From Britain to Brussels and back again: On the transfer of national images and linguistic interactions in Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor and its first Dutch and French translations

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This chapter examines the transfers of cultural images and linguistic inter-
actions staged by Charlotte Brontë in her notoriously unsuccessful novel The Professor (published posthumously in 1857), and their back transfers as
evidenced by the first French (Paris, 1858, tr. Henriette Loreau) and Dutch
(Groningen, 1859, anonymous) translations. Brontë’s novel tells the story of a
young Englishman leaving Great Britain to work in Brussels as a teacher and
ultimately finding professional and romantic happiness after many struggles.
It presents numerous critical and often dismissive images of the “Flemish”
(meaning ‘Belgian’) and French people, of the Catholic Church it is associated
with, and more generally of the mores and culture of “continentals.” With its
negative and often hostile representation of (parts of) the receptor culture,
it was a sensitive text to translate/transfer (back) into Dutch and French. In
addition, the ample use of heterolingualism (French, occasionally Flemish)
created several potential, practical obstacles to a smooth transfer process.
This paper compares two very early translations of The Professor against the
backdrop of the wider historical pattern of reception of Charlotte Brontë’s
works, with a special focus on how these translations rendered the original
text’s heterolingualism and how they transferred its underlying axiological
oppositions (British vs continental, Catholic vs Protestant, French vs English,
French vs Belgian, Dutch vs Belgian).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransfer thinking in translation studies
Subtitle of host publicationPlaying with the black box of cultural transfer
PublisherLeuven University Press
EditionTranslation, interpreting and transfer
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-6270-263-9
ISBN (Print)978-94-6270-263-9
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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