Perspectives Critiques Dan Des Productions Litteraires Migrantes Au Feminin, Au Quebec et Au Canada

By Verduyn, Christl | Journal of Canadian Studies, Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

Perspectives Critiques Dan Des Productions Litteraires Migrantes Au Feminin, Au Quebec et Au Canada


Verduyn, Christl, Journal of Canadian Studies


Perspectives critiques dans des productions litteraires migrantes au feminin, au Quebec et au Canada

CHRISTL VERDUYN

Through illustration of work by authors Andree Dahan, Mona Ltaif Ghattas and Nadine Ltaif, the essay shows how writing by women of ethnic or racial minority identification in Quebec effects political and social critique in ways similar to that which can in observed in texts by women of ethnic/racial minority identification in English Canada. Appearances to the contrary derive from the differing contexts of production - Quebec and English Canada.

This essay emerges from my ongoing study of writing by women in Quebec and English Canada. In recent years, my focus has been on work by writers of racial or ethnic minority group identification. Here terminology is problematic, as noted in essay throughout this volume, but broadly speaking I am referring to writing by women whose identification - imposed or chosen - is with groups having minority status on the basis of race or ethnicity. The matter of choice, and the categories "race," "ethnicity," minority status, gender and class, all raise questions about the locations from which they are perceived. In this essay, I write as a reader of Quebec literature living outside the province, whose (North European) immigrant family experience did not include many of the realities recounted in the literature under study here, though it helped sensitize me to their significance. Writers of "minority" identification have been producing work that poses many challenges and questions. The issue that interests me here is an apparent difference in what I shall term "political edge" in two bodies of work, one written in French, the other in English.

From its headwaters in the politically inspired writing of Quebec's Revolution tranquille in the 1960s, through its interaction with French feminist writing of the 1970s, the work of Quebec women writers has manifested a political edge which has not been as striking in the work of colleagues in English Canada. This is not to suggest English Canadian women's writing is devoid of social critique and political protest! But texts such as Michele Lalonde's Speak White (1974), Louky Bersianik's The Euguelionne (1976), Nicole Brossard's L'Amer, ou le chapitre effrite (1977), and France Theoret's Bloody Mary (1977) - to name these - enjoined readers toward social engagement and political commentary. This project had impact for English Canadian writers such as Daphne Marlatt and Gail Scott, who engaged in dialogue with Quebec women writers. In the late 1980s and early 1990s in English Canada authors such as M. Nourbese Philip, Dionne Brand, Himani Bannerji and Lee Maracle - again, to name only a few - drew readers' attention with sharp - edged, politically provocative works. Not only did they deal with issues of gender within Canadian experience, they articulated the need for attention to considerations of race or ethnicity as well as to class and gender.

The first part of the essay offers sample works as a foundation for the question that I wish to probe further: is there an equivalent body of work amongst women writers of racial or ethnic minority identification in Quebec? And if so, what is it political character? This will be the focus of the second part of the essay. A third and final section will consider very briefly some sociopolitical factors which may underlie these literary observations.

I

That language and representation are not neutral, but rather the site where social and political meanings are produced, as well as vehicles for the ideologies behind these meanings, has been the insight of contemporary linguistics and cultural movements such as feminism, postmodernism and postcolonialism. Writers such as Brand, Bannerji, Philip and Maracle consciously locate their work at the inter - section of language and society. They take up the struggle over meaning and representation, and their work has the potential to disrupt the ideologies that dominate contemporary society in Canada as elsewhere. …

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