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Aesthetic violence : the victimisation of women in the Quebec novel Tilley, Jane Lucinda 1995-12-31

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AESTHETIC VIOLENCE: THE VICTIMISATION OF WOMENIN THE QUEBEC NOVELbyJANE LUCINDA TILLEYB.A.(Hons), The University of Southampton, U.K., 1987M.A., The University of British Columbia, 1989A THESIS SUBMITI’ED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFDOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Department of French)We accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAJune 1995Jane Lucinda Tilley, 1995In presenting this thesis in partialfulfilment of the requirementsfor an advanceddegree at the University of Bntish Columbia,I agree thatthe Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study.I further agree thatpermission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposesmay be granted by the headof mydepartment or by his or her representatives.It is understood thatcopying orpublication of this thesis for financial gainshall not be allowedwithout my writtenpermission.Department of___________The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate 22‘((c/s_(Signature)DE-6 (2188)11AbstractThe latent (androcentric) eroticism of rape has been exploited in Western culture,from mythology through to a contemporary entertainment industry founded on a culturalpredilection for the representation of violence against women. In literature the figure ofWoman as Victim has evolved according to shifting fashions and (male) desires until, incontemporary avant-garde writings, themes of sexual violence perform an intrinsic role insophisticated textual praxis, Woman’s body becoming the playground for male artisticexpression and textual experimentation. These themes are encoded in particular ways inQuébec literature, where for many years the saintly Mother-figure served as bothvalorising icon and sacrificial victim of the conservative, messianic refuge values adoptedfollowing colonisation. The tacit matricide of the ideological literature is replaced,however, in the textually and linguistically subversive novels of the “quiet revolutionary”period by more explicit patterns of violence. Here, in place of quietly fading Mothers,female characters die screaming, victims of overt, sexual abuse at the hands of their malecounterparts. Now frequently presented as voracious, oppressive and castrating, Womanmust be destroyed if the “emasculated”, colonised male is to be liberated and become a“Man” once again.The relationship between colonisation and (sexual) violence is explicitly addressedin three novels of the period. Victor-Levy Beaulieu’s Un rêve québécois offers a modelfor the study of this connection, as the “shattering” of the text is reflected in the frenzy of111frustration and sadistic (fantasised) violence directed at the unsympathetic, provocativewife of a colonised protagonist. Hubert Aquin’s L’Antiphonaire expands on thetextual/sexual parallel, eroding the distinction between the body of the femaleprotagonist/narrator and “her” text, as both are subject to repeated “violations”. Bothnovels subvert “realist” conceptualisations of time, identity, order etc., but rely on thecontinued and graphic victimisation of Woman to convey both a political and anaesthetic message. Marie-Claire Blais’s Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel, subverts theroman de la terre, exposing its ideology as the perpetuation of a cycle of implicit violenceand victimisation, in which the ostensibly powerful and valorising Mother is the primaryvictim.ivTABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract iiTable of Contents ivAcknowledgement vIntroduction 1Chapter 1 The Aesthetics of Rape: Literatureand Violence 16Chapter 2 The Reign of the Mother: Violencein the Québec Novel 52Chapter 3 Un rêve guébécois: The Eroticisation ofViolence 94Chapter 4 L’Antiphonaire: A Literary/Literal Striptease 138Chapter 5 Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel:Hereditary Victimisation 192Conclusion233Bibliography 241VAcknowledgementThe choice of violence against women and misogyny in the literature of Québecas a topic for a doctoral thesis by someone originally from England, studying in BritishColumbia, might appear out of place, “invasive”, even hostile. This was certainly not myintention. Québec literature and culture have fascinated me since, while working inQuébec City in 1985-86, I read Jean-Charles Harvey’s Les Demi-Civilisés, LouisHémon’s Maria Chapdelaine and Gabrielle Roy’s Bonheur d’Occasion. The contrastsand contradictions within these three texts convinced me of a rich and complex cultureand history of which I wanted to know more. Since that time, my research in thisparticular field has gone hand in hand with a growing feminist consciousness. Thephenomenon of repeated sexual violence against women, evident in so many of the morerecent novels from Québec could therefore not pass unremarked. This phenomenon isnot however unique to Québec, although there are particular characteristics and “causes”(not extenuating circumstances); I have taken pains to draw the reader’s attention to thisfact.I have been extremely fortunate in my committee. I would like to thank Dr.Réjean Beaudoin for sharing his considerable knowledge and insight, and for theencouragement offered over the years. Dr. André Lamontagne and Dr. Valerie Raoulhave also provided invaluable contributions, both academic and personal, to this study,for which I am very grateful.I would also like to thank Pete for his constant support and friendship - and forshowing that there is light in the darkness.This thesis is dedicated to my parents, Angela and Mark and to my grandfather,Eric Middleton.Introduction12Novels written inQuébec in the 1960’s and 70’s are strewn withthe corpses,mutilations and abuse of female characters,most often at the hands of theirmalecounterparts. Agaguk beats his wifeas she gives birth, and Milien(one of Les Grandspères) kicks his dying wife.Jos Connaissant breaks his lover’s nose,while FrançoisGalarneau jokes about having his girlfriendstuffed, and the narrator ofLa Corde au coumurders his mistress because shehas been unfaithful. In Le Nez guivogue, Chateauguékills herself, once her male friend has nofurther use for her,as does Christine Forestierof L’Antiphonaire, having suffered multiplerapes and mental abuseat the hands ofevery man she meets.This pattern builds on an earliersystem of violence which PatriciaSmart hasidentified as a “foundation” of matricide,upon which the edifice ofFrench-Canadianliterature is constructed’. There isa marked difference, however,between this almosttacit matricide and the later phase of violence2.The deaths of women in earliertextsare primarily the result of naturalcauses, brought about by the harshnessof their lives.These women, the highly prized and idealisedMothers of the ideological romande laPatricia Smart, Ecrire dans lamaison du père: l’émergencedu fémiriln dans latradition littéraire du québec (Montréal,Quebec/Amérique, 1990).2This development is noted in Smart,Ecrire dans la maisondu père, and in LoriSaint-Martin’s article “Mise amort de la femme et “libération’de l’homme: Godbout,Aguin, Beaulieu”, Voix et Images 10.1(automne 1984) 107-117 andalso in ValerieRaoul’s study, Distinctly Narcissistic:Diary Fiction in Ouébec, (Toronto,University ofToronto Press, 1993).3terre, are either dead beforethe story begins or disappear intosilence, their memoryhanging like a shadow over the text.The deliberate and often graphicbrutality of thelater novels is unheard of unimaginablein the promised landof snow, agriculture andRoman Catholicism.The increased violence of theliterature of the 1960’s correspondswith anassertive “prise de parole”by the Québécois, tired of thecolonial rule under which theyhad been suffocated for twocenturies, deprived of thepower of self-determination,alienated from their origins andrendered ineffective.Under such conditions, thefrustrations of men - denied their“birthright” of power anda superior status withinpatriarchal society - turn intoa misogynous and often violentresentment and envyofwomen who appear relatively morepowerful under colonial rule3.Although colonisedthemselves, Québec women’ssituation (like that of anycolonised women) maynot be asradically different from their expectedor prescribed stereotypicalsocial role as that ofcolonised men. Women havealways been “colonised”, inas much as they havebeendeprived of the right to an identityof their own. Definedin relation to men (theirfathers or husbands andin either case their “proprietors”),women have traditionallybeentreated as objects of exchange- “le bien par excellence”or “le supreme cadeau”4- in the“hommo-sexual economy”5that is patriarchy.Functioning as Man’sother, the objectRaoul, 37.‘Claude Levi-Strauss, Les Structuresélémentaires de la parenté(Paris, MoutonMaison des sciences de l’homme,1967) 73 and 76 respectively.Irigaray, “Des Marchandisesentre elles”, Spéculumde l’autre femme (Paris, Minuit,1977) 189-193.4which guarantees his statusas full subject, the mirrorwhich reflects the imagehe wishesto see of himself, Woman is whatMan desires herto be, an unstable, culturaland socialconstruct, fashioned from certain(obviously essential) anatomicalcharacteristics,according to man’s need6.Indeed, according to the variousdiscourses whichuphold theLaw of the Father and are fundamentalto male-dominated culture7,women are weak,prone to madness, inherentlyevil and sexually insatiable,and at the same time,vulnerable, ideally delicate,graceful and preferably silent- conflicting “facts” whichhaveserved as justification preciselyfor the (often violent)control or “protection”exerted overwomen.It seems “natural” in someway then, that the frustrationsof the colonised male(or perhaps any male whoconsiders himself deprivedof his rightful privilege)should betaken out on the bodies of women,for within Western cultureWoman is perceivedasthe “consummate victim”.Based, perhaps, ona certain timeless perceptionof the femalebody and femininity (as Aristotleso succinctly put it, “thefemale is femaleby virtue of acertain lack of qualities”8)the“second sex” is an apparentlymutilated creature, her6Toni Moi, Sexual/TextualPolitics: Feminist LiteraryTheory (London andNewYork, Methuen, 1985),28. Diana Fuss considersthe essentialist/constructionistdichotomy in her study EssentiallySpeaking: Feminism.Nature and Difference(NewYork and London, Routiedge,1989). See also Simonede Beauvoir, Le DeuxièmeSexe(Paris, Gallimard, 1949). Thecapitalisation throughoutthis study of the wordWomanserves to indicate her statusas an aesthetic, political, stylisedand gendered construct,asdistinct from any flesh and bloodwoman or women.As Simone de Beauvoirwrote in Le Deuxième Sexe:“Pour prouverl’inférionité dela femme, les antiféministesont alors mis a contributionnon seulement commenaguerela religion, la philosophie, Ia théologiemais aussi Ia science:biologie, psychologieexpérimentale etc” (1.24).8Aristotle, quoted in Beauvoir,1.xxii.5inferior social status justifiedprecisely by the perceived “lack” (or“Ce rien a voir”, asLuce Irigaray describes it9) whichmakes woman essentially and inherently“less than aman”. In addition, however, AngelaCarter suggests that:Female castration is an imaginaryfact that pervades the wholeof men’sattitudes to women and our attitudeto ourselves, that transforms womenfrom human beings into woundedCreatures who were bornto bleed10.The concept of female castrationtherefore appears to normalisewoman’s status asvictim, her “bleeding” indeeda natural and continuous state, merelyreiterated orexaggerated by sexual violence. Thisbelief in the appropriatenessof women’svictimisation has in turn ledto a “myth of female masochism”,which suggests thatwomen are inherently masochistic, andthat they seek out and enjoy theviolence inflictedupon them: this myth is furtherused to justify male violenceagainst women1’.The possession of the penis meanwhileguarantees a position of privilegewithinthe post-Oedipal and masculinesystem of the Symbolic order oflaw and language,entryinto which is signified in Lacanianpsychoanalytic theory by the Phallus’2;while this is aIrigaray, Spéculum de l’autre femme(Pans, Minuit, 1974) 25.Quoted in Toril Moi,135.10Carter, The Sadeian Woman andthe Ideology of Pornography (NewYork,Pantheon, 1978) 23.Paula J. Caplan refutes this myth(identified by Freud) in herstudy The Myth ofWomen’s Masochism (New York,New American Library-Signet,1987). See also JulietMitchell, Psychoanalysis andFeminism: Freud. Reich. Laingand Women (New York,Vintage-Random House, 1975).12Luce Irigaray considers the possibilityof a feminine Symbolic signifiedby the vulvaor lips in her text Ce Sexe gui n’enest pas un (Paris, Minuit, 1977).See also MargaretWhitford, Luce Irigaray: Philosophy inthe Feminine (London andNew York, Routledge,1991).6symbol, distinct from the physical penis, it is a symbol which, nonetheless,in its inherentmasculinity, serves to ensure both a (hyper-) valorisation of the organ,and thereinforcement of the female’s status as marginalised or as “margin”13.Indeed,it seemswomen’s exclusion is necessary to the validation of a binary system ofdominator anddominated, such as phallocentrism - the dominator after all, can onlyso call himself aslong as his “subordinate” exists - while the same dichotomy applies in theparallel binarysystem of coloniser and colonised, as Valerie Raoul has indicated inDistinctlyNarcissistic’4.In addition, however, it seems that Woman’s specific and negativestatus isencoded in the evolution and definition of masculinity itself. Accordingto ElisabethBadinter, the male child claims his identity in the acknowledgement ofhis separation anddifference from his mother - an acknowledgement which takes the form of thetripleprotest: “Je ne suis pas elle. Je ne suis pas comme elle. Je suis contre elle”5,whileRobert Stoller adds that “le premier devoir pour un homme est: nepas être unefemme”16.Masculinity would therefore seem to depend on the negation (ortheFemale “penis envy” can thus be seen in terms of the desire to possess notthepenis itself but the position of privilege which generally accompanies itspossession.Arthur Brittan, Masculinity and Power (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1989) 72,quoted inBadinter, XY: de l’identité masculine (Paris, Editions OdileJacob, 1992), 207. WilliamBeers also comments on this point in Women and Sacrifice: Male Narcissismand thePsychology of Religion (Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1992), 76. I willdiscussthe concept of woman as “margin” in Derridean terms in chapter1.14Raoul, 38.Badinter, 92.16Stoller, Masculin ou féminin (Paris, PUF, 1989) 310-311. Quoted in Badinter, XY,72.7“abjection”, to use Julia Kristeva’s term) first of the mother and later ofwomen ingeneral, or the mother substitute’7.Biological femaleness and femininity’8(which, inthe child’s limited experience are embodied in the mother) are taintedby theirassociation with castration and victimisation, and, as such, are something manmustconstantly reject in order to be, to attain and retain his full subjectivityand privilege.Violence (whether physical or mental), is botha material manifestation of thatprocess of negation and control, and a means of narcissistic self-affirmationand self-validation. As Simone de Beauvoir states: “la violenceest l’épreuve authentique del’adhésion de chacun a lui-même”19.Paradoxically, however, the veryuse of violencewould seem to suggest that the potency (sexual, physical or other)it purports to expressor reinforce is threatened in some way; Hannah Arendtsuggests as much when she says“force is only used when power is in jeopardy”2°,while Beauvoir commentsthat “nuln’est plus arrogant a l’égard des femmes, agressif ou dedaigneux, qu’unhomme inquietKristeva discusses this concept in Pouvoirs de l’horreur: essai surl’abjection, (Paris,Seuil, 1980). The supreme significance of the Mother inthe literature ofQuébec will beconsidered in chapter 2 and onwards.18The two concepts are not synonymous: femaleness isgenerally consideredbiological or innate, femininity a construct. See, among others, SusanBrownmiller,Femininity (New York, Linden Press/Simon and Schuster, 1984), Naomi WolfThBeauty Myth (Toronto, Vintage, 1990) and Beauvoir. However, this distinctionand thebiological definition of gender on which it rests have also beenquestioned. See ThomasW. Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeksto Freud (Cambridge, MA.and London, Harvard University Press, 1990) for astudy of the historical evolution ofthe definition of gender.19Beauvoir, 2.83.20Quoted in Rosalind Miles, Love. Sex. Death and the Making of the Male (NewYork and London: Summit Books, 1991) 231.8de sa virilité”21.It is in order to assert that virility and simultaneously to disassociatehimself from any taint of femininity, that man victimises woman, because to be female(or feminine) is to be “less than a man” and therefore a legitimate or an inherent andasupposedly willing victim.The gender-specificity of the Victim and the power-balance it underlines arereiterated in the many representations of violence against women in Western art andculture. From the many tales of rape and mutilation of early mythology,to acontemporary mass-entertainment industry effectively founded on the exploitationofimages of violence and rape, the ghostly, martyred figure of “Woman as Victim” hasreigned omnipresent - a menacing reminder of women’s precarious reality within thepatriarchal order. The repeated portrayal of women as victims of violence servesas aform of indoctrination to perpetuate this balance, so that the myth of women’sstatus asinherent victims, as well as the justice of that status, become somehow “appropriate”.Italso desensitises the spectator to the impact of horror and renders it lessabnormal, ifnot less repellent22;Brian de Palma sums up the way in which sexual violence hasbecome almost banal when he comments: “using women in situations where theyarekilled or sexually attacked” is simply a “genre convention...like using violins whenpeople21Beauvoir, Le Deuxième Sexe, 1,26.22Studying the reactions of male and female viewers of violence, Tania Modleskiargues that women are more likely than men to look away on witnessing violentscenesin film because they are so accustomed to identifying with the (usually female orfeminised) victim. She suggests that women have just cause to feel fear because thesituation could realistically happen to them. “Rape versus Mans/laughter: Hitchcock’sBlackmail and Feminist Interpretation,” PMLA 102-3 (May 1987): 304-315.9look at each other”. Evidently this touches on the wide debates surroundingpornography and whether indeed Art shapes Reality or vice versa - both of whichhavealready received much attention, and remain highly controversial. Sufficeit to say at thispoint, that as long as Art (high and low) continues to reflect the patriarchal orderof theWestern world, to stereotype, belittle and victimize women, or eliminate thosewho donot meet the high male-defined standards of perfection, reality willbe slow to escape itsrepresentation. As Simone de Beauvoir writes,quand un individu ou un groupe d’individus est maintenu en situationd’infériorité, le fait est qu’il est inférieur; mais c’est sur la portee du motêtre qu’il faudrait s’entendre; la mauvaise foi consiste a lui donner unevaleur substantielle alors qu’il a le sens dynamique hegelien; êtrec’est êtredevenu, c’est avoir été fait tel qu’on se manifeste.The present study is concerned with the representation of violence and,specifically, the representation of the victimisation of women in literature. Myinterestlies in the way violence against women has become not only “run-of-the-mill”,in as muchas it is ubiquitous, but also the way in which such violence is so frequentlyeroticised;indeed, Anne-Marie Dardigna has stated that ‘la representation érotique...estrepresentation douloureuse et violente de la soumission des femmes...”, indicatingan23Quoted by Marcia Pally, in “Double Trouble”, Film Comment 20.5 (Oct. 1984) 12-17, 17. Cited also in Jane Caputi, The Age of Sex Crime (Bowling Green,Ohio, BowlingGreen State University Popular Press, 1987) 160.