Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Dubbing/doubling Virtual Desire: Désir Virtuel Doublé and Nicole Brossard's Baroque D'aube

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Dubbing/doubling Virtual Desire: Désir Virtuel Doublé and Nicole Brossard's Baroque D'aube

Article excerpt


At my Aunty Mari's funeral, all the women wore a piece of her jewellery: everywhere in the room, rings, necklaces, and bracelets sparkled ferociously. When my Gran died, we put on our brightest lipstick and stepped into the turquoise of a sunny September day.1

D'abord l'aube. Puis la femme avait joui' (Brossard 1995: 13).2 Baroque d'aube opens with the orgasm of a young woman nicknamed la Sixtine, with whom Cybil Noland, a writer, is having sex in a hotel room. The woman's orgasm at daybreak takes her and her female partner 'ailleurs' (elsewhere) (p. 14); beyond or outside of the violence of the North American city in which they are staying, and to a virtual gigantism that is likened to a coming together with 'la mer' (the sea) and 'la mère' (the mother).3 Lesbian desire, the position of women within patriarchal culture and society, translation, and feminist aesthetics are central themes in the work of Nicole Brossard, who is one of Québec's leading proponents of l'écriture au féminin. As its name suggests, l'écriture au féminin is informed by l'écriture féminine, particularly Hélène Cixous's concept of writing the body, and Luce Irigaray's deconstructive strategies for disrupting what she terms phallogocentric discourse (Gould 1990). However, whereas l'écriture féminine can potentially be practised by a male, since it is a question of positionality in relation to discourse, l'écriture au féminin is closely connected with women's lived experiences. In this way, it retains an emphasis on the female body that is found in the work of us feminists such as Adrienne Rich and Mary Daly. In Baroque d'aube Brossard engages, in part, in an archaeology of her earlier work, positioning this in relation to a wider literary genealogy that includes Anne Hébert, Luce Irigaray and Roland Barthes. This literary genealogy is paralleled with other kinds of genealogies around the linguistic, the aesthetic, the familial and the national. Most important of these, but intersecting with them, is a feminine genealogy that, along with lesbian desire, allows for the emergence of a utopian virtuality produced by collaboration between women. This virtual model of femininity is capable of challenging what is figured as the equally virtual situation of women in a destructive reality defined by masculinist discourse.

Doubler: to double (the amount, size etc.); to line (coat, etc.); Cin to dub (a film); Cin to stand in for (s.o.); F to double-cross (s.o.)4

Double identité(s) double(s)/(és)/Double/dubbed identity(/ies)

As Alice A. Parker points out, there is a good deal of doubling in Baroque d'aube (Parker 2001). The opening section of Brossard's novel, entitled 'Hôtel Rafale', turns out to be a part of a work of fiction which Cybil Noland, an English novelist, began during a trip to Los Angeles. In the following sections, Cybil remains preoccupied by this text, in part because of her decision to give her character the same name as herself.5 Besides Cybil and her protagonist, other figures in the text include: Nicole Brossard, who appears at several points as an English novelist, and who is also, therefore, Cybil's double; la Sixtine; and the oceanographer, Occident DesRives, who asks Cybil, along with photographer Irène Mage, to work on a collaborative project on the sea.6

The question of a 'double identité' ('double identity') is explicitly invoked in the final section of Baroque d'aube, entitled, 'Un seul corps pour comparer' ('One single body for comparison') (p. 210, 206). Promoting the French translation of her book in Montreal, Cybil is described as having a double identity by her Québécois readership. This is because her father has an English background whilst her mother's background is French. In this respect, la Sixtine can be seen as a semi-autobiographical creation of Cybil's. She has a similar genealogy, since her grandmother is described as having come from Texas, and her grandfather from Quebec. …

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