Eva Sedwick’s notorious article on the novel as about masturbation.  Johnson’s Women, Politics and the Novel remains as felicitious, insightful and informative as ever. She reads the book in a feminist and woman-centered tradition.  If you’ve never read this before, it’s a kind of sina qua non I think.  Rereading it is useful too 🙂 Sedgwick is misrepresented and misunderstood. She loves the book, is not attacking it, and brings out a layer in it that is important. It’s an important insightful article. It and another brilliant one (where for the record I disagree as I love Diderot’s Suzanne, and she assumes we dislike such characters, she’d be a Fanny Price hater as well as someone who dislikes Clarissa) on Diderot’s Nun are found in her Tendencies.  Her understanding of what is put before us in the book gives a real sense why the novel (so germinal of a type of woman’s novel) used to and still is sometimes dismissed as juvenile or crude work: it embarrasses.

Three others, also with an attempt at concision:  Margaret Cohen’s Sentimental Education of the Novel. Its title does not give away its unusual rich content: it compares in detail French novels (mostly by women) of the later 18th and early 19th century with English ones, and moves up to George Sand by way of Austen.  The perspective brings out strong similarities among these books and how we have lost a world of interaction and misunderstand the full context of what we are reading. Plus of course you learn a lot about books you may not have read. It reinforces Moretti’s Atlas of the novel; i.e., it’s a product of 18th to 19th century French and English commercial and technological advances and culture.

Another one which is more detailed and informative for a French and translation perspective:  Joan Hinde Stewart’s Gynographs, analyses and details about French novels of Austen’s period (many of which she and Burney would have read).

Then I read Patricia Meyer Spacks’s afterward to S&S in the Bantam edition of S&S and it’s still one of the best essays on the book I’ve read anywhere.  She utters this kind of thought and develops it: by the time we are into the book and throughout it: "the reader [comes] to understand the intricate ways in which money affects feeilng, how the realities of the outside world impinge on the interior realm."  On the inner life of the author and her characters:  they "intensify our own; and her sustained reminder that psychic truths emerge most vividly in individual responses to social demands chastens the naivete of those who believe themselves independent of circumstance …"  She shows us "bleak economic realities …" She brings in Austen’s letters. I was reading Emma Thompson’s diary while filming S&S and she’s reading Austen’s letters. Aaargh! I should be reading them too. I wish I had 48 hours a day of alertness.

One of the best single studies of S&S is Moreland Perkins’s Reshaping the Sexes in S&S (add it to my recommendation of Isobel Armstrong and Gene Ruoff’s S&Ss.  I find Ididn’t do half enough justice to it in my review. Perkins alone defends Edward as a fully realized antimacho humane portrait of a real man, a reconstruction of masculinity. 

                                                       Dan Steevens has just such an open face, full of love (08 SS)

Early on Robin Ellis expresses real anger at his sister, her values, her bullying:

And Bosco Hogan despair and shame and understanding a position (from Brandon) would be the saving of him, a rare kind of admission today too:

All beautiful.  As you’ll see below Lee and Schamus, Davies and even Thompson and Doran miss what’s in Edward.  Thompson says in one draft she wrote Edward and Elinor’s story in as a backstory and began with Willoughby as according to someone that is where the novel begins. What misunderstanding wrenching of a woman’s story si there.

For my part I’ve decided that much of Hugh Grant’s portrayal is overrated: he’s fine in the crucial moving scene with Elinor (so open and full of honest tender love), picking her shawl, and other silent moments, but he is very uncomfortable, absurdly stiff in some of the comic embarrassment scenes early on.  Finally Dan Steevens is better, more humane, more real.