‘ Beauvoir, 1.25 (original emphasis), citing George Bernard Shaw.Defined by thosewho wield power, it would seem that Woman is inferior to man and she requires,deseniesand desires violent masculine control and abuse. This recalls the myth of women’smasochism cited earlier.Dardigna, Les Châteaux d’Eros ou les infortunes du sexe des femmes (Paris,Maspéro, 1980) 314.10apparently inherent parallel between the two. I will attempt to show how Womanhasbecome an aestheticised image within literature, as in other representations; her realityevacuated, her victimisation is naturalised and encoded or even “absorbed” into anandrocentric cultural discourse in which there is an apparent synonymity between thesignifiers Woman and Victim, becoming finally a strategic element particularlyof avant-garde writings. It is in this sense that I have taken the term “aesthetics”, withreference tothe way in which Woman has been recreated as the fictionalised and fetichised symbolofa (necessarily political) system.The focus of this study will be on the systemic violence portrayed in theliteratureof Québec, which incorporates many of the typical characteristics of the political andaesthetic discourse of violence and so serves as a microcosm ofa broader culturalphenomenon. In addition, however, it has the added dimension of beinga cultureundergoing the painful process of “decolonisation”. It is therefore necessaryto considerfirst the representation of violence in a “normative”, that is to say an uncolonised culture,to serve as a form of “control”; for, while the gender-balance within a colonised societymay be “disfunctional” in many ways, the phenomenon of (and fascination with) violenceagainst women is in no way restricted to colonised societies or to periods of politicalunrest such as took place in the 1960’s and 70’s inQuébec (although it is of course anintrinsically political issue). In other words, decolonisation alone (while a highlysignificant factor in the shaping and frequency of violence in theQuébec novel) is notAs John J. Clayton has stated: “Aestheticization involves the imposition oftotalitarian order on the world”. “Main Robbe-Grillet: The Aesthetics of SadoMasochism”, Massachusetts Review 18 (1977) 106-119, 119.11sufficient to explain the choice of Woman as victim and scapegoat, nordoes it explainwhy that choice appears so natural as to have passed uiiremarked, criticsfocussing ratheron the nationalist debate for which Woman’s death isa mere symbol or premise.While there have been recent, notable studies of the violence in theQuébecnovel, they have tended to consider it almost as an isolated phenomenon,culturallyspecific, rather than an “idiosyncratic” variant of a broader, inter-culturaltheme. This isin spite of Patricia Smart’s observation of the Oedipal trianglein many novels of thetime (in Ecrire dans la maison du père), and Lori Saint-Martin’s adoptionof Anne-Marie Dardigna’s schema of the French erotic novel; the question why thelatter systemshould fit so perfectly within theQuébec context does not seem to have been addressed.The exception is Valerie Raoul’s study, which does consider violence as atrans-culturalphenomenon, but which focusses on (post-)colonial systems.My first chapter serves as a reference point and broader cultural contextfor theensuing study of the Québec novel, considering first the representation ofWoman inEuropean (i.e. French and English) literature, being the dominant culturalcontext andheritage of the Québécois; although the French Canadians wereofficially denied accessto much contemporary European literature by Church censorship, such texts were infactavailable illegally, and certainly by the time of theQuébécois authors whom I shall bediscussing, they were both readily available and highly influential27.Thischapter traces27The relationship between the French Surrealists and the automatist artistsandwriters of Refus Global, for instance, is well documented. Both Victor-LevyBeaulieuand Hubert Aquin were admirers of Sade, while the wealth and variety ofintertextualreferences in the works of both writers demonstrate a knowledge of an extremely broadrange of literature. Intertextual references in Marie-Claire Blais’s novel meanwhile12the establishment and development of Woman’s pre-definition andconstruction asVictim throughout certain key periods in the evolution of the novel, focussingon theexperience of rape, an act of specifically sexual and gendered violence. Itattempts toshow how that portrayal has been adapted or “re-coded” accordingto contemporaryideologies. Ultimately, it considers how Woman, as a social and culturalconstruct, hasbecome synonymous with text; her body appropriated, she has become anintellectualplayground, and the representation of eroticised violence against her, a markof textualand artistic sophistication.Chapter 2 considers the parallel, although perhaps more accelerated, developmentof the portrayal of Woman in the novel fromQuébec. It traces the reign of the Motherfrom her “coronation” in the early days of the roman de la terre throughto her repeated“assassination” in the 1960’s and 70’s - a period which corresponds withboth the politicalviolence of the Revolution tranquille and the literary revolution associatedwith theQuébec Modernist period, itself necessarily effected by the linguistic debate of the time.It thereby charts the development of the female character inQuébec literature inconjunction with the evolution of the novel inQuébec.Within this context, the following chapters offer close readings of theviolence -both textual and physical - effected in three novels by contemporarywriters in Québec.Chapter 3 considers Victor-Levy Beaulieu’s Un rêve guébécois which, whilenotconsidered his most successful novel, shares a number of elements commonto hisindicate a familiarity with French Romantic poetry, Rimbaud, in particular, (andthroughhim, Lautréamont and ultimately Sade), among other sources.13oeuvre: the seemingly impotent hero, the sexual obsessions and the importance oftradition, as well as the challenge to traditional narrative strategy and form. It also,significantly, associates itself with the violent events of the “crise d’octobre”. Thestudy ofthis text will establish the relationship between the violence of the revolutionary timeand the violence within the text, in many ways exemplary of a trend inQuébécoisliterature at this time; Un rêve guebecois could well serve as a model for the patternsofgender disfunctionality and violence evident in so many texts. It will focus on thefunction of violence directed at its heroine, Jeanne D’Arc - victim of dismembermentand necrophilia - considering, specifically, the eroticisation of this violence, a trend ascommon to this period as it was to writers of the nouveau roman in France and theModernists in England, influenced by the works of Bataille and Sade.Chapter 4 will examine Hubert Aquin’s L’Antiphonaire which exploits fully theparallel between textual and sexual violence, again, typical both of Aquin’s writingand ofthis period of change. Existing studies have tended to focus on textual strategies andtoignore the sexual violence so essential to them. I will consider the relationship betweenthe two modes of violence, as well as the implications of the eroticisation of physicalviolence, while attempting to gauge to what extent this combination of narrativestrategies offered a release from the (post-)colonial status of theQuébécois and pavedthe way for a cultural specificity. I will also consider the deliberate ambiguity of the textwhich teeters on a dichotomy of misogyny and feminism, as the female narrator-protagonist is seen as complicitous in her own victimisation.14My final chapter examines Marie-Claire Blais’s Une saison dans la vied’Emmanuel. Although it is not my intention to attempt generalisations regarding maleand female representations of violence, Blais’s novel offers an interestingcontrast to theother texts discussed, in its choice of victims and their sufferings and itschoice of textualstrategy; it refuses the graphic sexual abuse of the other two novels, andyet is stillconsidered one of the darkest novels written at the time inQuébec. Presenting analternative perspective ofQuébec reality, the novel subverts the textual and culturalstandard of the roman de la terre, sets up its own reincarnation of the Motherandexposes a vicious circle of hereditary (ideological) violence.I have drawn from diverse critical approaches - feminist and other- includingSusan Rubin Suleiman’s Subversive Intent, for its feminist insights intoFrench avant-garde writings, and Nancy K. Miller’s The Heroine’s Text, for her commentson therepresentation of the eighteenth-century fictional heroine. For theQuébec corpus,Valerie Raoul’s psychoanalytical study of gender and ethnicity within diaryfiction of theperiod, with its focus on the effects of colonisation (Distinctly Narcissistic) andPatriciaSmart’s study Ecrire dans la maison du père, along with her various articles,have provedinvaluable. Feminist studies on violence, including Susan Browmmiller’s AgainstOurSuleiman, Subversive Intent: Gender. Politics and the Avant-Garde (Cambridge,MA. and London, Harvard University Press, 1990).Miller, The Heroine’s Text: Readings in the French and English Novel 1722-1782(New York, Columbia University Press, 1980).15Wili3,Andrea Dworkin’s Pornograph9’ and Jane Caputi’s The Age of Sex Crimewere critical preparatory reading for this project.°Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men. Women and Rape (New York, BantamBooks, 1976).31Dworkin, Pornography: Men Possessing Women (New York, Putnam, 1981).16Chapter OneThe Aesthetics of Rape: Literature and Violence17Rape has been an important theme or motif throughout Western culture.Perhapssince the moment when man first celebrated his superior physical strengthover anunwilling female, the act of rape has caught the imagination of artists andwriters andhas been equally readily received by the consumers of their art, becominga “major box-office seller”. Perception of the act of rape has shifted throughout theyears; it has beenseen variously as an act which precipitates love and offers mutual satisfaction,or as anact of love in itself. It has also been seen as an expression of hatred and has oftenbeentreated with hilarity - conflicting attitudes which are still apparent today.Increasingly,however, rape is more commonly seen as an act of aggression committedprimarily bymen against women, as an act of domination rather than of sexual desire,an expressionof underlying frustration and powerlessness and an attemptto “regain” or re-establishman’s supposedly inherent or justified superiority over women through a violentlydegrading act. With this in mind, the status or role of rape in art is becomingincreasingly controversial, as the reality of rape collides with its aestheticrepresentationsas glamorized or romanticized. It has been fictionalized - one could evensay, divorcedfrom reality - through a constant reworking and rewritingof the codes and discourseswhich make up a society and its culture and which govern the creation andinterpretationof literature and art. The theme or motif of rape has been worked into our culturalcodes in such a way that it has become one of the many related discourses which18constitute language and culture1.It is a highly charged discourse, sometimes extremelysubtle - even seductive - and sometimes brutal in its enunciation, and yet it remainsafundamentally masculine discourse, in which the feminine plays the essential, eternal andexternal role of object, before an ever masculine subject2.This examination of the representation of violence against women in literaturewill necessarily focus largely on rape. I will begin by considering the literaryuses of rapeas a theme and cautionary device and, in what is perhaps a more recent development,asa structural element, in the literature of Europe, in order to provide a background andcontext for the ensuing study of violence in the literature ofQuébec. I will take intoaccount the transformation of rape, a violent physical and sexual act, intoa literarydiscourse often used as a metonymic or symbolic device; this shift in levels takesplacethrough the fictional narrative and produces certain effects on the reader. For themoment I will concentrate on examples of works of literature involving violencewrittenby male authors, leaving comments on the representation of violence in women’s writinguntil a later stage in the discussion. By first examining a wider cultural tradition,basedon the dominant French and English cultural heritage and influence ofQuébécoiswriters, it will be possible to situate the depiction of violence against women in theQuébec novel in its context. The idiosyncrasies or specificities of those novels written in1Sherrill Grace has referred to the cultural discourse of violence as a discourse of“Bodily Harm”, after Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name.2As I mentioned elsewhere, in this study the terms masculine and feminine maybeseen as generally convergent with the terms male and female, but the set ofcharacteristics traditionally seen as “male” and “female” or “masculine” and “feminine” aregender constructs rather than inherent qualities biologically determined by sex.19a period of (de)colonisation, will become apparent. Given the multiplicity of incidencesand re-writings of the act of rape in literature, an extensive diachronic study of thesubject would certainly go beyond the confines of this research project: I will focusinstead on a few specific examples - coinciding with significant stages in thedevelopmentof the novel as a genre - in order to illustrate some of the variety of patterns woven intoliterature by the discourse of rape and its parent, violence. I have tried to chooseexamples which illustrate both the universality of the theme and also the subtle (or notso subtle) shifts in the coding of rape, as well as its relation to the portrayal of thefemale victim, on the narrative, thematic and structural levels.The Evolution of the Novel and the Representation of Rape:i. Chivalry and the Mythical Virgin.The courtly tradition played a significant role in the culture and literature ofEurope from the twelfth century through to the appearance of Honoré d’Urfé’s L’Astrée- known as France’s first novel - at the beginning of the 17th century; it was thereforefundamental to the shaping of early European literature. The courtly literary traditionpromoted “esthetic and social refinement”, as well as a code of conduct based onhonour,chivalry and selflessness3,in which the aristocratic woman was idolised and idealised(lower-class women received a somewhat different treatment at the hands of MedievalKathryn Gradval, “Camouflaging Rape: the Rhetoric of Sexual Violence in theMedieval Pastourelle”, Romanic Review, 76.4 (Nov. 1985) 36 1-373, 363.20writers4).Identified with the Virgin Mary - the image of perfect, self-sacrificingmotherhood - the role of “Woman” within the discourse of courtly love is primarilysymbolic. She is the representative figure of all that is valued through the discourse andcodes of the courtly aesthetic, the centre around which the system rotates and whichvalorises and sustains the essence and ethics of that society. However, like the flag orstandard which serves as a patriotic symbol to an army in wartime, the value of Womanin this discourse is purely metonymic: she has no intrinsic or inherent value, but isendowed with meaning as a figurehead.It is perhaps paradoxical that the incidence of (attempted) rape in the tales of thecourtly tradition is very high. Dietmar Rieger talks of Lancelot en prose, for example,where “viols et tentatives de viol sont presque a l’ordre du jour”5.Medieval literature isfilled with tales of chivalric knights killing fantastic enemies in order to “save damselsClass prejudice is described in André le Chapelain’s work “De amore rusticorum”,in which he assumes that the only relations possible between peasants are sexual. Headvises: “si tu trouves une occasion propice, n’hésite pas a accomplir tes désirs et a lesposséder par force”. André le Chapelain, translated by Claude Buridant, André leChapelain. Traité de l’amour courtois. (Paris, 1974), quoted in Dietmar Rieger, “Lemotif du viol dans la littérature de la France médiévale entre norme courtoise et réalitécourtoise,” Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, 31.2 (1988) 24 1-167, 260. Rieger adds thatthere are parallels according to courtly lore, as the popular belief held that: “ii ne peutyavoir de dialogue courtois avec une “vilaine” - il n’y a que la communication sexuelle”.Given this attitude, it is perhaps not surprising that Marie-Thérèse Lorcin claims that25% of the “fabliaux”, a less “aristocratic” literature, are concerned with some kind of“viol deguise”: Facons de sentir et de penser: les fabliaux français (Paris, HonoréChampion, 1979).Rieger, 257.21from a fate worse than death”6.And yet, admirableas this stereotypical storyline mayseem, it has little to do with the well-being of womankind, or withthe reality of women’slives in the Middle Ages (except in that the incidence of rape wasindeed high duringthis period7).According to courtly lore, the saving ofa virgin was considered first,among the highest achievements of chivalry and the ultimate proofof a knight’s“courtliness”; secondly, as Rieger points out, it represents the triumph ofthe courtlyworld over the brutish world outside the court8:le motif du viol...est propre a servir d’épreuve potentielleimportante pourle chevalier du dernier secours, épreuve dontle but ne serait passeulement la perfection courtoise pour le chevalier,mais pour toute lasocit courtoise ou voulant le devenir9.The act of rape was therefore appropriated and “(re)written” withinor by the courtlyaesthetic, into a fictionalized and symbolic narrative which servesin turn to valorize thataesthetic. The attack against the symbolic figurehead meanwhile haslittle to do with the6This expression, with its implicit value judgement,dates from at least as far back as1653, according to the Oxford English Dictionary; it isa euphemism for rape, now usedprimarily with irony.See, for example, Susan Brownmiller’s Against our Will: Men. Womenand Rape(New York, Bantam Books, 1976) and John Marshall Carter,Rape in Medieval England:An Historical and Sociological Study, (Lanham, New York andLondon, University Pressof America, 1985), also Barbara Hanawalt’s study, Crime andConflict in EnglishCommunities, (Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press, 1979).There is less detailedinformation on rape before the twelfth or thirteenth century whichpredate the keepingof written records.8It is not surprising then, that so many of these attempted rapestake place in theforests, far away from the civilization and the domesticity of thecourt.Rieger, 260.22figurehead herself, but is an attack, rather, on all that she stands for.The figureheadcould therefore, theoretically, be anything. Or could it?To take a glance further back in time for a moment, ancient mythsare also filledwith stories of rape and violence, as well as beautiful women: themyths of Helen ofTroy, carried off by Paris and blamed for the Trojan War, of Philomena,whose tonguewas cut out, of Lucrece, of Callisto, of Iphegenia - all of whom were victimsof someform of violence at the hands of male gods or kings - areall well known°. Aside frombeing (fictionalized) narratives, successful on a narratologicallevel, these stories havebeen considered worth passing down for generations; they have caught theimagination ofmany painters and writers and have become the subjects of art andliterature. The storyof the rape of the Sabine women, for example, who were carried offby Romulus aswives for his men and who later fell in love with their captors, thus becomingcomplicitous in their own abduction, is well-known and has been celebratedin art. It wasalso the perfect vehicle for the popular Hollywood musical Seven Bridesfor SevenBrothers. Based on a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet,called, tellingly enough, “TheSobbin’ Women”, it is interesting to note that the film makes referenceto its two primarysources in a song which takes the title of the short story and tellsthe tale of the originalincident - seen, of course, in the light of the more modern short story: theintertextuallevels and “re-coding” of the story are thus made apparent, and offera useful model for10Of the numerous available works of reference on Greek Mythology,on thisoccasion I consulted Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales ofGods and Heroes,1940 (New York, New American Library, 1977).23the process of re-coding”. Meanwhile, Rubens’ painting “Rape of the Daughters ofLeucippus” celebrates the attack by Castor and Pollux on two women whose own namesare (apparently) unimportant, as their identity is indicated solely by their relationshiptoa man; Titian painted the “Rape of Europa”, picturing the fate of the woman who wascarried off by Zeus in the shape of a bull, while Shakespeare retold the story of the rapeof Lucrece’2.It is, of course, highly improbable that the violence recounted in thesemyths took place in the way described, while the characters themselves may well befictional; it is possible, however - even probable - that the stories were based at somepoint on a real attack, however romanticised or fantastic it may have become’3.Again,“Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1954. More recently this softening of the captivetowardsher captor has been exploited in Pedro Almodóvar’s rather predictable “comedy”, Tie MeUp. Tie Me Down, (Atame!, Spain, 1989) in which a woman (a former porn star) is heldcaptive in her own apartment by an apparent stranger (it later turns out that they hadhad a “one night stand” at some point in the past), who