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Rereading A Room of One’s Own in French: Marie Darrieussecq and Clara Malraux

A Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics research seminar will take place on Thursday 28th February at 16.00 in C1079, as follows:



Rereading A Room of One’s Own in French: Marie Darrieussecq and Clara Malraux


                                                                                                             Dominique Carlini Versini (School of MLAL)


Marie Darrieussecq’s recent French translation (2016) of Virginia Woolf’s feminist pamphlet A Room of One’s Own (1929) was only published three years ago and has received very little critical attention. However, newspaper articles at the time it was released and an interview of the writer conducted by Catherine Rodgers at the University of Swansea reveal that Darrieussecq’s translation is held as a more faithful and successful rendition of the original text than the previous and most widely-read translation by Clara Malraux (1951). Critics and Darrieussecq herself discuss her engagement with the playfulness of Woolf’s writing as well as the text’s feminist message in a way the former translation failed to.

In this paper, I will offer a comparative reading of the three texts to investigate if and in which ways Darrieussecq’s text sheds a new light on the original essay as well as tackles contemporary feminist issues. I will focus on the translation of the central motif of space, engaging with the issue of private and public spheres, with specific attention to the translation of the title (une chambre/un lieu). I will also examine omitted passages in the former translation that have now been translated by Darrieussecq, specifically reflecting on translating British tradition of women writers into the French context. Finally, I will discuss how the new translation actively addresses the question of women and writing through language itself, with the feminisation of French nouns, anchoring Darrieussecq’s translation in contemporary debates on inclusive language. In that way, my paper will show how the new translation of the text reveals the modernity of Woolf’s feminist writing and its relevance today.