Academic journal article Comparative Drama

Mapping Jouissance: Insights from a Case Study in the Schizophrenia of Canadian Drama

Academic journal article Comparative Drama

Mapping Jouissance: Insights from a Case Study in the Schizophrenia of Canadian Drama

Article excerpt

To read is to compare.--George Steiner, What Is Comparative Literature?

In The Map and the Garden, John Vernon identifies two forms of schizophrenia that together frame the most common features of twentieth-century literature and culture: one the alienation of division, compartmentalization, separation (the map); the other, the absence of distinctions, the compulsion to see the world as inseparable, natural, erotic, and always whole (the garden). (1) Vernon's contrast of "map" and "garden" shows a striking potential to absorb various contrastive analyses of English Canadian and Quebecois literatures, including the double-axis hypothesis highlighted by Jean-Charles Falardeau (1959) in which English Canadian literature is seen to operate on a horizontal axis (individuals in relation to each other and society) in contrast to the vertical axis (of man in relation to the cosmos) of Quebecois writing; (2) Clara Thomas's characterization of English Canadian literature as masculine, linear, and Protestant formed under the image of Robinson Crusoe in opposition to the cyclical, feminine, and Catholic perspectives of a French Canadian writing dominated by the fable of the "Precious Kingdom" (1972); (3) Philip Stratford's stylistic analysis of the typical Canadian novel as outward looking and preoccupied with realism and historical perspective in contrast to the inward looking, subjective, and deeply coded roman quebecois (1986); (4) and McLuhanesque speculations on English Canadian literate/visual stylistics cast in relief against Quebecois orality (1990). (5) The map/garden axis also seems receptive to Sylvia Soderlind's "at-homedness" thesis, which contrasts the "absolute, almost sacred, identity between name and thing, language and territory" in the Quebecois novel in contrast to the English Canadian novel in which "language becomes a plastic, though tough and resistant material" that is separable from the territory it un-names and names. (6) Noticeably, studies of the novel have dominated comparative studies of English Canadian and Quebecois literatures. (7)

In addition to the numerous, most obvious reasons why there has been a paucity of research comparing English Canadian and Quebecois drama--the language barrier, the dominance of novel and film, lack of awareness of Canadian theater--we can add the opposition of postmodern criticism to generalization (as risking totalization or essentialism) and to binary analyses (as rigid, biased, and exclusionary). Vernon's schizophrenias of map and garden resist the tendency to exclude difference and alterity or to privilege a centrist or structuralist tradition. Relative to the garden, the map is a minor form, but Anglo-American societies happen to perceive it as dominant and central. Binary contrasts of English Canada and Quebec seem typically to apply the privileged signifiers of traditional Western culture (and the map) to English Canada--masculine over feminine, realist over religious, objective over subjective, individualistic over collective--but in Vernon's analysis, garden and map are not opposites, are not mutually exclusive, because the garden includes and infuses all, including the map.

Though Vernon bases The Garden and the Map on the work of novelist William Burroughs and poet Theodore Roethke, both of whom have been diagnosed as schizophrenic, the playwrights whose work I wish to consider--David Fennario and Michel Tremblay--strike me as models of mental health. What I wish to isolate in this comparison are differences of style, at once the most pervasive and the most inscrutable element of any writer's work. At the same time, I take to heart Raymond Williams's claim concerning sociocultural change that "the actual alternative to the received and produced fixed forms is not silence: not the absence, the unconscious, which bourgeois culture has mythicized.... What really changes is something quite general, over a wide range, and the description that often fits the change best is the literary term `style'. …

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