Janet Todd’s Jane Austen: New Perspectives is much worth getting too. I’ve summarized other of its essays, especially one which retells Emma mockingly, ironically so that we see how neurotic and twisted, she really is, how tyrannical the father (Avrom Fleishman). It has many thoughtful, unusual and perceptive points of view, and differently informed essays. Well, one by Angela Leighton, editor of one of the two volumes of Victorian poetry by womenI have, is on "Sense and Silences." She knows she is rewriting the book or turning it about to change the title: she wants to go into the silences of Marianne and what is going on in her on the other side. It’s one of these fine pieces where someone writes about what’s implied yet not there.

I just love how Leighton does validate Marianne’s full experience and does not regard her as "self-indulgent" and so on — a response one sees in those who grasp that the book is Elinor’s so much more.  Leighton argues Marianne’s sensibiltity is "her prison and her weapon," she "defies the conventions of social intercourse because she is victimized by them. At first Austen harshly caricatures her, but then as "Marianne’s fellings lose their fictionality and become true, Austen censors their expression by understating them, transferring them into mere physical ilness, and finally by seeming to leave them altogether out of account."

And she is better on Elinor than most.  I can’t stand how Tave admires Elinor for all her exertions and applauds her repressions. Elinor’s silences are on the other side of emotional pain too. She too is repressing a scream — as for example she listens to her brother, John Dashwood. "Elinor could only smile" is one of my favorite lines in the book. It is the silent of integrity.

Elinor does not always pick up the burden of endlessly telling lies.

Parallel scene: Elinor (Hattie Morahan) facing Marianne tells of her humiliation and grief (08 S&S)

Elinor-Sowmyra (Tabu) can’t speak her trouble to Meenakshi (Aishwarya Rai) (
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–Aishwarya Rai (00 I Have Found It)

Then the translation:  Le coeur et la raison, Joubert’s translation of Austen’s S&S.  In a close translation (paraphrase Dryden called these), it’s in the nuances the changes occur and one has to read other books by the translator before a different perspective emerges. I began such a project once for Madame Chastenay’s translation of Radcliffe’s Udolpho into French. Maybe someday I’ll get back to that. Happily Chastenay left a three volume memoir of her life so it’s possible.

I do like this translation.  One of its merits is to convey irony and I find myself grinning:  for example, Ch 3, when Mme Dashwood begins to realize Elinor is in love with Edward, she too begins to see his merits, and the narrator tells us "Elle ne tarda guere a percevoir toute l’etendue de ses merites.  D’etre persuadee de son inclination pour Elinor aida peut-etre a sa perspicacite."  I think its tone is stronger in each case; that is to say, when Elinor reveals her love with her insistence on how Edward would have been a great artist had he applied himself, Austen’s language is slightly more muted.  Repeatedly Joubert has a slightly greater emphasis. I do like the passages where a character has positive decent emotion and this is presented more precisely somehow, fully, with an emphatic sense of integrity running through the tone in such passages.

Translation of a book I’ve read many times makes me see new passages I had not paid attention to before. It works like movies in this sense. It slows me down and I see more.  Listening to a book read effectively aloud (books on tape or CD type of thing) functions the same.  But the foreign language adds the piquant fun of living in the other language and seeing the choice of phrase and how the language (as it were) objectively functions or produces itself somehow.  This is Chomskyite stuff I don’t understand all that well so will stop here.

Connecting to the global Austen (in translation), I read a very good essay (recommended) by Linda Troost and Sayre Greenberg in the same online volume of Persuasions where they suggest and try to demonstrate through clips that  insistently modern free adaptations overturn Austen’s anti-social stances and erase her saturnine and ironical depictions of antagonisms, and adversarial behavior in family life (to make the famly the haven one runs to), and also give the heroine aggression and a career. And so some of what I love best about Austen (her truthfulness about social life) is erased. This is found across the globe. For my part my objection is this is done to most commercial popular films too. Those which depart don’t succeed at the box office, or never get there.

