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Journal Articles Law and Literature Year : 2022

Free Indirect Discourse in Court: An Overview of Contemporary Jurisprudence in French Press Law

Abstract

This article analyzes two French court decisions which deal with fictionality and free indirect discourse. Two novelists, Mathieu Lindon and Eric Bénie-Bürckel, have been sued for contentious statements made by fictional characters: the former on the basis of defamation and the latter for racial hatred against Jews. The article shows that the criteria used by judges to evaluate the “narrative distance” between the author and his characters are very variable. In the case of the correctional court that arbitrated the Lindon case, the reasoning behind the judges' decision dismissed the question of reported speech, which, according to them, changed nothing in the representation of the real person defamed. In the Bénier-Bürckel case, on the other hand, the criminal court considered that because the statements were pronounced by a fictitious speaker, there was a distance between the author and the remarks at issue. In that case, the judges thus gave a central place to the criterion of fictionality. However, a linguistic analysis makes it possible to identify the use of free indirect discourse and devices of aphorization in the controversial statements which reduce the distance between the character and the author. The criterion of fictionality cannot therefore resolve the question on its own.
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hal-03863267 , version 1 (21-11-2022)

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Anna Arzoumanov. Free Indirect Discourse in Court: An Overview of Contemporary Jurisprudence in French Press Law. Law and Literature, 2022, pp.1-20. ⟨10.1080/1535685X.2022.2115720⟩. ⟨hal-03863267⟩
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