claims to be in love with her andhas planned a romantic and domestic future for the two of them. The woman finally fallsin love with him, despite the fact that he has beaten her up and kept her tied up fordays. The film ends with the couple (and the woman’s sister) on their way to meet theparents, singing happily together. Parody? Subversion? Or simply a reinforcingandperpetuation of old myths? In any case, the film plays on an ancient theme andcontributes to the re-coding or re-writing and an “absorption” of the myth withincontemporary culture.12The stories of Uliva and Crescenzia, Genoveffa and Santa Gugliema, daughter ofthe King of Dacia and the Queen of Poland could also be mentioned here. Mario Prazrefers to these stories as varieties and precursors of the “persecuted maiden”, a figurewho “comes into her own” in the nineteenth century and whom I shall consider shortly.See The Romantic Agony, translated by Angus Davidson, second edition, (London andNew York, Oxford University Press, 1970) 167.René Girard suggests, in the myths of scapegoating, for example, where thesufferings of a community are blamed on the “crimes” of an individual or on an easilyidentifiable minority in order to “purge” those sufferings, that while the crimes of thesepeople may well have been imaginary and their persecutors guilty of racial, sexual orsome other prejudice, the violence itself towards the victim or the victimized group wasin all likelihood real - as in the case of the witch trials, where the fantasies and fears of24the reality of the (in this case) historical act of rape has been evacuated: it is therepresentation of the event - “fictionalized” or “written” into the culturaldiscourse - whichis significant and which is retained as a text.These “mythical” rapes and violations have paved the way for many more recentstories; they are, after all, among the founding myths of Western civilisation, andtheyshape and limit our perception of the world in which we live. The structures ofmythicalstories have been constantly reworked and reintegrated into the Western culturaldiscourse14;Freud, for example, chose to adopt the structures of mythto illustrate andname the various complexes of the human psyche, suggesting a certain universality;Junglikewise chose them to illustrate his theories of archetypes, figures which hesaw asthe Inquisitors were transferred on to the innocent women whom they raped andtortured in the name of goodness and religion. Girard also suggests that thesestorieshave been softened or “embroidered” over the years by the descendants of thepersecutors (murderers) to justify their ancestors and to lessen their guilt(and, byassociation, their own): thus the victim becomes a mythical figure whosedeath waspreordained and from whose death comes renewed life. See “GenerativeScapegoating”,in Violent Origins: Walter Burkert. René Girard. Johnathan Z. Smith on RitualKillingand Cultural Formation, Robert G. Hammerton-Kelly (ed.) (Stanford CA,StanfordUniversity Press, 1987) and also Girard’s seminal work, Le Bouc émissaire,(Paris,Grasset, 1982). This view is also held by Elizabeth Judd in her discussion of mythsof the“Golden Age”: she challenges the idea that myths are necessarily fictitiousby offeringevidence of their historical accuracy in certain areas. “The Myths of the GoldenAge andthe Fall”, in Frances Richardson Keller (ed), Views of Women’s Lives in WesternTradition, (Lewiston, Edwin Mellen Press, 1990) 15-82.14In her book, The Caffisto Myth from Ovid to Atwood: Initiation and RapeinLiterature, (Montréal, McGill-Queens, 1988), Kathleen Wall traces the recurrences ofthe myth of Callisto, for example, showing how the story of the rape victim, castout andblamed for her attack, has been recycled and reworked. The concept of ‘blaming thevictim” is fairly common in cases of rape: survivors are often accused of having provokedtheir attacker, through their behaviour or their dress, or simply by being “in the wrongplace”, as was Callisto: Wall suggests that the myth has become a common story line orstructure, an archetype and that it was, perhaps, itself based on an original incident.25having universal and perhaps eternal validity within human experience and consciousness.Mythical structures also serve as the basis of René Girard’s theories of the origins ofviolence. The themes which they treat - pertaining to love, war, life, death and power -are fundamental to human experience and also, therefore, to art and literaturethroughout the centuries, forming an integral part of Western culture. These storiesappear to be symptomatic of a predominantly masculine cultural structure in whichWoman is the traditional victim. The acts of violence against female characters appearrepresentative of an archetypal structure of the imaginary, assumed to be fundamental tohuman behaviour and to the (collective) unconscious. This essentialising aspect is acentral issue to which I shall return throughout this study.Throughout the history of literature in the West, it would seem that Woman hasbeen the victim of choice in a discourse built around or upon a certain collection ofdesires, perceptions or assumptions which insist upon women’s inferior status withinpatriarchy and Western religion. Within this dominant masculine discourse, Woman is“spoken”, but rarely speaks for herself - even within her own stories. Woman is written asthe Object and Victim, dual functions whose grammatical equivalence is apparent aseach is defined in a logical relation of subordination to a dominant One, and each is thepassive recipient of action or will, or of the “Subject”. Woman is, in this context, a signwhich can mean whatever her male enunciators choose or desire her to mean as long asit designates what they are not, in a process of “other-ing”.To return to the literature of the courtly period, it is clearly not arbitrary butnecessary that the figurehead should be female, because of her pre-definition as passive26object or “cypher”, waiting to be endowed with meaning or “re-coded” accordingto theaesthetic of the time. However, in the courtly code, Woman (“la dame”) isnot just anywoman: a convenient potential victim, her maidenhead a prized jewel, anobject to besaved and fought over in a man’s battle, Woman is the heart or “treasury” of thevaluesof courtly lore. Her identity and “self’ may be relatively unimportant, but her“nobility”,youth, beauty and virginity are significant, partly because of her idealization withinthecourtly and romantic tradition and partly because they evoke the eroticisminherent inthe narrative of the ravishing of a virgin - a theme that is common inWestern literatureand culture throughout the ages. The victim’s virginity is particularly important,asaccording to medieval English law, “to defile a virgin and to lie with onedefiled aredifferent deeds”5;the rape of a non-virgin was evidently considered a less severecrime,at that time, than the rape of a virgin, the non-virgin having lost her value within the“hommo-sexual” economy, in which woman’s virginity was hypervalorised’6.The intrinsic15Henry de Bracton, De Legibus et Consuetudiibus Angliae,quoted in JohnMarshall Carter, 38 (my emphasis) - the uses of the word “defile” are, in themselves,significant. Carter also considers the difference in the legal definition of“forcedintercourse” in thirteenth-century England, depending on thestatus of the victim - i.e.virgin or non-virgin, etc. He also points out the beliefat this time that a child could onlybe conceived if the two parties were consenting: therefore the rape victimmade pregnantwas no true victim in the eyes of the law (47).16Luce Irigaray discusses this in her article “Des Marchandises entre elles”, inSexe gui n’en est pas un (Paris: Minuit, 1977). In addition, it is interestingto note that inmedieval English law, at least, the notion of rape was not seen as applicableto marriedwomen who, having been “defiled”, had also lost their value. The attempted rape ofamarried woman was often treated as adultery, as if a woman who had oncegiven herconsent to her husband must be consenting to any man (there being now noimpedimentto her “naturally voracious” sexual appetite). See also Rieger, 244 and Carter, esp.chapter 4, 35-45.27characteristics of the courtly lady are also significant, meanwhile, in that theyare relatedto the body and to sexuality, but in abstract or spiritual terms: it is perhapshere that theidentification of the “sacred” courtly lady with the Virgin Mary becomesmost apparent.Woman’s sexuality is referred to only in its “negative” or inverse form, thatof (passive)virginity - she is in effect “desexualized”7- while Woman becomes an idealizedrepresentation of herself within the text. Finally, the fact that Woman isused as a sign orsymbol to be endowed with meaning, suggests, immediately, a powerstructure in whichthe masculine is in the position of control: thus, while the symbolic rapesin courtlyliterature may well signify an attack on the edifice of courtliness, theyare also highlyindicative of the inferiority of women (despite their “pedestal”) within thatpowerstructure or “economy” and within the cultural discourse.ii. The Rise and Fall of the Heroine: from the 18th to the 19th Century.From the eighteenth century on the novel form came into its own.At this timethe production of novels burgeoned, including a host of supposedlyrealist novelsfocussing on women or told from a woman’s point of view. In France,for example, thereare Prévost’s Manon Lescaut, Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Hélolse, Diderot’sLa Religieuse,La Vie de Mariane by Marivaux and, of course, Lies Liaisons dangereuses,the epistolary17Much of the recent feminist writing and theory focusses on the FemaleBody, interms of motherhood, nurturing, and female orgasm or ‘ouissance”, in anattempt toreappropriate and “re-sexualize” woman’s sexuality - traditionally and paradoxicallyaprerogative and favoured topic of male writers.28novel by Choderlos de Laclos which includes letters “written by”at least three women. InEngland the trend is similar, with novels such as Defoe’s fictional autobiographiesMollFlanders and Roxanne and Richardson’s Pamela and Clarissa, among others.As a literary genre, the novel has traditionally been closely associated withwomenor considered in some way “effeminate”. Indeed, as Michael Danahy writes, incomparingthe novel to poetry, theatre and epic - “[les] genres littéraires authentiqueset classiques”(or masculine),Lukács fait tout pour nous amener a penserque le roman est issu de ladéchéance du récit epique, non seulement a travers l’évolutionou lareproduction, mais par une détérioration et une degradation, commeunefemme est une reincarnation degeneree de l’homme, créée a partirdescOtes d’un antécédent masculin, mais manquant de membre viril’8.A similar attitude was evident in the eighteenth century, as the novel was thenregardedas a literary form of lesser prestige, read largely by women, and so written witha femaleaudience in mind19 - hence the number of novels written, ostensibly, forwomen andwith an ostensibly female S/subject, both in terms of content and enunciation.It wasafter all at this time that the epistolary novel and (perhaps a little later) thefictionalautobiography, based on the letter and “mémoires” respectively - the two forms of18Michael Danahy, “Le Roman est-il chose femelle?”, Poétigue, 7.25 (1976) 85-106,97 and 99. Danahy is referring to Georg Lukács’ The Theory of the Novel, trans. A.Bostock (Cambridge, Massachusetts, M.I.T., 1971) and Studies in EuropeanRealism(New York, Grosset and Dunlap, 1964).19From this bias Danahy suggests come the descriptions of the novelas “une étoffefinement tissée, au points serrés ou tricotés, une tapisserie a texture complexe, un tissude fils et de ficelles” (92), which play on gender specific activities. Reading novelsmeanwhile “demeurait une occupation reléguée a un monde cbs d’activité nonéconomique” (96) ie. feminine.29“private” writing which women were actually encouraged to practice - were particularlypopular2°.The rise of Woman as a central focus is traced in Tracy Rizzo’s article, “SexualViolence in the Enlightemiient”21.Following Michel Foucault’s argument in Histoire dela sexualité22,Rizzo considers the role of women during the period which correspondswith the rise of the bourgeoisie, suggesting that a certain class of women were “liberated”from the fairly overt misogyny of the previous century, by the rising middle-class’svalorisation of women, again, as an ideal (and highly vulnerable) symbol - this time ofthe values of the bourgeoisie. It is, however, probable that the trend begansomewhatearlier than Rizzo implies, since what Nancy Miller refers to as “the Heroine’s Text” hadalready established itself as a sub-genre by the time of the 1789 revolution23.Nevertheless, in either case, as in the courtly literature, this valorisation builds on aperception of women’s sexuality, or, rather the negation of that sexuality, through theemphasis placed on chastity and maternity. And yet the status of the female symbol hasshifted, so that she is now valued chiefly for her capacity to be a victim and in that statusof victim. Rizzo refers to this preference as “the cult of the victimised woman”, where the20Women also wrote poetry and novels, but this was not approved of. A number ofwomen therefore wrote under male pseudonyms in order to be published, Georges Sand,for example, in France, and, in England, George Eliot and the Brontë sisters.21Tracy Rizzo, “Sexual Violence in the Enlightenment: The State, the Bourgeoisieand the Cult of the Victimized Woman”, Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of theWestern Society for French History 15 (1988) 122-129.22Histoire de la sexualité, 1, “La Volonté de savoir”, (Paris, Gallimard, 1976).Miller, The Heroine’s Text: Readings in the French and English Novel 1722-1782,(New York, Columbia University Press, 1980).30victim status of, for example, a rape survivor, is exaggerated so that the woman is thevery picture of abjection and wronged “virtue” - a “feminine” quality defined by amasculine discourse: she is the figure of abused and passive “femininity”, again, asdefined by the masculine system of codes in which and by which she is constructed.Given the hypervalorisation of woman’s chastity and the emphasis on itsvulnerability, it is not surprising that woman’s virtue and, in particular, its defence againsta male attacker should become one of the most engrossing and popular themes ofliterature at this time; virtue can, after all, only be seen or evaluated in relation to anegative image of itself or if challenged. This suggests an implicit relationship betweenvirtue and violence, as Diderot suggests in his essay “Eloge de Richardson”, where hedefines virtue in terms of a masochistic tendency; virtue issous quelque face qu’on la considère, un sacrifice de soi-même. Lesacrifice que l’on fait de soi-même en idée est une disposition préconçueas’immoler en réalité.Nor is it surprising that some of the stories end with the death or downfall of theirheroine following a sexual “faux pas” or its discovery. Thus, Manon Lescaut is finallydeported along with the “fiRes publiques”, while in Les Liaisons dangereuses Madame deSee, for example, Susan Browiimifler’s Femininity (New York, Linden Press/Simonand Schuster, 1984) and Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth (Toronto: Vintage, 1990) for adiscussion of the way male fantasy has dictated this supposedly intrinsically “female”essence.Nancy Miller also makes this observation in her article “The Exquisite Cadavers:Women in Eighteenth Century Fiction”, Diacritics 5.4 (winter 1975) 37-43, 39. Miller’sarticle is a review (and rejection) of Pierre Fauchery’s romanticised view of the patternin his study, La Destinée feminine dans le roman européen du dix-huitième siècle:1713-1807. Essai de gvnécomythie romanesque (Paris, Armand Cohn, 1972).Denis Diderot, Oeuvres (Paris, Pléiade-Gallimard, 1951), 1058-1074, 1061.31Tourvel dies, broken-hearted and shamed, Cécile is returned to the convent from whichshe has not long been released and Madame de Merteuil, permanently disfigured bysmallpox, is publicly humiliated, thanks to the revelation of her letters by the dyingValmont, who is himself somehow absolved of his own role in the affair, by this, his finaland “heroic” act27.Samuel Richardson’s two epistolary novels, Clarissa and Pamela, were theprecursors of a trend which caught the imagination of writers on both sides of theChannel, prompting various imitations (including the parodic Shamela, by HenryFielding). Both novels focus on their young, beautiful and extremely virtuous heroine(who therefore shares qualities essential to the courtly heroine), who is the victim ofsome form of sexual violence and repeated harassment at the hands of her non-too-scrupulous suitor, over the course of the several hundred pages of their naffative.27Much has been written on Les Liaisons dangereuses as a feminist text, in that itgives a central role to a strong female character and permits all the female characters tobe sexual beings: however, the fate of the women, along with the fact that Madame deMerteuil’s much acclaimed power is both sexual and covert, and that she appears to havetaken the characteristics of the male libertine (and is therefore playing a masculine gameby masculine rules), would appear to undermine this interpretation. See, for example,Geoffry Wagner, Five for Freedom: A Study of Feminism in Fiction, (Rutherford, NJ.,Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1973), for the “proto-feminist” argument andSuellen Diaconoff, “Resistance and Retreat: A Laclosian Primer for Women,” Universityof Toronto Ouarterly 58.3 (Spring 1981) 391-408 and Jean-Marie Goulemot, “Le Lecteurvoyeur et la mise en scene de l’imaginaire viril,” Laclos et le libertinage. 1782-1982,(Paris, Presses Universitaires, 1983) 163-175, for the opposing view.Pamela finally marries her persistent master: the scenario played out is theregenerative power of love. Clarissa, meanwhile, is drugged and raped by Lovelace andlater dies of grief over her defilement. The dual acts of drugging and raping are alsoevident in other novels - Sade’s works, for instance, as well as having parallels in HubertAquin’s Trou de mémoire and L’Antiphonaire.32Following Richardson, however, there seems to have been a shift or a re-coding in therepresentation of rape and the idealization of the female character. As Mario Prazsuggests, the French imitators of Richardson “sought in the subject of the persecutedwoman chiefly an excuse for situations of heightened sensuality”29.The latent eroticismattached to the portrayal of rape in literature, therefore, gradually became a more overtpreoccupation from the eighteenth century onwards, in both English and French novels.There are a number of issues which arise at this point, as the various narratives ofrape operate on several levels. First, on a practical level, Rizzo suggests that theincreasing renewed and apparently sympathetic interest in women on the part of the lateeighteenth-century middle-class was entirely political. The misogyny evident in prerevolutionary France was inverted by the attitudes of the bourgeoisie at the turn of thecentury and replaced by a new sentimentalised image of woman. However, it would seemthat this image of Woman is also “constructed”, appropriated and manipulated as a“standard” - as was the “courtly lady” - this time for the purposes of the middle-class.Secondly, the educational function of art and literature - in particular, that of thenovel, seen as a second-rate and somewhat vulgar literary form - had already been underdiscussion among the Philosophes, as well as in religious circles. Indeed, Diderot hadobserved:Par un roman, on a entendu jusqu’à ce jour un tissu d’événementschimeriques et frivoles, dont la lecture était dangereuse pour le gout etpour les moeurs3°29Praz, 97.3°Diderot, 1059.33Rousseau, meanwhile, saw the role of literature as a potential means of moral education:Les romans sont peut-être la dernière instruction qu’il reste a dormer a unpeuple assez corrompu pour que tout autre lui soit inutile31.However, given that, as previously mentioned, the primary readers of novels werewomen, it would seem that the moral instruction offered directed itself largely towardswomen readers. Offering stories culminating in the quasi-annihilation of the many femalecharacters showing signs of sexual promiscuity or liberation, the novels could serve, onone level, as “cautionary tales” to women who might think of stepping outside theirprescribed social and sexual role32.This scenario is in no way restricted to theeighteenth or nineteenth century, as Cynthia Sutherland Matlack points out:Female heteroclites [are] inevitably sacrificed to purge threateningsymptoms of disease and pollution from society33.Nancy Miller adds that “the disruptive potential of female sexuality is neutralized,removed from general circulation”. It would seem, therefore, that some of thesenovels, despite their apparent focus on a central