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Pratiques de l'ici, altérité et identité dans six romans québécois des années 1989-2002
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of French, Italian and Classical Languages.
2005 (French)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Based on an analysis of the roles of alterity and the Other in six Québécois novels published between 1989 and 2002, this study examines how the identity of these first-person narrators is formed through processes of dysphoria, migration and elaborations of mutual space in what will be called practices of Here. The novels can be referred to as texts of the new subjectivité québécoise. The period has been chosen to reflect young writers from Quebec starting their career a few years after the first referendum on the sovereignty of Quebec (1980), which led to the province’s continued affiliation to Canada.

This study should be read in the context of the discussion about the cessation or continuation of the link between territory and nation on the one hand, and identity on the other, in the recent Quebec novel, as treated in e.g. Le roman québécois et ses (inter)discours, by Józef Kwaterko (1998), or Women & Narrative Identity. Rewriting the Quebec National Text, by Mary Jean Green (2001). The underlying question concerns the link between the enunciating subject and collective identity in the “post-political” late 1980s and 1990s. My main hypothesis is that the emphasis on cultural and topographic space, together with its relevance for identity, continues to be crucial in this very recent corpus, as well, but that this importance is best grasped by selecting the subjective and hermeneutical approaches of the I narrators as the starting point for the investigation. The closely intertwined relationship between subjective and collective meaning is most effectively studied if the sociocultural conditions are seen as dynamic and as mutual providers of space and not as defined a priori. I also claim that these subjective expressions retain a certain metaphorical meaning, a role that they share with the Other, who is conceived of as addressed or appropriated, or as an allegory of a sociocultural condition. The idea that the subjects in Québécois novels always assume meaning in a political, social and cultural context is also examined, my hypothesis being that a reappropriation by the subject actually takes place in these postmodern texts. The works selected enable us to study the expansion of Here from Quebec alone to embrace North America and an international setting, an expansion which marks an important evolution in the contemporary Quebec novel, even as one must always also remain aware of the potential postcolonial dimension in Quebec literature.

The dissertation employs an ontological hermeneutical approach inspired by the theory of narrative identity as conceived by Paul Ricœur, where identity is to be seen as dynamic narration and as located at the crossroads between history and fiction. Along with this theory, the novels are studied in the light of pragmatic and postcolonial thought and are seen as examples of texts of existential migration.

La mort de Marlon Brando by Pierre Gobeil (1989) and L’hiver de pluie by Lise Tremblay (1990) are set in a Québécois framework that I consider as symptomatic of the cultural condition after the first referendum. Gobeil’s novel illustrates a narrative process characterized by strangeness and familiarity in encountering the land and by the hybrid condition between American, English-Canadian and Québécois cultural discourses which will eventually condition the enunciation and shaping of the main character. Tremblay’s novel juxtaposes a closed subjective and cultural space represented by the Old City in Quebec and a possible way of overcoming it through literary expression. Là-bas tout près by Rober Racine (1997) and Oslo by Bertrand Gervais (1999) provide examples of the enlargement of the concept of Here towards North America. Racine’s text describes an identity transformation of the subject that is made possible by its reading of the territoriality and the spirituality of North America. In Oslo, the subjective identity formation conveys the protagonist’s repatriatory journey from the United States to Montreal. This journey also serves as an illustration of an American francophone condition. Un homme est une valse by Pauline Harvey (1992) and Visage retrouvé by Wajdi Mouawad (2002) are two novels characterized by the theme of international migration. In the first, Quebec space is depicted in a relationship of contiguity with other cultural spaces and there is a stress on transition and detachment. In the second (written by the only immigrant writer in the corpus), the insertion of the immigrant protagonist into Quebec involves the renegotiation of the link between past and present, creating a space relationship that is subjective and generalizable at the same time, since Quebec emerges as a country of immigration.

The study shows that referential space and alterity continue to be crucial and that this seems to be true even when the concept of Here is enlarged. All these novels are characterized by a fragmentary and dynamic representation, but end in attempts at new starts, in what I call acts of “weak” reappropriation. Such reappropriations are characterized by elements of hybridity, a mixture of referentiality and fiction, and an identity best described as creative and transitional.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för franska, italienska och klassiska språk , 2005. , 231 p.
Forskningsrapporter / Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för franska och italienska: cahiers de la recherche, ISSN 1654-1294 ; 29
Keyword [en]
Pierre Gobeil, Lise Tremblay, Rober Racine, Bertrand Gervais, Pauline Harvey, Wajdi Mouawad, Quebec, Québécois novel, postmodern, postcolonial, practices of Here, the Other, alterity, identity, subjectivity, narrative, internal hermeneutics, space, dysphoria, migration
National Category
Specific Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-767ISBN: 91-85059-18-8OAI: diva2:198806
Public defence
2006-01-12, hörsal 5, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 14:00
Available from: 2005-12-15 Created: 2005-12-15Bibliographically approved

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