Again Elinor denies she is unhappy

Third topic   I listened for the first time to the audio-commentaries which accompany the 95 S&S movie, and was startled by the gendered nature of the talk and what was said. One set of commentators were Emma Thompson and Lindsay Doran and they talked of the love story, were both familiar with the novel and talked of how it related to the book; they showed no embarrassment in talking of the story, the characters’ personalities, or their feelings; it was an continually illuminating discussion ranging far and wide from who was picked for what role when and so on.

For the first half of the film, the talk between Ang Lee and James Schamus showed two men embarrassed to reveal anything about themselves in relationship to what was gonig on in the sceen except some startling sexist talk. Above all Ang Lee’s continual reaction to the younger women in his cast as attractive or not and how he can’t shut up about it. It was not he who chose Thompson (in fact he was the second director chosen, but we are never told who was first or why he was really chosen) and he avoided closeups so much it was only here once he says the audience can "get used to" Thompson does he shoot her close up.  Our explanation for what Emma Thompson says is in the past quarter century or so the continual choice of women 20 years younger than men and presenting them as close in age comes. 

Edward is a "nerd" whose scenes "bother" these men.  No wonder movies are so sexist. Men are in control.  It reminded me of the poorness of poetry about movies:  shameless reactions on a primitive level that is ugly.  Also even women’s criticism like Parrill’s continual distaste for Sylvestre le Tousel like she was being asked to go to bed with her.  Neither man showed any knowledge of Austen’s book, though Schamus knows about 18th century culture and history.  It is tedious too (the flattery, the self- and film-promotion takes up listening time), but is startlingly revealing. I will begin to listen to more of this stuff.

The dismaying remarks by Ang Lee and James Schamus have a lot to teach us about men making movies.  The difference in what they say as overvoice to what Emma Thompson and Lindsay Doran say is enough to make me nearly believe in silly books like Men are from Mars and Women from Venus.

In 81 S&S when Elinor awakens after Marianne snubbed at the ball, Elinor photographed to bring out Irene Richards’s beauty

The women really discuss the movie in front of them, continually; they are interested in its themes, discuss archetypes (thus Lindsay Doran calls Brandon in the film a male Cinderella) and compare to Austen as well as historicize.  It’s clear that Ang Lee lives in dread of being thought the least bit effeminate and will not say anything that could be construed this way.  When he confronts an emotional scene, he will say he longed to make a movie about war while he was filming this scene. James Schamus tries to get him to acknowledge something of the pain in the film, but no.  Schamus himself reveals how little he cares about the accuracy of the costumes. He says he loathes the empire style dress (his term) as it makes the dresses "balloon" out and makes the women look bad.  We can’t see their limbs and they look "so full." (Perhaps the preference for the frail Keira Knightley peeps out here.)  Apparently he so disliked two of Jenny Bevan’s creations, he forbid them on the set and raged when one turned up as intended for the concluding scene between Edward and Elinor.

As I listen, I begin to wonder about who can be said to have made a movie.  The director did direct these scenes of intense emotionality, and yet he avers his distance from them.  Why he was hired still puzzles me except maybe it was that he came cheap.  It was his first studio film; they all know that there is an anomaly here and all four continually say how paradoxically perfect he was for the film.  Right.  I know he made films about family life before and one had a dialogue in it anticipating S&S, but his idea of family life is utterly different from Austen’s. His one comement about families is that see how they have lost their father and Elinor needs and is looking for another father; later he pronounces Edward "too nerdy."  No wonder the film is strong on the male view of women.  All this wholly relates to what we found in women’s films that seemed so skewed.  Oh the men lived in dread of a G rating. Why? What adult male would come to this?  That’s what they say

Another perspective on this pair of conversations: perhaps it’s wholly chance when a film puts it together for a masterpiece for as a work of art this film is.  Somehow they all gell, and someone does it, but it is not always the director. Here it was a combination of these two pairs cooperating in spite of themselves because they wanted a hit.