female character and their appearanceof “giving women a voice” through their presentation of women as speaking and writingsubjects, actually re-enact or ratify the male order, in which woman plays a subservient31Jean-Jacques Rousseau, La Nouvelle HéloIse, 2, lettre 21.32Thereby reiterating the concept of “indoctrination” I touched on in theintroduction.Cynthia Sutherland Matlack, “Spectatress of the Mischief which she made: TragicWomen Perceived and Perceiver”, Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture 6 (1977) 319-332. Also quoted in Miller, “The Exquisite Cadavers”, 43. A male reader would of coursereceive the same message, so perpetuating the structure of inequality between the sexes.Miller, “The Exquisite Cadavers”, 40.34and symbolic role35.Meanwhile, the epistolary novels, which appearto give theirwomen characters a certain “subjectivity”, have encoded within them a sense of intimacy,a need for secrecy, and - as an inevitable consequence of that secrecy - the threat ofexposure and ruin, a denouement often exploited by male authors, as we have seen. Thegenre itself at this time, can thus be seen to reflect the subordination of women aspotential victims, on an extra-diegetic level. The status of woman as “subject”, therefore,would appear to be a façade - at least in terms of the literature written by male authors.On another level, however, given the increasing focus and detail applied to thedescription of the suffering and the victimisation of the “heroine”, it seems that thediscourse of the “cautionary tale” is, to a certain extent, being subverted. While the“warning” is still evident in the terrible fate which so often befalls the female character, itis the suffering or the anticipation of the suffering that retains the interest of the reader.As Mario Praz writes:The manner in which Diderot proclaims incessantly the virtue of hisheroine, gives the impression, every now and then, of being only meant toadd spice to the cruelty of her persecution. It is an anticipation ofJustine.Nancy Miller also indicates this development:Richardson set in place what Sade will exploit reiteratively; the estheticpower (bourgeois or anti-bourgeois) of rape37.Nancy Miller states: ‘The plots of these feminocentric fictions are...neither femalein impulse or origin, nor feminist in spirit. In the final analysis...despite their titles andtheir feminine “I”, it is not altogether clear to me that these novels are about or forwomen at all.” The Heroine’s Text, 149.Praz, 99.Miller, “Exquisite Cadavers”, 39.35Thus, it would seem that the interest in the downfall of the female figure is no longer (orperhaps never was) entirely “benevolent” or cautionary, indeed, there appears to be adegree of “relish” in her humiliation. The interest in the victim as “victim”, as Praz andMiller suggest, becomes more overt from the late eighteenth century onwards, beingexploited to the full in the writings of the Marquis de Sade and his followers. The officialdiscourse of morality, familiar to writers in Royalist and Catholic (pre-revolutionary)France is appropriated and subverted in these texts: the moral codes are stressed in theconstant references to virtue, only to be rejected or even defiled.This inversion of values and the interest in the victim as “victim” reaches its zenithin the works of the “Romantic Agonists”, in their treatment of perversity and “la grandesynthèse” - the inseparability of pleasure and pain. The “persecuted maiden”, re-codedunder another new guise - now diseased, impoverished and moribund - becomes, onceagain, the ideal of pathos for some writers of the nineteenth century, convinced, likeEdgar Allen Poe, that “the death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the mostpoetical topic in the world”. The stereotype of the young and beautiful heroine isinverted by the Romantic fascination with the horrible and the cruel, the “dark” side ofhuman life, and the increased popularity of the Gothic and of Vampirism, fuelled by thewritings of the Marquis de Sade and later, the poetry of Lord Byron, among others. Thedisease-carrying prostitute became one of the primary heroines of the fin de siècle withits fears of degeneration. Indeed, Charles Bernheimer suggests that the “putrefyingThe expression is Flaubert’s, quoted in Praz, 28.Poe, Philosophy of Composition, quoted in Praz, 27.36corpse” of Zola’s Nana “became the symbol of the disintegration of an entire age and itsfantasmatic obsession”40.The idea that novels are written for a female audiencebecomes increasingly difficult to accept, as the interest in women’s suffering is, at thispoint, taken to a logical and somewhat grisly extreme. The heroine’s death - nowinevitable in terms of the narrative structure of the novel - is protracted through illness,while her descent towards that death is often a process of decay. The deaths “off-stage”or hidden by the walls of convents, often favoured by earlier writers, along with thepower of death to “wipe clean” the reputation of “fallen women”, are replaced by thesupremacy of the suffering process, as the heroine is desired and desirable, despite, orperhaps because of the horror and ugliness of her misfortunes, as deformity andcorruption become the erotic prerequisites to beauty and femininity.iii. The Sadian Heroine.The subversion of authority and exposure of “idées recues” evident in theliterature from the eighteenth century and after, is exploited most mercilessly in theworks of the Divine Marquis, where moral, ethical and religious codes are constantlyviolated. Angela Carter describes, for instance, the obsessive sacrilege of Sade’s°Bernheimer, in Denis Hollier (ed.), A New History of French Literature(Cambridge, MA. and London, Harvard University Press, 1989) 780-85, 784.37characters, for whom ‘jouissance” often involves the violation or defilement of religiousobjects and taboos41.Robert Richard points out that:dans l’ordre romanesque sadien...la loi...se résum[e] au denouement detous les liens, y inclus les plus précieux, unissant la mere a sa file42.Sade’s novel, Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu, tells the story of the archetypalor stereotypical “persecuted maiden”, as the young and beautiful Justine, orphaned andexceedingly virtuous, is constantly disappointed in her belief in the goodness of othersand meets with abuse wherever she seeks solace, frequently at the hands of the clergy.The physical and moral qualities of Justine are, of course, recognisable as those of the“Heroine as Victim”. Of those qualities, Robert Richard suggests that “il ne s’agit qued’une esthéthique utiitaire, qui est, par ailleurs, purement rhetorique et répétitive”3.Rhetorical and repetitive it may be - there are, after all, only so many faces the perfectwoman can wear, according to our narrow cultural standards - it is, however, evidentlyimportant that the victim should be described as and believed to be physically - andmorally - perfect: a factor adding to the eroticism of the narrative of violence and servingto “make the sacrifice more piquant”.41Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography (New York,Pantheon Books, 1978) 105. This preference was also later displayed by Bataille’scharacters in L’Histoire de l’oeil, for instance, where a priest is raped and murdered.Oeuvres completes, 3 (Paris, Gallimard, 1970).42Robert Richard, “Entrevue: Sade ou l’enfer du référent”, Thelema (1992) 125-144.131. The abomination of the mother-daughter relationship is presented in La Philosophiedans le boudoir, for example, as we shall see.Richard, “Entrevue”, 139.Carol de Dobay Rifelj, “Cendrillon and the Ogre: Women in Fairy Tales and Sade”Romanic Review 81.1 (Jan 1990) 11-24, 13.38The story of Justine’s sister is the mirror image: Juliette, thrown into the same sadcircumstances by the presumed death of her parents, takes every opportunity and profitsfrom the situations in which she finds herself becoming the perfect sadian heroine. Interms of content, therefore, these two novels can, perhaps, be said to offer little that is“new”, but build, rather, on a long line of texts and traditions45:the sisters reiterate (inan exaggerated form) the two classic faces of Woman - the Virgin and the Whore - whilethe novels evidently borrow much from the cultural ideal of the female protagonist -here most interesting when “in a position of the greatest possible humiliation or“objectification” vis-à-vis the aggressor”. As Barthes later writes:la femme est abImée: on l’empaquette, on l’entortille, on l’embéguine, onla déguise, de facon a effacer toute trace de ses attraits antérieurs...onproduit une sorte de poupée chirurgicale et fonctionnelle... une chose47.Sade’s heroines are reduced from social beings to isolated creatures, obliged to fend forthemselves in whatever way they can, in a game of power, according to the apparentlylimited choices available to women in a Sadian society. Juliette becomes extremelypowerful by choosing the path of crime rather than that of virtue and by feigning virtueand misfortune in order to exploit and to excite48 - thereby both appropriating the“Rifelj has examined the relationship between the works of Sade and the fairy talesof Charles Perrault: Rifelj notes that the “immorality” of Sade is the “antithesis of those[lessons] implied by the plots and made explicit in the “moralités” of Perrault” (12).Susan Rubin Suleiman, Subversive Intent: Gender. Politics and the Avant-Garde(Cambridge, MA. and London, Harvard University Press, 1990), 65.Roland Barthes, Sade/Fourier/Loyola (Paris, Seuil, 1973), 127.48Juliette plays the role of the innocent victim in Madame Duvergier’s brothel: hervirginity is sold to numerous customers. Angela Carter points out the similarity betweenthe role Juliette plays and the “innate” character of Justine (Sadeian Woman, 84).39moral codes of the time and recognizing the (apparent) eroticism of female misfortuneor victimization (something which Justine never seems to learn). She is able to indulgeher every fantasy and is even accepted into the elite society, “les Amis de la Sodalité”.However, while women have the right to become president of that society, itsfundamental philosophy remains that women are created for the pleasure of men - anypower a woman may hold, therefore, is subject to a masculine veto, so that anyappearance of sexual equality is superficial. Juliette’s freedom and power would,therefore, appear to be patriarchally “ordained” (with the inherent possibility of thatfreedom being withdrawn at any point), just as Eugénie’s “libertine” actions injPhilosophie dans le boudoir are endorsed by her father, and the Chevalier’s speech inthat same novel, advocating democracy and equality, proclaims the same illusion ofcontrolled or “imposed” freedom:Si nous admettons, comme nous venons de le faire, que toutes les femmesdoivent être soumLces a nos désirs, assurément nous pouvons leur permettrede méme de satisfaire amplement tous les leurs.(...)Sexe charmant, vousserez libre; vous jouirez comine les hommes de tous les plaisirs dont lanature vous fait un devoir...Vous êtes libres comme nous...49.Citizen Sade’s declaration of the rights of women - while revolutionary (even today) inthat it advocates the sexual freedom of women (albeit in terms of male sexuality) -remains fundamentally patriarchal: it withholds the very freedom it purports to proclaim,in its opening acceptance of the universal truth of women’s subjectivity to men and inoffering women the freedom to emulate male behaviour. It would seem, therefore, thatSade’s vision of “freedom” for women was not the most disinterested and that theSade, Philosophie, 504-6 (my emphasis).40sexuality of his own creations - Juliette, Clairwil and Eugenie and women like them -was, above all, satisfying to his own erotic appetites. As we have seen in other cases ofthe eroticism of violence, the female characters in Sade’s writing serve a fundamentallymasculine purpose and this declaration, while seemingly addressed to women readers,has another audience and another motive in mind.The most vicious or “sadistic” treatment in Sade’s texts meanwhile is reserved formarried women, and mothers in particular. In this perverted and essentially masculineworld, the mother is seen as the one who would actively control and repress the sexualdevelopment of the young. She is considered in terms of the mother-castrator who mustbe destroyed if the child is to achieve his or her full potential50.She has no poweragainst the forces of the Sadian hero or heroine: set up as an enemy, her total defeat is asource of cruel pleasure. This is exemplified in Sade’s La Phulosophie dans le boudoir,where a young girl, Eugenie, is initiated both sexually and morally by a select group ofsadian libertines, resulting in the torture, rape and genital mutilation of her mother,Madame de Mistival51 (who came to fetch her daughter out of seemingly protective50Recent psychoanalytic theory suggests that male sexual development is founded onthe negation of the mother (a response to the perceived threat of castration). SeeElisabeth Badinter, XY: de l’identité masculine (Paris, Odile Jacob, 1992) 92 and Stoller,Masculin ou fémiriin (Paris, PUF, 1989) 310-3 11, cited in my introduction. “Normal”female sexual development also requires a rejection of the mother - but rather in hercapacity as the girl-child’s primary object of desire - and the substitution of a maleobject; the destruction (real or fantasised) of the mother by a female child is a lesscommon occurrence in psychological development and a less frequent theme inliterature. In Sade it seems the heroine is encouraged to remain open to all possibleobjects of desire - with the obvious exception of the mother.51All of this is performed by Eugenie herself, with the apparent approval of the girl’s(absent) father - the patriarch and true law-maker - himself responsible for the41motives). The sewing up of her genitals amounts to the destruction of her sex, andspecifically the annihilation of any further potential maternity; it is an (indirect) attackon the womb, which is itself - paradoxically - associated with death52.The violentrejection or “abjection” of the mother appears necessary to the “liberation” or fulfilmentof her daughter’s sexual identity; not only does it free Eugenie from her mother’s so-called “repressive” or castrating influence, it ensures her access to libertine society andserves as a proof of initiation. However, while the majority of the violence in Sade’snovels appears to serve primarily to excite or arouse sexually (equating violence witheroticism), matricidal violence appears to be fuelled by a real hatred53,illustrating whatwhipmarks on his wife’s body.52Valerie Raoul talks of the relationship between the womb and the “tomb” inDistinctly Narcissistic: Diary Fiction in Ouébec (Toronto, University of Toronto Press,1993) 17.As mentioned, Sade has been credited with a certain “proto-feminism”, in that heallows Juliette and her female friends a powerful and voracious sexuality and a strongsense of self as well as for his refusal to see female sexuality purely in terms of thereproductive function, which provides a means of escape from the essentialist view ofwomen as childbearers; his women characters are in control of their reproductive systems(Angela Carter, 1 and 36). However, his devaluation of the mothering function appearsfar from benevolent or feminist both in the highly “sadistic” treatment of Madame deMistival and in the comments of Dolmancé: “Je ne suis pas encore console de la mortde mon père, et lorsque je perdis ma mere je fis un feu de joie...Uniquement formés dusang de nos pères, nous ne devons absolument rien a nos mères; elles n’ont faitd’ailleurs que se préter dans l’acte, au lieu que le pere l’a sollicité; le père a donc voulunotre naissance, pendant que la mere n’a fait qu’y consentir” (La Philosophie dans leboudoir, in Oeuvres completes, Paris, Cercle du livre précieux, 1966), 391. This (due to abiological misinformation,) apparently contradicts Sade’s recognition of women’s choiceto abort or keep a child, denying the possibility of the mother’s own sexual volition,while also ignoring the possibility that the father may have been more interested in theact of procreation than its incidental (by)product.42Gilles Deleuze identifies as “the active negation of the mother”. The role of themother - albeit negative in these texts - is to become increasingly significant in the workof later authors, especially those influenced by Sade.The Legacy of Sade and the Avant-garde.Censored for obscenity for many years, Sade’s writings have been reappraised,more recently, not for their pornographic content, but rather for their rejection of theconcept of “natural laws”, related to bourgeois hypocrisy and morality, as well as for their“unconstrained nature”55.Sade’s writings, in their challenge to order, authority and theconcept of “normality” - especially with regard to sexuality - as well as in their excess,were a major influence on the writers and artists of the “avant-garde”, in early twentieth-century France in particular. The content of Sade’s novels was, therefore, ostensibly, putto one side, with the emphasis falling on the narrative style and use of language, as wellas on the challenge to cultural codes. Robert Richard, for example, states that theimportance of Sade:en dehors des flagellations et des souffrances...[est] un ébranlement plusessentiel, plus déterminant...le silence du signifiant...oü l’on n’entendjamais le son de cloche du signifie(...)Les oeuvres du Marquis de Sadereprésentent autant de facons de disqualifier la réalité...de miner lescertitudes...d’introduire dans les representations du monde une puissanced’ironisation56.Gilles Deleuze, Presentation de Sacher-Masoch (Paris, 10/18, 1967), 58-59, alsoquoted in Suleiman, 68.Rifelj, 20.56Richard, “Entrevue”, 125.43Roland Barthes, meanwhile, also sets aside (or glosses over?) the physical violence inSade’s work, saying that “le sadisme ne serait que le contenu grossier (vulgaire) du textesadien”57,choosing to read Sade’s work according to a “principe de délicatesse” ratherthan as a “projet de violence”58.However, the concept of violence is not totallydismissed, but is transformed, transferred to a different narrative level. As Barthes says:Sade pratique couramment ce que l’on pourrait appeler la violencemétonymique: ii juxtapose...des fragments hetérogenes, appartenant a desspheres de langage ordinairement séparées par le tabou socio-moral59.This “metonymic violence” would also be practised by Barthes himself in his owncritical writings, such asi60,where he talks of doing violence to the text (using suchexpressions as “briser”, “étoiler” “malmener” and “pulveriser”). Elsewhere, the fictions ofMain Robbe-Grillet - Le Voyeur, La Maison de rendez-vous and Projet pour unerevolution a New York, for example - use explicit and brutal sexual violence as allegory,to illuminate a textual strategy. A similar treatment of violence is also evident in certainnovels written in Québec; in Neige noire by Hubert Aquin, for instance, the text - whichculminates in a brutal and highly sexual murder - is “raped”, as is the reader61.Theprocess of aberrant juxtaposition and its relationship to violence, meanwhile, whichBarthes attributes to Sade, was also the foundation of surrealist writing and art, based on‘Barthes, Sade/Fourier/Lovola, 173.58Barthes, Sade/Fourier/Loyola, 173.Barthes, Sade/Fourier/Lovola, 38.60Roland Barthes,S.LZ(Paris, Seuil, 1970).61Neige noire, (Montréal, Pierre Tisseyre, 1974). Both text and reader, as victims of“rape”, seem to take on an implicit femininity.44the concept of collage. By juxtaposing disparate objects, the Surrealists also underminedthe accepted moral, social and cultural codes surrounding any given concept or objectand opened up new fields of reference, created out of the “conflict” caused by thebringing together or the recontextualization of heterogeneous elements62.However,while the overt and “vulgar” physical violence - the subject matter - of Sade’s writing wasostensibly set aside by the artists of this period in order to focus on the textual form, thepractice of juxtaposition, which involved tearing something from its original context, was,according to Robert Belton, “metaphorically realized as brutal sexual defloration”63.This represents an important shift or glissement in levels, and an equally importantadjustment of focus and reading praxis, which became increasingly significant from theworks of the English Modernists and the French nouveaux romanciers onwards. This shiftentails an inversion of “traditional” narrative values, as the process of narration takes62This is apparent in the “proto-surrealist” Isadore Ducasse’s famous simile:“asbeautiful as the chance encounter of an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissectiontable”. According to Robert J. Belton, this phrase was interpreted in Freudian terms: “thecoincidence of a man’s phallic accessory and an unthinking domestic instrument on a‘bed” designed for bloodletting was simply too