Charles Baudelaire's translations of Edgar Allan Poe
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Although one of the best-known cases of intercultural literary partnership, Charles Baudelaire’s translations of Edgar Allan Poe’s works have been little analysed with a methodology appropriate to Translation Studies. Relying on a functionally target-oriented approach to translation and an empirical methodology, the present thesis undertakes this analysis. Positioning the prospective function(s) of the translations as intended by the translator within their historical context, Chapter One explores the para-discourse of the translator and its contemporary reception. Beyond the Romantic critical tradition of the whole project, Baudelaire’s introductory writings on Poe appear to target in a propagandist way the literary elite of the time. On the contrary, the selection and organization of the five volumes of translations for publication suggest primarily a popularising strategy intended to capture, through the fictional genre, the attention of the growing mass audience of the Second Empire. In Chapters Two and Three, traditional appraisals of the translations in terms of quality assessment are questioned in favour of an explanation of interpretative frameworks and translation strategies as seen through the analyses of two translated tales and of textual variables throughout the corpus. Baudelaire’s biographical interpretation of the narrative voice combines with clear strategies to normalize the stylistic authority of the texts and to increase their dramatic and expressive impact, offering in the end a less rhetorical, but aesthetically more Romantic and narratively more Realist reading of Poe’s fantastic tales. Baudelaire would thus have managed to reconcile at a textual level the ambiguities of his para-discourse in terms of targeted readership as seen in Chapter One. It is finally argued that beyond the constraints of the receiving system and the strategies of the translator to accommodate these, the French image of Poe as produced by Baudelaire owes much to a French resistance to the narrative ambiguity and style that Poe’s writing represents. Confirming or challenging existing criticism on the Poe-Baudelaire case, the present thesis thus hopes to contribute, not only to our relatively limited knowledge of mid-nineteenth-century French translation, but also to our understanding of French short fiction and its conflicting stakes in terms of aesthetics and readership.
Thesis, DLang Doctor of Languages
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