Trip to Devonshire (95 S&S)

In the second half of the film Lee and Schamus’s commentary suddenly improves immeasurably in the second part of the film.  When we get to the ball where Willoughby snubs Marianne, the aftermath of the cruel letter, the trip to Cleveland, and Marianne’s near death experience, and the talk afterwards, and then Edward’s return to Elinor, in all these cases Lee suddenly does reveal a deeply engaged response to what he was doing.  He makes revealing commments about how he directed the actors, set up the scenes, valued the landscape and his deep identification with the romantic-destructive side of the movie experience as enacted by Marianne. He admits to deep emotions too, interestingly almost unwillingly and intensely with Brandon (he says things like "many many thoughts" to suggest Rickman’s presence and performance).

Schamus is yet more frank in some ways, and he shows more knowledge of the book at the end of the film. Both of them clearly preferred the second half of Thompson’s script to the first; while they praise comedy, what they really go for is tragedy.

Emma Thompson says more than once that the movie is deeply melancholy and she’s startled how Lee manages this so subtly.  Partly it’s the music, which I have now listened to.

And Thompson and Doran’s commentary has its limitations. They stroke one another a lot, or I should say Doran flatters Thompson to the hilt. They both go in for this "happy" talk that is so much a part of features: all these people continually say how X was just perfect for the part and everyone knew it from the word go (see Every Little Step to disabuse yourself of that, and imagine it) and how well all got along, how happy everyone was, &c&c.  No one would offend anyone because another job is needed, and it’s a cottage industry.  But Doran goes in for rather more praise of the other woman, while Thompson does not praise back. Thompson does speak her mind and when Doran doesn’t agree you have to get it by listening to her silence. Doran is very afraid to make any remark that might be construed as feminist (matching Lee’s behavior in the first half of the audio-commentary).

I wonder if they got paid and if so how much. Or was it the sort of back-scratching favor to the studios which they might hope would turn up another part or place in a film to come?  At any rate, it is very worth going through though it can take a long time (more than 3 days for me) if you mean to listen carefully and remember and take notes.

To Cleveland, Somerset, accompanied by haunting melancholy refrain by Patrick Doyle that Lee said was his favorite music of the 95 film

I also listened to an interview of Andrew Davies and Anne Pivcevic on the DVD of the 2008 BBC/WBGH mini-series S&S. This was more controlled and just as revealing but about more conventional thins:  her view of S&S is that it’s a romance of reconciliation; both were unaware (seemingly) this is a book where the crises are about wmoen in relationship to one another and talked of how proud they were of substituting romance (indeed moving ones) scenes. Davies shows himself to be an astute psychologist who sees ethically in modern terms which refocus but keep the original meaning of the text; by contrast Thompson interpreted Marianne and Elinor consciously in old-fashioned terms, like see how bad mannered is Marianne. She shows the repression of her background.

Passing Stonehenge (glimpsed on the right) on the way to Devonshire, no trafffic jam that day (in 08 film)

I find it’s getting late and I’ve gone on long enough. So last but not least I’ll briefly mention the good book I’m reading which has a huge number of brief and longer essays on film adaptations of novels, and heritage films in general:  Film/Literature/Heritage: A Sight and Sound Reader, ed. Ginette Vincendeau.  The pieces are all written with pizzazz and so make me worry what I am writing will be seen as so academic.  Craig and Monk show that the films delve sexuality in fascinating ways; Liz Lochhead reveals she is seduced by Rob Roy all the while knowing how atavisticially retrograde (a male wet-dream fantasy about women) it is.  There are rich sections on the 1995 Little Women movie, on Scorcese’s Age of Innocence, Campion’s Portrait of a Lady, and that’s just first 70 pages of a 300 page book.

In such films no one would ever take a train or truck to travel as they do in the Tamil I Have Found It:

On their way to Chennai (Madras)

Yes the project is pleasure-filled and fun. And writing this helped keep me calm and relatively tranquill if only because it made me so busy finding stills :).


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