potently, aggressively and violently sexualto be avoided”. “Speaking with Forked Tongues: “Male Discourse in “Female” Surrealism”Dada/Surrealism, 18 (1990), 50-62, 51.63Belton, 52. It is also interesting to note that much of the surrealist experimentationwas performed on the bodies of women, or on representations of the female body (thephotographs of Man Ray and the works of André Masson, for example) while SusanSuleiman mentions the headless figure of a woman, hung from the ceiling of the “Centredes Recherches Surréalistes” to inspire the “hommes inquiets, porteurs de secrets lourds”who came there. (Louis Aragon, quoted in Maurice Nadeau, Histoire du Surréalisme(Paris, Seuil, 1964), 61-62 and in Suleiman, 20). Despite the revolutionary or liberatingpotential of the philosophy behind Surrealism, the group was almost exclusivelymasculine: some women were included in their role as “Muses” or catalysts but very fewwomen were ever considered serious artists in their own right until much later in themovement’s history.45precedence over what is narrated - or as the process of énonciation becomes moresignificant than the énoncé - and while fiction, according to Jean Ricardou, becomes“une métaphore de sanarrationM.The pornographic content of Sade’s work, forinstance, is therefore seen as a metaphor for the subversion of language and of thereading process, while language, following the linguistic theories of Saussure, is no longerseen as the simple “disinterested” or “transparent” means of representation of “realist”fiction, but as a deceptively labyrinthine web of signifiants. The same has been said ofthe pornographic content of the works of Georges Bataille, himself greatly influenced bySade and a major proponent of the “aesthetics of transgression”, espoused by both theFrench Modernists and the Surrealists. However, while the sexual content of the worksof both Sade and Bataille is ostensibly relegated to the “background”, or is considered avehicle for the signifier and the signifying process, there does appear to be an inevitablerelationship between this conception of language (or of the writing process) and violence.The challenge to language and to the coding or naming system which governs thestructures serving as the basis for social coding and order, can be seen as an act of“literary terrorism” or in terms of an aesthetics of rupture. The question which must ariseat this point, however, is why this revolutionary style of writing should so often entailwhat Ricardou refers to as “une thematique prMlegiee” of explicitly sexual violence64Ricardou, Pour une théorie du nouveau roman (Paris, Seuil, 1971), 221.I do not mean to imply that Sade was the founder of this concept of language,rather that his work was re-evaluated by the forerunners of the avant-garde, whose workadopted this focus.Ricardou, 221.46and why the “textual” or “metonymic” violence and experimentation should (still) takeplace so often on the bodies of women. This observation is also made by Anne-MarieDardigna in her study of the erotic French novel:sous prétexte de recherche et de méthode de recherche, le viol dupersonnage fénilnin est devenu un simple avatar de fonctionnementduraisonnement et de l’écriture masculins67.The relationship between eroticism and textual or metonymic violence isconsidered by Julia Kristeva in an article on Antonin Artaud, where she says:Toucher aux taboos de la grammaire - et peut-être aussi del’arithmetique - c’est toucher a la recommandation sourde de la sexualitéidentificatoire: la revolution de langage est une traversée de la sexualité etde toutes les coagulations sociales (famille, sectes etc.) qui s’y collent.Tampering with, language, therefore, that “prison house” which controls ourconceptualization of the world through its capacity to name, identify (and thereforeconstitute) “reality”, is an overt challenge to that same naming, limiting process by whichour world and its various (perceived) “Truths” - order, authority, gender and sexuality, forexample - are defmed and upheld. It is, in itself a “transgression”. Roland Barthesextrapolates on this idea in his essay on Bataille’s pornographic novel L’Histoire del’oeil:Ainsi, a la transgression des valeurs, principe déclaré de l’érotisme - si ellene le fonde - une transgression technique des formes du langage, car lamétonymie n’est rien d’autre qu’un syntagme force, la violation d’une limitede l’espace signifiant; elle permet au niveau même du discours, une contre67Anne-Marie Dardigna, Les Châteaux d’Eros ou les infortunes du sexe des femmes,(Paris, Maspéro, 1982), 44.Julia Kristeva, “Le Sujet en procès, suite”, Tel Quel 53 (1973) 17-38, 24.47division des objets, des usages, des sens, des espaces et des propriétés, quiest l’érotisme méme...69.The eroticism inherent in the transgression of language becomes clearer if weconsider Barthes’ conceptualisation of the avant-garde text or “texte scriptible” and itstreatment of language. In Le Plaisir du texte, for example, he points to a differencebetween langage - associated with the traditional realist novel, and langue - associatedwith the modern “writerly” text: the latter is a source of ludic ‘jouissance” which, whenconsidered in its habitual context of “langue maternelle” evokes an apparently intrinsicrelationship between language and the maternal body. Indeed, Barthes writes:l’écrivain est quelqu’un qui joue avec le corps de sa mere ... pour leglorifier, l’embellir, ou pour le dépecer, le porter a la limite de ce qui ducorps peut être reconnu70.In a resurrection of the Oedipal drama, modern writing becomes transgressive activitydue to the incestuous - and so erotic - relationship of language/text with the mother’sbody. Once again, however, the female body is the object of male experimentation andperhaps violent manipulation. While the relationship between writer and language mayhave shifted, the status of “Woman” has not changed; with the feminisation of the text,the concept of gender-specific violence has simply transmogrified to a different (i.e.textual or perhaps meta-textual) context71.69Roland Barthes, “La Métaphore de l’oeil”, Essais Critiques (Paris, Seuil, 1964) 238-245, 244 (my emphasis).70Roland Barthes, Le Plaisir du texte (Paris, Seuil, 1973) 60 (my emphasis).71As Susan Suleiman comments: “there will be no genuine renewal either in a theoryof the avant-garde or in its practices, as long as every drama, whether textual or sexual,continues to be envisaged...in terms of a confrontation between an all-powerful fatherand a traumatised son, a confrontation staged across and over the body of the mother”48Elsewhere, in his consideration of the “texte de jouissance”, Barthes talks of theeroticism of “fragmentation” - of text, of language and of meaning72.The relationshipbetween this metaphoric concept and that of surrealist and Sadian juxtaposition andviolence is clear, as the object “torn” from its context is brought into contact with other“fragments”. The place where the edges meet, meanwhile, the place of “conflict”, “lesmarges”, is discussed by Jacques Derrida, in Eperons, where he considers “Woman” asthe site of unknowable truth73.Here Derrida focusses on the concept of “l’entre” or the“space between”, full of secret promise and hidden truth: in a constant state of flux andindeterminacy, through its position of “mitoyenneté” and of being, simultaneously, boththe sum of the two fragments together and yet neither, this shifting “space”, through theobvious sexual connotation, is seen as “feminine”74.Once again, then, there has been amajor glissement which allows a metaphoric (or imaginary) female sexuality to becomemetonymically and unavoidably associated with textual violence, while “Woman”becomes, once more, the privileged site of textual experimentation and theory.(87).‘72Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes (Paris, Seuil, 1975) and also in Le Plaisir dutexte.‘Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles/ Eperons: Les Styles de Nietzsche, bilingual edition,translated by Barbara Harlow (Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 1979).‘i”Derrida uses the hymen, that elusive proof of female virginity, as a symbol or signof the “in between” and of “truth”: the hymen becomes a veil behind which lies “TheTruth” which can only exist as long as it is veiled. The hymen is also seen as the “spacebetween”, in being the veil that separates inside and out and which is itself, at the sametime, both internal and external, both restricting and allowing passage, the two states atone time.49This strategy offers few surprises. As I have attempted to show, the figure of“Woman as victim” is inscribed in Western culture and discourse, with women’s bodiesseen as the “ideal site for the crime”75.This pattern has been endorsed by hundreds ofyears of art and literature, of social and cultural practices, and has more recently beenrationalized to an extent by theories of psychology and psychoanalysis explaining patternsof violence perpetrated by men against women in terms of a reaction against the threatof castration, apparently represented by or incarnated in woman. Nevertheless, despitethe sophistication of recent textual strategy, and the apparent challenge it offers tologocentric order, its actual subversion of the status quo with regard to therepresentation of women in literature is questionable. As Anne-Marie Dardignaconcludes, despite the total freedom of the twentieth century writing subject to expressdesires, fantasies and perversions:QueUes voix entend-on alors? Toujours celles des hommes. Et que disentelles? Rien de nouveau: que les femmes sont dangereuses, qu’il faut lesdominer et triompher de leur “chair” en les assimilant ou en les mettantamort...en tout cas les supprimer.Etranges fantasmes, étranges archaismes. Ii se dit là sans doute uneangoisse libérée qui s’exprime dans ce délire de pouvoir sur lecorps del’autre?II y a a travers lui une autre voix qui parle et qui, du fonddes ages,crée ses liens; celle du vieil ordre moral du patriarcat, jamais encoredéstabilisé76.‘Main Robbe-Grillet made this comment about the suitability of women’s bodies asobjects of violence in an interview for “Le Monde des lettres”, Le Monde (22 septembre1978), cited in Dardigna, 21.76Dardigna, 3 12-13.50Indeed, male avant-garde writing, so closely linked to the transgression implicit ineroticism, seems to walk a very fine line between the transgression of social order andthe reinforcement of that same (androcentric) order, because the very nature of thateroticism - which almost inevitably involves the violation of the female body - is itselfdependent on Woman’s position within androcentrism. As Suzanne Guerlac states,referring to Georges Bataille’s work on the subject, “woman is at the centre oferoticism.., because of her status as object of exchange”, thereby recalling the work ofClaude Levi-Strauss regarding the status of woman within patriarchal society78.As anobject in a male economy, as man’s “thing”, she can be fashioned in the very image ofman’s desire.At this time, however, the victimisation of women in literature - by which I meanthe portrayal of women as victims - and, inevitably, the interpretation of that portrayal -has once again undergone a facelift or a re-coding. Now, in addition to being the victimin terms of “plot”, Woman becomes the site or the apparent victim of the “metonymic”violence done to the text. Woman is, at this point, a simple, objectified vehicle for maleartistic experimentation and expression, or as Julia Kristeva writes:Lieu d’occultation, ou de valorisation, la femme sera un pseudo-centre, uncentre latent ou explicite, celui qu’on expose ostensiblement ou qu’oncamoufle avec precaution pudique, le centre present ou absent du discoursSuzanne Guerlac, “Recognition by a Woman!: A Reading of Bataille’s L’Erotisme”,Yale French Studies 78 (1990) 90-105, 100.78Levi-Strauss, Les Structures elementaires de la parente (Paris, Mouton - Maisondes sciences de l’homme, 1967) 73 and 76 respectively. Quoted in my introduction.51romanesque (psychologique) moderne, dans lequel l’homme cherchel’homme et s’y divinise, ou bien la femme veut se faire homme79.The representation or image of “Woman” in man-made art and literature, then, wouldseem often to have little to do with women, but is rather a metaphor frequentlyemployed by the artists in their attempts to recreate the world and the object of theirdesires. “Woman”, in art and writing from ancient mythology to (post)modern works, canbe seen as an imaginary or idealized concept. Her flesh-and-blood “reality” evacuated,“Woman” has become a mere pretext or catalyst for representations in which she was andis implicated. She is a highly fetichised symbol which can be manipulated according toartistic and political practice and design and which has been coded or normalized withina masculine “grammar” as the “symbolic victim”, defined in a discourse of violence. Thephysical and sexual violence and dismemberment done to the female body in much ofWestern art, therefore, takes place on the “metonymic level” described by Barthes, asthat body is appropriated as a symbol, a colonised space in and on which artists couldexperiment and express themselves, a canvas on which they could paint their own imageor a page on which to write their own fundamentally narcissistic and masculine discourse.Kristeva, Le Texte du roman: Approche sémiologique d’une structure discursivetransformationnelle, (The Hague, Mouton, 1970), 160. (See also Miller, The Heroine’sText, 136).52Chapter TwoTheReign of the Mother: Violence in the Québec Novel53The literature produced over the last two centuries in Québec shows manysimilarities with the European tradition and also many divergencies: neither of thesefacts is surprising if we consider both the dominant heritage of the Québécois and theirsubsequent history of oppression and colonization. In terms of the theme of violence inQuébec literature, again, there are several shared tendencies, as well as a number ofsubtle - and not so subtle - idiosyncratic variants. Within the Québec corpus, patterns ofviolence are certainly very common and also extremely evident. Many of the novelsemanating from Québec, from the earliest days of writing through to the present, arelittered with the corpses of female characters. There are various shifts in the types ofviolence depicted as inflicted on women, with some particularly striking developmentstaking place in the novels of the 1960’s - a time which also marks a turning point inQuébec’s history. In order to differentiate between the European and Québec traditionsof literary violence, this chapter will consider the social and historical background ofQuébec (focussing on the position of women), in relation to the evolution of FrenchCanadian literature and of the novel in particular. To this end, the chapter is dividedinto three sections corresponding roughly to the three principal periods in the evolutionof French-Canadian and Québécois literature, again, with regard to the fate of women.Section one, “The Birthing” attempts to establish a socio-historical context for theemergence of the protracted and somewhat painful beginnings of a literature from which54women, as writers and as characters, are initially largely absent1.The second, ‘TheMother” considers the unsullied and revered figure which dominated the literary scenefor many years. Finally, “The Change” discusses the period during which the Mother’susefulness came under scrutiny, her character undergoing a transformation, while therespect and dignity she had always held is trampled underfoot, and Woman isreincarnated as the element to be subdued during a time of intense social and literaryrevolution.The Birthing: the beginnings to 1916.Literary production was slow to begin inQuébec. Out of an oral tradition oflegends and storytelling of the feats of the first settlers, of explorers, the clearing of theland, backwoodsmen and fur-trappers and dealings with the Native peoples, a ratherunlikely first novel, Le Chercheur de trésors ou L’Influence d’un livre was written byPhilippe Aubert de Gaspé (fils) in 1837, afready over two hundred years after theestablishment of the Frenchcolon?.Between this date and 1860, which marks asignificant “point de repère” in the literature of French Canada, publications were severaland various, including written collections of traditional “contes”, such as those by LouisThere were women writing at this time, however - chroniclers and letter-writerssuch as Marie Guyart (de l’Tncarnation), Marie Morin and Elisabeth Begon - but theirtexts are not widely read today.2Aubert de Gaspé’s novel tells the story of a man obsessed with the promise ofwealth through alchemy and magic. The novel was the first of a number of storiesimitating French romantic literature and literature of the imaginary - far from theidealistic, didactic literature which would soon be promoted by the Abbé Casgrain.55Fréchette and Honoré Beaugrand, as well as stories of colonisation, most of which wereclosely relevant or familiar to the lives of the habitants - and today are consideredunreadable, their language and style flawed and heavy, their content parochial.The evolution of the French Canadian novel remained arduous, hampered by anumber of factors. First and perhaps most significantly, literary production was closelysurveyed and controlled by the Roman Catholic Church; even after the British conquest,the Church maintained control over the spiritual and moral education and well-being ofthe French-Canadian people, claiming to protect them against the assimilating forces ofthe Protestant British, while collaborating with the English in order to maintain thepower and presence of Catholicism in the “New World”. The potential subject matter wasthus limited, as was the freedom of expression of any would-be novelist. At the sametime, there was in Québec, as there had been in Europe, a general suspicion of the novelas a genre, still seen as a potential threat to the moral well-being of its readers. As aresult, many of the few early novels are preceded with excuses and denials of their ownform and fiction in which the authors belittle their own project3,so that, as GillesMarcotte comments: “le roman nalt, au Canada français, dans sa propre negation’4- aSee for example Les Anciens Canadiens, (1863) by Philippe Aubert de Gaspé(père) - a retelling of many of the traditional stories, written into a “novel” (the term isused loosely) about the friendship between a young Scot and the family of the Seigneurd’Haberville before and after the battle of the Plains of Abraham (Montréal, Fides,1985). The novel combines the two literary trends of realism and the adventure storyoccurring in Québec at the time (realist fiction would later triumph over the “littératured’imagination”).Gilles Marcotte, Une littérature gui se fait: essais critiques sur la littératurecanadienne-française, 1962 (Montréal, HMH, 1968) 12.56practice which must, necessarily, have had a somewhat restrictive, even negative effect onthe potential reader, as on the apologetic authors. Moreover, there was a certainconsciousness of an inferiority or a poverty in the written language of what was nowcalled French (or Lower) Canada, as well as an awareness of unfavourable comparisonswith the well-established and mature body of literature from France, from which Frenchauthors could draw and on which they could build. As Réjean Beaudoin notes inLRoman guébécois: “Arthur Buies parlait d’un peuple “sans classe instruite” et OctaveCrémazie d’une “société d’épiciers”5,while the Durham Report of 1839 described theFrench-Canadian people in an extremely pejorative fashion:There can hardly be conceived a nationality more destitute of all that caninvigorate and elevate a people, than that which is exhibited by thedescendants of the French in Lower Canada, owing to their retaining theirpeculiar language and manners. They are a people with no history and noliterature6.Evidently, a body of national literature could serve to prove such critics wrong7.Thisnational literature would reflect the cultural difference of Québec from that of its now-separated parent, France, so that French-Canadian writers would not simply be seen asRéjean Beaudoin, Le Roman guebécois (Montréal, Boréal, 1991), 25.6Lord Durham’s Report on the Affairs of British North America, 1912, Sir CharlesLucas (ed), 2 (New York, Augustus M. Kelly, 1970) 294.Published before the famous Report, the first novel by Aubert de Gaspé (fils), wasapparently written in the belief that his country could be served by such a contribution tothe beginnings of a national literature, which would, in turn, give a sense of identity andof culture to a (by now) colonised people. The Oxford Companion to CanadianLiterature, edited by William Toye (Toronto, Oxford and New York, Oxford UniversityPress, 1983) 594.57“des écrivains francais égarés sur les bords du Saint-Laurent”8,but as members of adistinct and literate culture. It would serve to strengthen that culture, while helping todefine the specificity of the French Canadian identity.One