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Marie Nedregotten Sørbø

Genius and housewife: The Norwegian nineteenth-century reception of George Eliot

To what extent did the transport of literature from Britain to Norway during the nineteenth century involve women, and when it did, which women were preferred? This question has been attempted to be answered in two previous papers for the COST Action. "The translation of nineteenth-century British and Irish novelists into Norwegian? (May 2010) showed that around half of the authors that were checked did receive a Norwegian translation, and moreover that there was a preference for contemporary, popular fiction over classics. One of the very few exceptions to this rule was George Eliot, who seems to be the only woman with a stable Norwegian reception in both the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Perhaps because she ticked both boxes: she was a contemporary, popular author as well as an undisputed and immediate "classic?.

My second paper, "The image of the female author in Norwegian translations of Burney, Kennedy, Eliot and Ward? (April 2011) found certain common features in the way these authors were presented to Norwegian readers, for instance that they were all lent male status through extensive name-dropping, that they were presented as women who did not shirk their female duties, and that they all were seen to write wholesome fiction for modern readers.

In this third paper I would like to present the case of George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) in more detail. Her reception in Norway up until the end of World War I consisted of several translations, prefaces and an obituary, all of which helped establish the status of revered genius which she would keep through the first half and more of the twentieth century. One of the case studies will be the 1892 translation of Silas Marner.

SvD, September 2011

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