Gothic Translations

Among our Erasmus partner institutions is the Université de Lorraine and, as well as undergraduate student exchanges, we also happen to currently have a jointly supervised PhD student, working with supervisors at Stirling and at the Université de Lorraine, Fanny Lacôte. Fanny’s research focuses on the reception of English Gothic novels at the end of the 18th and early 19th centuries France (1789-1821), that is, roughly, the revolutionary and post-revolutionary periods. We thought it would be good to get an insight into her research and how she ended up working across these two partner institutions:

“The first part of my thesis focuses on the publishers who specialised in the production of French translations of English Gothic novels, their criteria of editorial choices, and their commercial strategies concerning the production of these Gothic translations. Then, by focusing on contemporary reviews, sales-catalogues of private libraries, memoirs and correspondences, I seek to demonstrate the diversity in the readings of the genre and its readership.

The second part deals with the process of translation: I investigate the translators’ identities, and seek to uncover their strategies for adapting these English novels to the tastes of the French readership. It is completed by a case study of a specific translator and its translation and by a thematic study of the cultural transposition of the theme of Gothic architecture in a post-revolutionary French context. In a nutshell, I analyse the way this theme was appropriated by French writers, and both aesthetically and politically adapted to the readership.

2016 Lacote Radcliffe and de Chastenay
Ann Radcliffe and one of her French translators, Victorine de Chastenay

The third and last part consists in demonstrating the influence of English Gothic on French literature: I briefly look at theatre adaptations and melodramas, to focus mainly on imitations, spurious attributions, literary forgeries and parodies.

As for my academic background, I come from Nancy, where I studied librarianship for two years. Then I did my BA and my MA in French Language and Literature at the Université de Lorraine in Nancy. I worked on Gothic literature for my master’s dissertation and loving the research, I knew long before I graduated, that, instead of preparing the competitive exam that would allow me to officially become a librarian, I would start a PhD.

2016 Lacote Université de Lorraine
Humanities campus of the University of Lorraine, Nancy

In 2012, I applied for a PhD in French and English literature under the supervision of Prof. Catriona Seth, a specialist of 18th century literature and history of ideas, and I started working part time at the university library. I felt perfectly at home continuing my research on 18th century French Gothic in Nancy, the city whose architecture is a witness of this time, especially given the fact that the Bibliothèque nationale de France, with its vast storehouses full of 18th century resources was just one hour and a half away by TGV!

2016 Lacote Place Stanislas
Place Stanislas, Nancy

However, given my academic background – French literature and languages – and my PhD topic – French and English literature –, I sorely missed an English-speaking experience to make the most of it. I had heard of the University of Stirling in 2010 when I was working on my Master’s dissertation, via the website The Gothic Imagination and its curator at the time, Dr Dale Townshend. Therefore, it seemed somewhat vital, for my research, that I spend some time at the University of Stirling. My supervisor introduced me to the idea of a joint‑supervision, and we formed the project of a PhD supervised both by Catriona Seth at the Université de Lorraine and by Dale Townshend at the University of Stirling. Two complementary supervisors – Catriona for French side of my research and Dale for the British counterpart – and two complementary universities, two languages, two literatures, what could be more ideal given my research topic?

The agreement between the two universities regarding my doctorate took quite a long time to be completed, but, thanks to the efforts of everyone involved, it was successfully concluded. It stipulated that I would write my PhD thesis in French and that I would defend it in both French in English, at the Université de Lorraine. After two years of researching at the Université de Lorraine, I was a full time ‘international’ PhD student ready to spend a year at the University of Stirling as a visiting researcher. Today, a year and a half later, I am still here, and I still love it. The first months were a bit challenging regarding the language: I had never lived in an English-speaking country before and struggled quite a bit with the Scottish accent – to be honest I still do sometimes! –, but I have always felt welcome and well integrated, and this is something that I am very grateful for. In a few months I had become used to the language, to the way the university functioned and had made some good friends.

So many opportunities were offered to me during my time at Stirling it made the months I have spent here memorable. Just to give you a few examples, I had the opportunity of presenting my research at the International Gothic Association in Vancouver last July, and was a lucky member of the inventory team for the newly acquired Patrick McGrath archive at the university’s library. I have also run a few informal sessions of French conversation for the undergraduate students of the university’s French department, and since 2016 I have given a shot at teaching as a Teaching Assistant in English literature. I am hoping to finish my research soon and I am planning to stay here at Stirling until I finish it, maybe longer, who knows?”

Thanks to Fanny for this blog piece and we look forward to hearing more about this project over the months ahead.

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