of the chief promoters of such a national literature was the Abbé Henri-Raymond Casgrain, who was among the founders of the first Canadian literary review,Les Soirees canadiennes (1860). Under Casgrain’s influence, however, literary productionwas, increasingly, taken over by the Catholic Church and judged according to its religiousor moral quality rather than according to any intrinsic artistic or literary value9.Alsounder his agency and that of the clergy as a whole, Québec was dominated by theCatholic ideology of “messianism”, a vision of “une utopie clérico-nationaliste”10,whichalready had a hold in French Canada and would mark French-Canadian culture andliterature for about a century. As the sense of identity of the “Canadiens” was threatened,making them Canayens, inferiorised by the process of colonisation, any degree of controlor power was taken from them; a desire to return to the traditional or “refuge” values(agricultural and Catholic) of La Nouvelle France prior to the arrival of the British,8Camille Roy, Essais sur la littérature canadienne (Quebec, Librairie Garneau,1907), 352, cited in Dictionnaire des oeuvres littéraires du Ouébec, 2, 1900-1939, dir.Maurice Lemire (Montréal, Fides, 1980) xvii.See Maurice 1_emire, “L’Instance critique”, in L’Histoire littéraire. Theories.méthodes. pratiques, dir. Clement Moisan (Sainte-Foy, Presses de l’Université Laval,1989) 249-270, 254.10Serge Gagnon, “L’Histoire de Mere Marie de L’Incarnation”, Dictionnaire desoeuvres littéraires du Ouébec, 1, 320, quoted in Réjean Beaudoin, Naissance d’unelittérature: Essai sur le messianisme et les debuts de la littérature canadienne-francaise(1850-1890) (Montréal, Boréal, 1989) 34.58offered a certain sense of security and belonging’1.It was a reactionary ideology, asideologue Philippe Masson’s comment “rétrograder c’est avancer” suggests12 and asRéjean Beaudoin explains:Le programme social du règne chrétien consiste donc a lire la réalitécontemporaine sur le modèle d’un passé transmis par la tradition. L.a viséehistorique de l’ancien empire colonial de la France en Amérique faitintégralement partie du projet national canadien-francais13.The people themselves, meanwhile, were seen as a martyred race with a sacred mission.According to this thesis:le peuple vaincu en 1760 était invite a croire a sa survivance miraculeuseet a sa vocation providentielle14.Under the influence of messianism, the people of French Canada were encouraged tosee themselves as a “chosen race” whose day of glory and freedom would come, as longas they suffered in silence and did God’s will according to Church doctrine. As PierreMaheu describes it:Dieu avait de grands desseins pour ce petit peuple; nous allions porter enAmerique-du-Nord-protestante-et-pecheresse, en France-pays-de-mission,et dans l’univers entier...notre message civilisateur et convertisseur, francaisThis process of a collective “regression” to a mythical utopic state prior to thedestruction brought about by colonisation is typical to colonised societies as AlbertMemmi demonstrated in his essay, Portrait du colonisé suivi de Les Canadiens francaissont-ils des colonisés? (Montréal, Hurtubise HMH, 1972).12Le Canada-francais et la Providence (Québec, 1875) 16, quoted in Beaudoin,Naissance d’une littérature, 40.13Beaudoin, Naissance d’une littérature, 45.14Beaudoin, Le Roman quebecois, 28.59et chrétien. Ce monde paternaliste avait des ambitions messianiquesdémesurées’5.This ideology and the hope that it offered served effectively as a compensation for thenarcissistic injury inflicted on a colonised and dispossessed people, giving their lives andtheir faith legitimacy and their history a mythical grandeur’6.With this in mind, it is not surprising that literary production in French Canada,for many years did (and could do) little other than reflect and conform to Catholicdoctrine and promote a nostalgic vision of a mythical “Golden Age” of the habitantorigins of the colony, prior to the Conquest: hence the number of novels which glorifiedthe family and the simple, moral, rural life, presenting townlife as suspect, if notdownright evil, and rendering the sufferings of the first colonist-martyrs a virtue’7.Asearly as 1846 Patrice Lacombe’s novel La Terre paternelle had evoked the sacredrelationship between the habitants and their lands. Known as the first of many romans dela terre, Lacombe’s novel traced the fate of a farmer who passed his land on prematurelyto his eldest son, thus betraying his relationship with the land - the disastrousconsequences serve as a moral lesson. The land itself while being the source of life tothose that worked it and who were dependent on its continued fertile productivity for15Pierre Maheu, “L’Oedipe colonial”, Parti pris 1.9-11 (été 1964) 19-29, reprinted inUn parti pris révolutionnaire (Montréal, Parti pris, 1983) 27-39, 29.16François-Xavier Garneau’s Histoire du Canada (1845-8) was intended forprecisely this purpose. As Valerie Raoul comments, it “transform[ed] the pre-conquestperiod of La Nouvelle France into a lost golden age of imaginary independence andexemplary heroic exploits. Defeat was turned into victory”. Distinctly Narcissistic: DiaryFiction in Québec (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993) 29.Réjean Beaudoin identifies the significant theme of “la souffrance” in Le Romanquébecois, 30-34.60their survival, came to represent the habitants themselves, in all that gave them theirspecific identity - their language, their religion, their cultural background, as well as thetraditional and ideological values that went hand in hand with that background; abetrayal of the land was thus a betrayal of the French-Canadian “essence”. AntoineGérin-Lajoie’s novel, Jean Rivard. le défricheur (1862), reinforced that lesson throughthe example of its tireless hero, who succeeds in clearing an area of land for settlementand farming, thereby showing the rewards of the hard labour, struggle and suffering thatwere the lot of the habitant farmer and his family18.As much as sixty years later,several collections of nostalgic essays were written, still portraying the “good old days”.Propos canadiens (1912) by Camille Roy, for example, as well as the two works by FrèreMarie-Victorin, Récits laurentiens (1919) and Croguis laurentiens (1920), stillrepresented Québec as a conservative, primarily rural, exclusively Catholic and highlydevout society. Functioning as much as reactions against modern literary practice andthought as against the threat of the increasing urbanisation and modernisation ofQuébec’9,these texts, like almostall others written during this period, attempted topreserve, or rather resuscitate, a traditional way of life from the onslaught of progress.Books deemed contrary to Catholic values, and therefore subversive and immoral,were liable to condemnation or suppression. Albert Laberge’s text La Scouine (1918), forexample, inverts the idealistic presentation of the rural lifestyle of the roman de la terre18At the same time, Jean Rivard succeeds in stemming the tide of emigration - seenas desertion and the draining of the colony - from French Canada to the States.19Toye, 597.61and describes, in naturalistic terms, the senseless, thankless and sterile existence of arural community, resigned to its fate. Needless to say, owing to its subversion of themessianic ideals promoted by the acceptable voice of French Canada, Laberge’s text wasnot well received: the first extract was condemned and La Scouine was finally publishedprivately for the author’s friends. Those books which were found to be particularlyinsurgent and openly treated “dangerous” issues (including challenging the Catholic faithor discussing sexuality and individual freedom), along with “seditious” texts from othercountries, were placed on the Roman Catholic “Index librorum prohibitorum”, withreaders and suppliers under threat of excommunication20.Jean-Charles Harvey’spolemical novel, Les Demi-Civilisés, received such a fate on its publication in 1934, inresponse to its open challenge to the hold of the ultramontanists over the French-Canadian people21;it was condemned by Cardinal Jean-Marie-Rodrigue Villeneuvewho forbade the publication, reading, selling, possession, translation and even discussionof the book22.A similar reception was reserved for Rodoiphe Girard’s Marie Calumet20This situation is satirized in Gerard Bessette’s novel I.e Libraire, in which thebookseller passes on forbidden books with a certain lack of “discretion”. (Montréal, I.eCercle du Livre de France, 1960). The Index was finally discontinued in 1966.21Jean-Charles Harvey, Les Demi-Civilisés, 1934, coll. 10/10 (Montréal, Quinze,1982). The narrator of Les Demi-Civilisés, Max Hubert, protests: “On vous dit parfoisqu’il vous est défendu de penser librement. Les auteurs d’un décret aussi infâme sontgrandement coupables. On ne saurait mieux s’y prendre pour tuer la valeur individuelleau nom d’on ne sait quelle médiocrité collective qu’on encourage au seul bénéfice d’unecaste, sous le faux semblant de l’ordre, de la tradition et de l’autorité”. Quoted inBeaudoin, I.e Roman quebecois, 36.22See the section on Les Demi-Civilisés in Lemire (ed.), Dictionnaire des oeuvreslittéraires du Québec, 2, 347.62(1904), which made the - apparently blasphemous - mistake of interspersing passagesfrom the Bible with its otherwise inoffensive tale of life in a country presbyter.The literary institution in Québec, led by the clerics, therefore served as a censor,while the literature itself was restricted to a form of propaganda, promoting andvalorising a nostalgic and nationalistic vision of the French-Canadian lifestyle andreligion. As one newspaper succinctly stated:Les bons livres nous ramènent aux vertus simples et nalves du passé; nousconsolent des vicissitudes du present et consolident le grand principede lafamille, cette pierre du foyer domestique, base de la société toutentière.The effect of such an attitude and ideology on the quality of literature produced and onthe creativity of the writers or potential writers in Québec could and should, perhaps,have been foreseen. However, as Maurice Lemire states:C’est ainsi que, par plus d’un demi-siècle d’efforts, les censeurs ont Puasceptiser le milieu littéraire et culturel au point de le rendre presquestérile”.Réjean Beaudoin says of the early writings from Québec:C’est une écriture pauvre, censurée, placée sous la haute surveillanced’une instance idéologique qui veille a l’orthodoxie du patriotisme commeGirard’s novel was finally reissued in 1946. The offending biblical passages werefrom Le Cantique des cantiques, a text which Hubert Aquin would cite at length in hisnovel, L’Antiphonaire (1969), discussed in my chapter 4.‘ Figaro, “Le Petit Courrier de Montréal” Album littéraire et musical de la Revuecanadienne, 3, 1843, 364. Quoted in Lemire, 263.Maurice L.emire, dir, “Introduction”, Dictionnaire des Oeuvres littéraires duOuébec, t2, xiii.63au plus précieux des biens, quand ii ne reste justement aucun autrebien26.This inevitable consequence of a restrictive censoring practice would be rectified after aslow and troubled start, by the appearance of texts such as Un Homme et son péché byClaude-Henri Grignon, Trente arpents by Ringuet, Le Survenant by GermaineGuèvremont, Gabrielle Roy’s Bonheur d’Occasion, and André Langevin’s Poussière surla yule, along with the novels of the modernist period which occurred in Québec in the1960’s at the time of the “Revolution tranquille”27.The Mother: Laura Chapdelaine to Rose-Anna Lacasse.One of the constants of the traditional, nationalistic culture and context until the1960’s was an idealisation of Woman as Mother - a tendency well documented in bothliterary and socio-historical studies. Woman’s sacred duty under messianism began withthe much lauded (and required) act of childbirth, by which the colony of La NouvelleFrance would be peopled and the Catholic Church would have an ever-increasing flockof followers: the only acceptable alternative to this for women was the religious seclusionof the convents. To this end, pressure was - successfully - exerted on men and women26Le Roman québécois, 25.27These later novels, which include works by Hubert Aquin, Victor-Levy Beaulieuand Marie-Claire Blais, among others, will be the focus of the following chapters.Laure Conan’s novel, Angéline de Montbrun (1881), tells the story of one youngwoman who refuses the role of wife and mother after the death of her too-well-lovedfather, and an accident which leaves her disfigured and her fiancé less in love;Angéline’s ostensibly devout seclusion links her to the figure of the Woman-martyr. Herfriend Mina chooses the convent, thereby also refusing motherhood. Marta Danylewyczstates that religious life offered women “a viable and esteemed alternative to64alike, largely through the influence of the Catholic Church, to marry and reproduce. AsMarie Lavigne and Yolande Pinard observe:le taux de fécondité est un des plus élevés qui ait jamais été mesuré:entre 1700 et 1730, les femmes ont en moyemie 8.4 enfants vivants’.Procreation was for many years considered both a sacred and patriotic duty, with familiesof upwards of 10 children by no means uncommon, despite periods of extreme povertyand high infant mortality.Woman’s traditional domain was the household, providing and preparing food andcaring for her husband and the many children - except when she was needed to assist themenfolk in clearing and cultivating the land. As Jean Le Moyne describes her:la mere canadienne-francaise se dresse en calicot, sur son “prélart”, devantun poêle et une marmite, un petit sur la hanche gauche, une grande cuillera la main droite, une grappe de petits aux jambes et un autre petit dans leber de la revanche, là, a côté de la boIte a bois3°.She was hard-working and skilled, devout, infinitely fertile, wise, self-sacrificing and anendless source of nurturing strength: a reincarnation of sorts, a distinctly French-Canadian re-coding of Mary, the Virgin Mother. However, just as the image of theVirgin served as a political and religious symbol in Europe, but had little correlation tothe reality of women’s life there, the importance of the figure of the mythical Mother inmotherhood in a society that seemed to value lay women solely as procreative beings”(Taking the Veil: an Alternative to Marriage. Motherhood and Spinsterhood in Ouébec.1840-1920, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1987, 106). Danylewycz adds that theSisters often had career opportunities denied lay women.29Marie Lavigne and Yolande Pinard, Les Femmes dans la société guebecoise:aspects historigues (Montréal, Boréal Express, 1977) 10, (my emphasis).°Jean Le Moyne, “La Femme dans la civilisation canadienne-francaise”, inConvergences (Montréal, HMH, 1961), 69-100, 71.65Québec lies not somuch in its accuracy of representation31,as in its power over theimagination and its ability to control women’s behaviour. Indeed, after her death theMother became a saintly and mythified figure whose exaggerated qualities made of her amodel to be emulated and a powerful, daunting and unattainable example to those whowould succeed her. This idealised, mythical and timeless figure dominated theimagination of the population of French Canada and served as the symbol of a primarilyCatholic ideal. Her identity is intrinsically related to the (Mother) earth, on which thehabitant tradition and messianic refuge values were founded. Like the earth, she was“constante, éternellement virginale et chaque année maternelle”32,pure, yet life-givingand, like Nature, she was seen to wield considerable power - an aspect of her personawhich would become more apparent, and more troubling, in later novels.Earlier literature from Québec, in particular the roman de la terre, is filled withthe spirit and images of the mythical Mother33.Louis Hémon’s novel of 1916, Maria31Indeed, as early as 1881, there were already considerable numbers of womenamong the factory workforce, for example (their number would increase drastically afterthe Second World War), a fact which questions the validity of the Mother stereotype.(Lavigne and Pinard, 18). There were also a number of women in La Nouvelle Francerenowned for various exploits or for social and political responsibilities: educated womensuch as Marie de l’Incarnation, Marguerite Bourgeoys and Jeanne Mance, among others,were instrumental in the direction and development of the country, particularly ineducational and medical matters. Again, the validity and accuracy of the stereotype isquestionable, as is its foundation.32Ringuet, Trente arpents, 1938 (Montréal: Fides, 1966), 165-66.There are many studies of the role of the mother in French-Canadian literature:Soeur Saint-Marie-Eleuthère’s text, La Mere dans le roman canadien-francais (Ottawa,Université d’Ottawa, 1964), which praises the figure of the Mother, is among the betterknown. See also Janine Boynard-Frot, Un matriarcat en progres: Analyse sémiotique deromans canadiens-français. 1860-1960 (Montréal, Presses de l’Université de Montréal,1982) and Le Collectif Clio, L’Histoire des fenimes au Ouébec depuis quatre siècles66Chapdelaine (generally considered to be the first “classic” of French-Canadianliterature, albeit written by a Frenchman), became a “measuring stick” for much of theliterature which followed. The novel presents the portrait of the life of a model habitantfamily, and reinforces the destiny of the French-Canadian people through its heroine’sultimately conservative choice of husband and future: Maria chooses between her tworemaining suitors (the third, and perhaps her favourite, being dead) the one with whomshe may best emulate the role of the pioneering wife (and procreator), thereby followingin the footsteps of her own long-suffering mother, whom the hardships of this life haveeffectively killed. She is seen to be doing her duty according to the ideological values ofher community and thereby ensuring the survival of her people: the rewards willapparently come in the “next world”. Conversely, the daughter-in-law in Le Survenant,Phonsine, is patronised and belittled because she is childless, unskilled in the kitchen anddoes not measure up to the memory of her (also dead) mother-in-law, who is describedand remembered in terms of the “Mother” stereotype. The ever-determined Rose-Aima,meanwhile, shines out in Bonheur d’occasion as the quintessential mother-martyr, readyto sacrifice herself for the sake of her children andhusband.(Montréal, Quinze, 1982) for information on the “real women” of Québec.