Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research

Translation as hagiographical weapon or how the French framed Katherine Mansfield

Kimber, G. (2007) Translation as hagiographical weapon or how the French framed Katherine Mansfield. In: Bolton, L., Kimber, G., Lewis, A. and Seabrook, M. (eds.) Framed! Essays in French Studies. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang. pp. 189-207.

Item Type: Book Section
Abstract: Katherine Mansfield’s reputation in France has always been greater than in England. Since her untimely death in 1923, the French reception of Mansfield has idealised her persona to the extent of crafting a hagiography. In this essay I ask: what were the motives behind the French critics’ desire to put Mansfield on a pedestal and how do the translations of her work collude in the hagiography of her personality, thereby determining whether the beliefs and principles expressed in the original texts have been diluted or censored during the translation process. The French are not wrong to stress that her personality is to be found in her writing. It is simply that only certain facets of her personality are shown. We now know that the English works themselves had already been censored by her husband, the critic John Middleton Murry, who included nothing which would further stain his own tarnished image, or anything which would seriously condemn his dead first wife. There was a deliberate editing out of things distasteful, shocking, anti-French, colloquial, political, cruel, blasphemous and especially humorous. If the French version is also viewed as a severe bowdlerisation, one must ask what remained of the real Katherine Mansfield for the French audience to appreciate. I demonstrate how - factual and biographical distortions not withstanding - the Katherine Mansfield legend was dependent on the presentation of her art to the French reading public. The sharp-witted, sarcastic, comedienne perceived in her original writing becomes a dull, sober 'thinker' in translation. For when the translations of the Journal and Letters are assessed together, perhaps the most overriding feature which seems to be lost in translation is the humour. There is sadness and philosophising too, but these do seem to be able to make the journey from English into French, whereas the humour almost never does. Thus, the French perception of Mansfield can be seen to be nothing more than a delusion brought about by misrepresentation through selective editing and mistranslation
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures > PQ1 French literature
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics > P101 Language. Linguistic theory. Comparative grammar > P306 Translating and interpreting
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR8309 English literature: Provincial, local, etc. > PR9639.3 New Zealand literature
Creators: Kimber, Gerri
Editors: Bolton, Lucy, Kimber, Gerri, Lewis, Ann and Seabrook, Michael
Publisher: Peter Lang
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities > English and Creative Writing
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Research Centre > Centre for Critical and Creative Writing
Faculties > Faculty of Education & Humanities > English and Creative Writing
Research Centres > Centre for Critical and Creative Writing
Date: 2007
Date Type: Publication
Page Range: pp. 189-207
Title of Book: Framed! Essays in French Studies
Series Name: Modern French identities
Volume: 61
Place of Publication: Bern, Switzerland
Number of Pages: 235
Language: English
ISBN: 9783039110438
Status: Published / Disseminated
Refereed: Yes

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