“ Louis Hémon, Maria Chapdelaine, 1924 (Montréal, Fides, 1946).Germaine Guèvremont, Le Survenant, 1945 (Montréal, Fides, 1974).Gabrielle Roy, Bonheur d’occasion, 1945 (Montréal, Beauchemin,, 1970).67Un Homme et son péché, by Claude-Henri Grignon and Trente arpents, byRinguet (Philippe Panneton) offer two of the most prototypical images of the IdealWoman, yet they each adopt her for different ends: they are both also, on one level atleast, typical romans de la terre and faithful representations of the habitant community.The first, Un homme et son péché, focusses on the miser, Séraphin Poudrier, whosecharacter owes much to Baizac’s miser Gobseck. The novel follows the way in whichSéraphin’s avarice affects those around him, serving as a condemnation of capitalism.His long-suffering and badly used wife, Donalda, meanwhile, is the model of Christianvirtue and conjugal obedience (starving herself while waiting for the man who uses heras an unpaid servant) and as such she is also the consummate Victim. Séraphin’s sadisticmistreatment of her in life - depriving her of food and also of the children who would, inthis context, give value to her life by making of her the formidable Mother, working herto death and refusing to send for a doctor until it is too late to save her life - isreiterated after her death, when her corpse is forced into a coffin too short for her,breaking her legs in the process, all in the name of economy. As the “Ideal Woman”,Claude-Henri Gngnon, Un Homme et son péché, 1933, (Montréal: Stanké, 1984).Although he may appear parodic, his sinful passion so obsessive that he dies tryingto save his beloved gold from a fire, Séraphin personifies the parsimoniousness whichwas traditionally held as a virtue among the habitants: the harshness of the lives of thecolonizing families - battling short growing seasons and long unforgiving winters - madefrugality an essential and cherished virtue. As Grignon himself explains: “La misère, dela viande sauvage a manger, et le premier blé qu’on récolte paralt plus précieux quel’or. On le cache dans le grenier en prevision de l’avenir. L’économie est devenue nonpas seulement une qualite, mais une vertu(...)De l’économie a l’avarice, le pas est vitefranchi” (Grignon, “Preface”, Un Homme et son péché, i-xxvii, xvi). Here, indeed, hisfrugality taken to an extreme, Séraphin lives a dry, bitter and thankless life in whichsaving and profit have become ends in themselves.68Donalda is the victim of Séraphin’s vice, her fate serving to condemn his obsession, whileshe herself becomes a saint, a martyred example and a warning of the perils of avarice -a warning obviously wasted on Séraphin and which, as a result, is all the morepoignant39.Trente arpents, meanwhile, challenges the preeminence of messianism and, byextension the supremacy of the Catholic Church; thanks to a certain subtlety andsophistication, however, it was able to avoid the wrath of the censors. Here, the discourseand philosophy of the roman de la terre are manipulated: the rural setting, the habitantcommunity, characters and dialect so well-loved of the regionalists and the moralistsalike are present - as is the Ideal Woman - all of which lends an appearance ofconservatism. However, written during the economic crisis of the 1930’s, at a time whenthe glorious days of the messianic vision were beginning to seem somewhat incongruousnext to the day-to-day reality of the majority of French Canadians4°,Trente arpentsadopts the codes of the roman de la terre in order to offer, in place of the reassuranceLooking today at Donalda’s function in the text, however, it seems that, in additionto being the victim of Séraphin’s avarice, she is also the victim of a religion and traditionwhich see her a prisoner of her marriage vows and allow her no escape. Donaldabecomes a saintly figure through her martyrdom and her adherence to a faith-imposedduty and is thus rewarded for her suffering by a “promotion” to a status abovehumankind. Yet the sacrifice of this young, strong woman, well-loved by all but herhusband, to the strictures of a demanding faith and tradition today appears senseless,cruel and, in a context where frugality is of the essence, all the more shockingly wasteful.As Pierre Maheu comments: “Entre la réalité quotidienne du Montréalaisbaignant dans le franglais, traversant dans la misère et la colère la Crise économiquedes années 30, et le mythe du retour a la terre et de la mission civilisatrice, la distanceétait trop grande” (31).69and reassertion of the values of Maria Chapdelaine, a realist picture of dispossession anddecay.The Moisan family, the “ideal family unit” of Trente arpents, crumblesprogressively throughout the novel, as the world around them becomes increasinglymodern. The first-born son, Oguinase becomes a priest and dies a young man, while theprettiest of the daughters, Lucinda, moves to the town and earns her living throughquestionable means, and the third son, Ephrem, leaves for the States, seeing no futurefor himself in Québec. Meanwhile, Euchariste, the patriarch, whose life is the very modelof that of the habitant fanner, ends his days as a night-watchman at a garage in theStates, having been forced to leave the remains of his beloved “trente arpents” in thehands of his oldest remaining son and heir, in a continuation of the merciless andunsparing cycle which had earlier made him a landowner himself.Euchariste’s wife, Alphonsine, is the epitome of Jean Le Moyne’s description ofthe “Mother”. In her, Euchariste recognizes the versatility and tirelessness of the idealWoman, as described earlier. In considering his marital prospects,il savait fort bien ce qu’elle pourrait lui donner: forte et râblée, pasregardante a l’ouvrage, elle saurait a la fois conduire la maison et l’aideraux champs a l’époque de la moisson. Dc visage avenant, bien tournée desa personne, elle lui donnerait des gars solides...(17).Meanwhile, once Alphonsine has “given” her husband “his” first son and thus proved herworth, Euchariste calls her “sa mere”, an honourable title referring to her relationship totheir children:comme les paysans de nos campagnes dénomment leur épouse fécondesans jamais lui donner d’autre titre que celui-là qui rappelle leur rOlesupreme (48).70It is this “supreme role” which is, finally, the death of her: Aiphonsine succumbs abouthalfway through the novel (and, therefore halfway through the life of her husband, andof her own “expected” life), during her thirteenth childbirth.Like Donalda, Alphonsine appears to be the very template from which the imageof the Mother was created - a soul-sister to Maria Chapdelaine - and yet the fate of thefamily in Ringuet’s novel casts doubt on the sincerity of the text as a roman de la terre,undermining the reassurance of the genre, and with it the Mother figure herself. Trentearpents plays on the constructs of the ideological text, and is written from a criticaldistance which enables it to depict and explore the more pragmatic and immediateconsequences of the traditional and anachronistic lifestyle, as well as the future of theFrench-Canadian people, still promised by messianism.While the two novels were written from different ideological perspectives(Grignon’s novel is fundamentally conservative, while Ringuet’s is radical), in each casethe values and the ideology of the text are represented in no small way by the heroine -carefully depicted as an Ideal, in terms of an esteemed cultural stereotype - and her fate.Each woman dies as a logical consequence of the role she dutifully plays, as do themajority of “Mothers” in similar literature from Québec. This phenomenon, whichamounts to an immolation of women, is underlined by Patricia Smart in Ecrire dans lamaison du père, where she speaks of:Toutes les mères mortes du roman de la terre - la mere d’Angeline deMontbrun, Laura Chapdelaine, l’épouse de Menaud, Aiphonsine Moisan,Mathilde Beauchemin et bien d’autres...leurs voix tues faisant irruptiondans le texte culturel quebécois a travers le cr1 délirant proféré par71l’épouse parfaite, Donalda Poudrier, au moment de sa mort: “J’ai soif! Jebriile...On m’a tuée...M’man! M’man!”41.Donalda dies childless, the victim of her sadistic husband’s obsession (victim also of herdomestic obedience, as well as of the system which requires that obedience), whileAiphonsine dies through the exhaustion of repeated pregnancies, both the emblem of hersuccess as a Woman and the cause of her death.Literature in Québec prior to 1945, saturated with messianic discourse, presentedwomen with this idealised, mythical stereotype, which served in turn to shape their ownimage of themselves, as well as their ambitions or desires, moulding them into a mentalstraightjacket of culture, tradition and societal expectation. Not restricted to literature,this figure served, in part, as a means of controlling women, keeping them in the placeassigned them by a male-dominated society, led by a male-dominated religion.Condemnation often followed for those who failed to meet the stringent demands of sucha system. Such control is hinted at in Trente arpents, on the occasion of a visit byOguinase, the priest, whenla maison tout entière prenait quelque chose de sacerdotal, un peu decette atmosphere des presbytères oü les femmes se sentent diminuées,comme le veut l’Eglise (166).Thanks to the tenacity of this particular representation of Woman - which reignedfor around a hundred years in Québec - the social position or status of women inQuébec changed little until at leastthe middle of this century. Women in Québec weredenied the right to vote provincially until 1940 - 22 years after the rest of Canadian41Patricia Smart, Ecrire dans la maison du père: l’émergence du féminin dans latradition littéraire du Ouébec (Montréal, Québec/Amérique, 1988) 21.72women - and first voted in the elections of194442.Women’s suffrage was won inQuébec, asin Europe, amid accusations of its being “unnatural” and warnings of thedangers of women’s liberation, as ostensibly demonstrated in other countries which, as a“direct result” of feminism, were troubled by “des ivrognesses, des filles-mères, desdivorcees et des faiseuses d’anges”43.Henri Bourassa, for example, warned that with theevolution of feminism, Woman would becomela femme-électeur, qui engendra bientôt la femme- cabaleur, la femmetélégraphe, la femme-souteneur d’élections, puis la femme-député, lafemme-sénateur, la femme-avocat, enfin pour tout dire en un mot, lafemme-homme, ce monstre-hybride et repugnant qui tuera la fenime-mèreet la femrne-femme.Bourassa, among others, wrote a number of articles on the role of women andwhy they should be denied the “right” to vote. Basing his arguments largely on biologicalessentialism, Bourassa claimed that a woman’s place was as childbearer:La principale fonction de la femme est et restera - quoi que disent et quoique fassent, ou ne fassent pas, les suffragettes - la maternité, la sainte etféconde maternité, qui fait véritablement de la femme l’egale de l’hommeet, a maintes égards, sa supérieure45.42Michèle Jean, ed., Ouébécoises du20Csiècle: les étapes de la liberation feminineau Ouébec. 1900-1974 (Montréal, Quinze, 1977), 38-41.Henri Bourassa, quoted in Susan Mann Trofimenkoff, “Henri Bourassa et laquestion des femmes” (in Lavigne and Pinard, 109-124) - to which Trofimenicoff replies,not without a hint of irony: “Bien siir, aucune de ces viles creatures n’existait auQuébec!”111.Henri Bourassa, “Le Désarroi des cerveaux - Triomphe de la démocratie”,LDevoir, 28 mars 1918, 1. Quoted in Jean, 195 (original emphasis).‘Henri Bourassa, “Le “Droit” de voter - La Lutte des sexes - Laisserons-nous avilirnos femmes?”, Le Devoir, 30 mars 1918, 1. Quoted in Jean, 197.73However, this superiority was restricted to specific qualities in women, as SénateurLaurent-Olivier David pointed out:Supérieure a l’homme par la délicatesse du coeur et de l’esprit, elle lui estinférieure pour toutes choses qui exigent de la vigueur corporelle etintellectuelle.David continued that Woman, as “reine et gardienne du foyer...devait demeurer dans leslimites imposees par la Providence” and that if she attempted to surpass those limits, shewould become “un astre sorti de son orbite, une plante, une fleur arrachée a son milieunaturel; un être déclassé”47 - thereby apparently ignoring the fact that many women hadleft the kitchen and the nursery long before48.Woman’s place was therefore seen to be dictated by biologically essentialist aswell as divine forces, and, while well enough able to bring up and educate her sons, shewas not considered competent to deal with those same sons once grown men in theirown world. Finally, J-J Denis stated categorically that:Les Saintes Ecritures, la théologie, la philosophie chrétienne, l’histoire,l’anatomie, la physiologie, l’économie politique et la psychologie feminineLaurent-Olivier David, “Le Féminisme”, Mélanges historiques et littéraires(Montréal, Beauchemin, 1917) 329, quoted in Jean, 25.‘David, 328, quoted in Jean, 13.This was in spite of the “Ecoles Ménageres” promoted by Duplessis in order toperpetuate woman’s domesticity. These schools taught “domestic science” or “homeeconomics” to girls only in single sex schools; the level of academic education andachievement was considerably lower than in regular schools. Lavigne and Pinard, 390-394.74s’accordent a reconnaltre que la place de la femme est non pas l’arènepolitique mais le foyer49.Evidently, many of the arguments against women’s suffrage were imbued with the valuesof messianism which would - had such a thing been possible - have returned the societyto what it had been one hundred years before, to an order which bore little relation tocontemporary reality. The reasons given for opposing women’s liberation were nostalgicand reactionary, attempting through upholding and preserving the glorious ensign of theMother to hold on to, or re-establish, the traditional values and lifestyle of Catholicideology.While the type of attitude displayed above and the subsequent control it effectsare in no way restricted to women in Québec (there are perhaps universal pressures onwomen to conform to cultural models) the cult-like valorisation of the Mother is strikingand specific to Québec at a certain period. Furthermore, while women in general havebeen seen as a powerful force in Québec’s history (social as well as literary) largelythrough the valorisation of the Mother, and while they may perhaps have been “queensof the household and guardians of the home”, the power which they purportedly heldappears to have been assigned to them50.It seems that the only way women could holdJ-J. Denis, Débats de la Chambre des communes, 1918, t.1, 677-678, quoted byTrofimenkoff, 117. Simone de Beauvoir’s observation regarding the voices of authoritycalled into service to “legitimise” women’s subjugation and “prove” her inferiority lend anaura of irony to Denis’s dogmatism. See Le Deuxième Sexe, (Paris, Gallimard, 1949)1.24, also cited in my introduction.50There are echoes of the power structure of Sade’s fictional society “Les Amis deSodalité” and the Chevalier’s “liberating” speech in Philosophie dans le boudoir, asdiscussed in the last chapter.75any power was by reaching towards the ideological standard. In this way they were givenvalue in a masculine system, which held the province as the model of virtue, moralityand faith, and which, in turn, required the presence and strength of that same standardin order to appear “legitimate” and “authentic”. As Susan Mann Trofimenkoff points out:Cette “ideologie officielle” avait fait du Québec un havre de culture dansune ocean matérialiste, un modêle des plus hautes vertus religieuses,morales, éducatives et familiales. Et la gardienne de tout ceci était lafemme. Que la femme change, et...tout l’édifice s’écroulerait51.Again, Woman is forced into the role of ideological mainstay52,as the concept of“Woman” is moulded into a figure serving to hold the fabric of the entire (masculine)system and discourse together. It could be said, then, that those “powerful” women, those“Mothers”, are constructed and valorised according to a masculine aesthetic and aretherefore subject to (or objectified by) that aesthetic53.And yet Québec wasnonetheless seen as a matriarchal society, ruled by a powerful mother-figure, next towhom the father seemed insignificant or ineffective, as the effects of colonisation, whichprovoked this hypervalorisation of the Mother, disrupt traditional gender relations.51Trofimenkoff, 111.52The similarities with the courtly lady or virgin, the pivot of chivalric culture andliterature, are apparent. See my chapter 1.This façade of power was also apparent in nineteenth-century North Americawhere a similar “cult of motherhood” made of Woman the representative of the mostsentimental of Victorian Christian values. See Ann Douglas, The Feminization ofAmerican Culture (New York, Knopf, 1977).There are (almost) as many “pères défaits” in the literature of Québec as thereare powerful mothers: Euchariste Moisan ends in ruin without his wife, Azarius Lacasseis unable to feed his family, while the weak-willed Maurice Darville would have been nomatch for Angéline de Montbrun. (See also Patricia Smart, Ecrire dans la maison dupère, 209-210.) I will consider the implications of this pattern in more detail in the76Here, Woman’s individuality and sexuality are sacrificed in the name of thereproduction of the race: she is reduced to her childbearing function and all “feminine”values are appropriated by a male-dominated religion, which is nevertheless seen as the“Mother Church”. The earlier literature, as we have seen, reflects this, as femalecharacters are continually portrayed - either positively or negatively - in terms of thisideal: those who compare favourably with the model and are therefore considered“successful” women often die as a result, attaining a sort of mythical status, and soserving as an example to young women, who might possibly be wavering or struggling intheir duty. It is the same process which we have already seen in action in French andEnglish literature, where Woman was set up as a symbol for the political ends of a maledominated society. It is not surprising, then, that so many of the Mothers in this literarytradition either die at some point in the story, or are already dead prior to its beginning,victims of a harsh but “blessed” lifestyle, dutifully fulfilling their sacred destiny, rewardedat the last by immortality through a mythical, saintly status. Nor is it surprising that thevirtues of the Mother are so extolled and valorized, as if to make her loss the moredeeply felt, just as the exaggerated “virtue” and beauty of the eighteenth-century heroinemade her misfortune the more affecting and “poetic”.following chapters. Valerie Raoul also discusses the effect of colonisation on genderrelations in her study; see especially her chapter 3, 26-41.77The Change: 1945 and onwards.The modernisation of Québec increasingly weakened the hold of the clergy and ofthe all-encompassing myth of messianism; that ideology became progressively irrelevantto a society less readily impressed by the doctrines of a “backward-looking” religion,which could do little to compensate for the daily reality of suffering and poverty, exceptto give what appeared increasingly to be a false hope. The horrors of the Second WorldWar, in which French Canadians fought as subjects of the British crown, also cast a dimlight on the golden salvation promised by messianism, but which required a return to anow irrevocable past. Meanwhile, 1948 saw the publication of the highly controversialand influential manifesto, Refus global, by a group including several women led by theautomatist artist Paul-Emile Borduas. Heavily influenced by the surrealist movement inFrance, the group openly denounced messianism and all that it entailed, adoptingtherallying cry of “Au diable le goupilon et la tuque”55.In 1950, in the depths ofDuplessis’s reign, the political review Cite libre, also highly critical of messianism, wasfounded by Pierre-Elliot Trudeau and Gerard Pelletier. It was a time of change and ofincreasing discontent: the beginnings of the shift in power and political sentiment inQuébec which would culminate in the violence of the 1960’s. As a result of thisprogression, literature from Québec began to shake off the ghost of the roman de laterre, with novels such as Gabrielle Roy’s Bonheur d’occasion, written in 1945. Set in thedepressed city of Montréal, this “roman de la ville” acknowledged the altered reality ofPaul-Emile Borduas, Refus Global, 1948, in Borduas et les Automatistes.Montréal. 1942-1955 (Montréal, Editeur officiel du Québec, 1971) 95-151.78Québec andof the many people living in urban areas - as didRoger Lemelin’s Au piedde la pente douce (1944), setin Québec City (picking up where Les Demi-Civilisés hadleft off in 1934), whileAndré Langevin’s novel, Poussière sur la yule (1953) consideredlife in a small mining town.With the rejection of messianism andits accoutrements, the portrayal of theMother also began to change. Therepresentative or symbol of a long period of culturaldarkness, she became an increasinglythreatening figure, as the reactionary andrepressive natureof her power was recognised. Her “raison d’être”, after all, was toreinforce the conservative refuge valuespromoted by the Catholic Church, and so tocompensate the Québécois fortheir sense of loss and powerlessness under colonisation.As such, through a shift, orrather a reversal, of association, this visible symbol or“symptom” of colonisation was also seen as thecause. The Mother became a figurecapable of instilling terror in the heartsof men and boys, who next to her seemed andfelt impotent, and so came to holdher responsible for their own inadequacy. From thesaintly, nurturing Ideal of the roman dela terre, she had become once again the phallicand castrating mother, her omnipotenceand omnipresence blamed for the ineffectivenessand the virtual absence (the fading out)of Québécois fathers and sons. At this time, thelikes of Laura Chapdelaine, AlphonsineMoisan and Rose-Anna Lacasse are replaced byEugénie, the possessive and suffocating motherof Jean Filiatrault’s novel ChaInes56,by“la gigantesque Claudine Perrault” (whohabitually and sadistically brutalises her sonFiliatrault, Chalnes (Montréal, le Cercle duLivre de France, 1955). The text isactually divided into twonovellas, “La Chalne de feu” and “La ChaIne desang”; in thelatter story, the son, Bastien,has actually killed his mother.79François, and finally deafens him by beating him around the head)57,by LucienneNormand, the bitter, angry mother of Mathieu58,and by Louise, the vain and idolisingmother of Patrice, “la belle bête” of Marie-Claire Blais’ novel of that name59.The factthat three of these “monstrous mothers” are from texts written by women would seem tosuggest that the Mother’s influence was equally suffocating to young women, forced tolive in her shadow and grow in her image6°.The repercussions of this shift in theperception and representation of the Mother (and its effects on all female characters)will be considered in more detail in the following chapters.However, although the Mother’s supremacy has changed and femalecharacterisation in novels from Québec over the last forty years has indeed opened up -characters being ostensibly freed of the uniformity of the maternal role although itslegacy is still felt - the well-established status of Woman as preferred victim, has notchanged. At this time, however, there is the beginning of a transformation of that statuswhich was to become more apparent and more frequent in the novels of the 1960’s.In post-war literature it seems that the female character, often one-dimensionaland of secondary importance to the plot, exists primarily to be destroyed - not throughAnne Hébert, Le Torrent (Montréal, HMH, 1963).58Francoise Loranger, Mathieu (Montréal, Le Cercle du Livre de France, 1949).Blais, La Belle Bête, 1959 (Montréal, Pierre Tisseyre, 1968). I shall becommenting on this novel in chapter 5.60See Mary Jean Green’s article, “Redefining the Maternal: Women’s Relationshipsin the Fiction of Marie-Claire Blais” for a discussion of this. In Traditionalism.Nationalism and Feminism: Women Writers of Ouébec, Paula Gilbert Lewis, ed.(Westport, Conn., Greenwood Press, 1985) 125-139.80“natural causes” as in the case of the idealised Mother, but with the full intent of thetext. Gigi, the prostitute in André Major’s L’Epouvantail61,for instance, is murdered:her true killers are never discovered (a deliberate and essential twist of the plot) and,while the rest of the trilogy escapes the clichéd structure of the “roman policier” byrefusing to follow up on the mystery, Gigi and her death are forgotten. The sacrifice ofGigi, her role as murder victim, sets up the main interest of the novel and serves as apremise for the wrongful arrest, flight and subsequent sequestration of Momo Boulangerwith Marie-Rose.André Giroux’s novel Au dela des visages62,first published in 1948, is alsocentred around the murder of a female, supposedly a prostitute, although there are noreferences to the woman except in her capacity as slain victim. Again, the woman’s deathappears to be primarily the premise for the novel which focusses on the supposedmurderer, seen through the eyes of his family and friends, most of whom seek to justify,excuse and explain the crime, while many try to “blame the victim”. The actual crime isabsent, so that the text revolves around a “silence” - as does Alain Robbe-Grillet’s novelLe Voyeur (1955), which includes a blank page where the murder (if indeed it tookplace,) might have been described - thus leaving the reader with a multiple, “secondhand” perspective, but no authoritative version of the story. Again, the text escapes thetightly conclusive structure of the detective novel, where criminal and motive arerevealed in a satisfying denouement. In Giroux’s text, as in Le Voyeur, the crime and the61Major, L’Epouvantail, 1974 (Montréal, Stanlcé, 1980).62Giroux, Au dela des visages, 1948 (Montréal, Fides, 1979).81victim are primarily important in that they serve as a catalyst or a “point de depart” forthe text, in terms of plot as well as structure. As in much twentieth-century Europeanliterature, experimental narrative strategies appear to be taking place on the bodies ofthe female characters and at their expense63.The fact that the women in both these novels are prostitutes is significant for tworeasons. First, the murder of a Maria Chapdelaine or an Aiphonsine, for example, couldnever have been treated so casually or left unresolved - in fact, it is unthinkable thateither of them could meet a violent, unnatural fate of any kind. Within a conservativeand moral context, the death of a prostitute is of less significance and always of lessconcern to society than the death of a “goodgir1M.The prostitute is the “professionalvictim”; she has stepped outside the moral codes of a hypocritical society, thus placingherself outside its protection (and outside the protection of those same males who payfor her services). In the context of the two novels mentioned here, the female characters63See chapter 1.64In the real life case of the Yorkshire Ripper, for example, as in a number ofsimilar cases, it was not until the killer attacked his first non-prostitute that the policebegan to treat the situation with the attention it demanded: it then became clear that itwas not only a marginalized group of women of “lesser worth” (and whose existence was,after all, somewhat troubling to society) who were in danger, but “daughters and wives”.For more information on this case and on other serial killers of women, see Jane Caputi,The Age of Sex Crime (Bowling Green, Ohio, Bowling Green State University PopularPress, 1987) and Susan Brownmiller, Against our will: Men. Women and Rape (NewYork, Bantam Books, 1976).Caputi, 124.82are expendable, suggesting that although the novels challenge traditional narrativestructures and practice, a fundamentally conservative attitude with regard to womenremains - again a tendency of even the most formally innovative of recent Europeanliterature.Secondly, the “femme facile” (often portrayed as a waitress67 and by no meansnecessarily a prostitute) becomes a significant figure in Québec literature from about thistime. Indeed, prior to this period the concept of sex “out of wedlock” is all butunrepresented - despite the high frequency of illegitimate births in the province.Jovette Bernier’s La Chair décevante (1931)69is the exception, telling the story of anunwed mother who lives with the emotionally paralysing stigma of her “fault”, ending herlife alone and insane. Despite the radical subject matter, therefore, the novel seemsultimately to reinforce Catholic sexual mores. Following the War, however, there is adefinite sexualisation of female characters inQuébecliterature. Madeleine, in AndréLangevin’s Poussière sur la yule, for example, refuses the conservative role expected ofher as the doctor’s wife, spending much of her time alone in the local restaurant andeventually taking a lover. Madeleine finally kills herself as the town, representative of theIn addition to the “professional” strike against her, Gigi had also formerly betrayedher lover (Momo himself), which appears to make her a particularly easy, one couldeven say deserving, target.67Victor-Levy Beaulieu comments on the figure of the waitress or “ouétrice” - often“exploited” in his own novels due to her “forte valeur érotique”. See “Victor-LevyBeaulieu et l’érotisme”, propos recueillis par Claude Beausoleil, Cul 0, 1 (automne1973) 35-39.See Danylewycz, 74-75.69Bernier, La Chair décevante, 1931 (Montréal, Fides, 1982).83oppressive conservative tradition, drives her lover from her and breaks her spirit. As amaverick figure, disrupting the order of the town and rejecting the path paved for heraccording to her sex and rank, it seems Madeleine must either be brought into line bythe community or destroyed. In Bonheur d’occasion, meanwhile, the young girl,Florentine, realizes the limits of the future offered her if she follows in her mother’sfootsteps; in order to escape the seemingly endless circle of poverty which Rose-Annahas battled constantly and which otherwise awaits her, Florentine marries one man,although already pregnant by another. In rejecting what would normally be her fate, shealso rejects the part her own mother has played in such an exemplary fashion. The‘femme facile”, then, while so very different from the Mother figure, appears to act or tobe judged in relation to that standard, as a kind of inverse form of the traditionalheroine. Rather than liberating the female characters from the stereotype which hasbeen their only lot so far, the “femme facile” appears to be a re-coding of the Mother,destined to be considered perpetually in relation to her70.In either case, there is a certain sexual promiscuity or forwardness about theheroine. Cast as a sexual being, Woman as “femme facile” introduces what is possibly anew element to the Québec novel, which, despite its preoccupation with motherhood andreproduction, very rarely made explicit reference to the act of copulation itself sex beingdescribed, rather, in terms of euphemism, while the Mother herself was sexual only in°The development of this character will be discussed in more detail in the followingchapters.84terms of her ability to reproduce. Again, the similarities with Mary, the Virgin Mother,are apparent.The novels of the 1960’s and 70’s, have, as a body, a certain quality of their own.At this time the social, political and economic dissatisfactions of the francophonepopulation finally came to a head. After two centuries of oppression by an anglophoneminority in Québec and majority in Canada, after the economic hardships of the thirties,the Second World War in which French Canadians fought alongside the British (theirtraditional oppressors) and after the long reign of fundamentalism and conservatismunder Maurice Duplessis known as “la grande noirceur”, the rumbling discontent becamea violent explosion of anger and frustration. This resulted in many demonstrations, somenotable kidnappings and the terrorist activity of the FLQ (Front de liberation duQuébec). This violence was directed, in part, towards the anglophones in Québec, seenas representative of the greater, anglophone power of North America, which surroundedthe francophone province of Québec and, of course, still does. The “Revolutiontranquille” was thus a nationalist movement towards independence. However, in place ofthe conservative, right-wing ideology which governed until the end of the Duplessis era,the nationalism of the sixties was socialist and, as André Major discusses in his essay of196271,aimed to establish a new liberated and autonomous society. It was a movementwhich endeavoured to shake off a heritage of subjection and, imitating other colonies,reached towards “décolonisation”. However, despite the high socialist ideals of the71André Major, “Les Damnés de la terre et nous”, Revue socialiste, 6 (automne1962) 45-47, based on Les Damnés de la terre, by Franz Fanon (Paris, Maspéro, 1976).85Revolution, the struggle for independence was defeated by the neo-liberalism offederalists such as Trudeau and Bourassa72.The effect of the revolutionary sentiment and activity of the 1960’s on theliterature of the time was of course considerable. On a pragmatic level, for example,Jacques Godbout changed the ending of his novel Le Couteau sur la table, after news ofthe first bombing by the FLQ73.The period saw renewed attempts to establish adistinctly Québécois culture and literature, seeking once again to liberate the provincefrom the heritage of French culture, while at the same time trying to fend off the everencroaching, assimilative forces of anglophone Canada and the United States. In fact,Maurice Arguin’s study of the evolution of the novel in Québec from 1944 to 1965traces a movement from a state of colonisation toward liberation. Valerie Raoul’s morerecent psychoanalytical analysis of the diary novel in Québec (Distinctly Narcissistic) alsoconsiders these novels as the product of a colonized or post-colonized society, as doesPatricia Smart’s study, Ecrire dans la maison du père.72See Jean Larose La Petite noirceur (Montréal, Boréal, 1989) and Michael D.Behiels, “Quebec: Social Transformation and Ideological Renewal, 1940-1976”, in OuebecSince 1945: Selected Readings, Michael D. Behiels, ed. (Toronto, Copp Clark Pitman,1987) 21-45.Jacques Godbout, Le Couteau sur la table (Paris, Seuil, 1965).“Maurice Arguin, Le Roman quebecois de 1944-1965: symptômes de colonisation etsignes de liberation (Québec, Université Laval: CRELIQ, 1985).86In the quest for a distinct cultural identity, much of the literature of the 1960’sand 70’s - now known as québécoise75 - tends to be experimental, in terms of its formand structure, and particularly its use of language: it is as much this tendency towardsexperimentation that led to such works being labelled “revolutionary”, as the content ofthe writings. Paul Chamberland talks of having to “mal écrire, parce qu’il s’agit deréfléchir le ma! vivre76”, thereby describing a need for a new form of writing, or “unnouveau réalisme”77,to express the cultural and political alienation of the Québécois“colonisés”, the ambivalence and incoherence of their reality rendering “inappropriate”the cultural traditions of France.This “anti-writing” was realised, in part, by the introduction of ‘joual” as a writtenlanguage, during a fairly short-lived and highly controversial period of popularity ornotoriety in the early sixties. An urban dialect punctuated with anglicisms and “sacres”,joual is the language of the working-class home and the tavern, far from the standardFrench expected in business and politics. It is an impoverished language, well-suited tothe expression of anger and frustration, as Jacques Grand’Maison observes:Comme la sacrure, cette parlure tout au plus permettait au porteur d’eaude crier ses rages et ses impuissances. Contrairement au vieux patois, elle‘The term French-Canadian employed up until the 60’s designated a colonised andmarginalised people, defined as other in a negative relation to a dominant One; i.e. theywere not fully “French” nor fully “Canadian”.76Chamberland, quoted in Lise Gauvin, “Parti pris” littéraire (Montréal, Presses del’Université de Montréal, 1975), 47.Gauvin, 50.87ne savait même pas dire la nature, l’amour, l’amitié, la paternité, bref lavie familière78.Its adoption as a written language of literature served to subvert the tradition of writingin “standard” French, which is so different from the spoken language of Québec and thushad the aura of elitism. Writers such as Michel Tremblay, Jacques Renaud, ClaudeJasniin, Victor-Levy Beaulieu, and André Major employed phonetic transcription of thespoken dialect and syntax of the Montréalais, considering joual to be a languagecompletely distinct from French, as Hubert Aquin notes: “selon Victor-Levy Beaulieu, lesoeuvres écrites en joual devront être traduites pour être distribuées sur le marchéfrancais”. Writing in joual was viewed variously as an act of “literary terrorism”8°and“une entreprise contre le langage”81,while the violent treatment of language and textoften mirrors the content: the behaviour of Ti-Jean, the uneducated, unemployed antihero of Le Cassé82,for example, is echoed in the violence of the joual he speaks and in78Jacques Grand’Maison, “Du Joual quotidien au Québec francais ou un rolepolitique méconnu”, Maintenant (mars 1974) 26-30, 27.Hubert Aquin, “Le Joual-refuge”, Maintenant (mars 1974) 18-21, 19.°Gerald Godin, quoted by Jack Warwick, “Two Joual Novels and a Dialectic ofViolence”, in Terry Goldie and Virginia Harger-Grinling, Violence dans le romancanadien depuis 1960/ Violence in the Canadian Novel since 1960, Actes du Colloquesur la violence/ Papers from the Conference on Violence (St. John’s, Newfoundland,Memorial University, 1982), 45-58, 47.81André Brochu, quoted in Warwick, 47.82Jacques Renaud, Le Cassé (Ottawa, Parti pris, 1964).88which the text is written - the same can be said of Un rêve guebecois by Victor-LevyBeaulieu83.However, this act of aggression, which the adoption of joual constituted, was notwithout contradictions and difficulties. In its poverty as a language and its inability tocommunicate subtleties, written joual did indeed present a reflection of the profoundalienation of the Québécois of this period. However, while its use may have given asense of identity, this identity was necessarily that of a colonised people, asGrand’maison claims:le joual n’avait aucun contenu parce qu’on lui avait retire tout ce qu’il (sic)aurait Pu le désaliéner: la culture, la politique, l’économie. Celles-ci sedeployaient a ce deuxième étage inaccessible de l’aire publique coloniséeoü les pouvoirs étrangers et autochtones negociaient leurs propresintérêts.Elsewhere he adds: “Une vie privée qui n’a pas de langue ne peut déboucher sur unepolitique démocratique”. While aiming to liberate, the use of joual in writing thereforeserved rather to reflect the frustrations of a situation, from which it apparently offeredno real escape. Hubert Aquin, considering other societies whose native language hadbecome poorer and less efficient as a result of colonisation, also had misgivings over theadoption of joual as a representative language of the Québécois, seeing it as having anatrophying potential:je considère le joual comme une anémie pernicieuse: ce n’est passeulement notre langue qui s’en trouve frappée, mais la pensée dans la83Victor-Levy Beaulieu, Un rêve québecois (Montréal, Editions du jour, 1972). Thistext will be considered in detail in the next chapter.Grand’maison, 27.89mesure oil la pensée ne peut accéder a l’existence que par la mediationd’une formulation verbale ou écrite. Quand la formulation devientdéfectueuse, la pensée se trouve disloquée, larvaire, impuissante.While joual was not employed extensively in the novel for very long in Québec, and hasknown far more success in the theatre (in the plays of Michel Tremblay for example),the challenge to the traditional use of language and narrative form in the novel, in whichit played a part, was extremely significant and has had a lasting impact on novelspublished since the sixties. Many of these novels have fought off the constraints oftraditional or realist writing, while striving to establish an effective, Québécois writtenlanguage in which to represent themselves and their culture.Although it is largely for their narrative strategies that the texts written during thisperiod are considered revolutionary (few openly discuss the political situation) and theiraggression is channelled largely towards the text itself, recalling the “metonymic violence”adopted by many modern European writers, there is a marked increase in the depictionof physical violence and a change in the sort of violence they include. The frequency andtypes of aggression with which women are treated, especially, intensify in the literature ofthe 1960’s and early 70’s. Woman’s roles are more varied, but her primary function as“sacrificial victim” becomes all the more evident, as she is, increasingly, the recipient of amore overt, physical and often sadistic violence.Hubert Aquin, “Le Joual-refuge”, 19.The pattern is therefore parallel to the progression apparent in the Europeanliterature considered in the last chapter.90The majority of the female characters who die or are already dead in earlierliterature (such as Laura Chapdelaine, the wife of Menaud (the maître draveur), Mme deMontbrun and Alphonsine Moisan, among others) are, as we have seen, victims ofillness, childbirth or simply of the natural harshness of their daily lives. They are all alsovictims of the suffocating pressures of being a female within a masculinist culture, theirlives dictated and restricted by the monolithic patriarchy of Québec prior to 1960. Thesufferings and deaths of these characters, however, are, for the most part, brought aboutby the latent and tacit violence of that culture and that system; necessarily hostile towomen, it nevertheless requires a certain “co-option” of women in order to survive. Openand deliberate violence directed towards female characters was rare and seems to be amore recent development - the obvious exception being Donalda Poudrier, whose body iscallously mutilated after her death.Many of the novelists of the sixties, however, seem to have opted for rape andbrutality in place of the subtle, institutionalised violence of the “traditional” novel, withstrongly individualised male agents inflicting violence on individual female characters. jréve quebécois by Victor-Levy Beaulieu, for example, traces the mental disorder of itshero through his fantasies of torturing his wife. Jacques Godbout’s novel, Le Couteau surla table, closes with a threat against the life of the narrator’s English-Canadian girlfriend.Elsewhere, in Trou de mémoire by Hubert Aquin, a woman is raped and later murdered,while in his next novel, L’Antiphonaire, (which will be discussed in detail in chapter 4) anumber of rapes occur, of which at least two take place while the victim has first been91incapacitated by her attacker through drugs87.The rape of a semi-conscious orunconscious woman meanwhile is itself a repeating occurrence in the literature of thisperiod; it also takes place in Robert Elie’s La Fin des songes, for example (1968) wherethe hero’s bid for freedom through an act of adultery with his wife’s sister takes placeonce the woman is partially drunk, and also more recently in Michèle Mailhot’sJPassé compose, where the woman loses consciousness and is violated by her (unfaithful)lover. This pattern suggests a combination of factors, including the sexual deficiency ofmany of the male protagonists and the “backlash” against Woman, blamed for thatdeficiency; at the same time it recalls the apparently non-complicitous or passive roleplayed in sexual relations by the (Virgin) Mother.It is paradoxical to note that, at a time which apparently espoused socialist changeand a movement for liberation (in which many of the writers of this period werepersonally engaged) and which also, significantly, saw the development of a powerfulfeminist movement, Woman’s function as victim, particularly in male literature, is all themore pronounced, the violent acts of male abusers becoming frequent, graphic, sexualand exquisitely cruel; however, given the fact that Woman’s position within colonisedsociety is generally perceived as being “unnaturally elevated”, the feminist movementcould well have been seen as an additional threat to man’s already damaged masculinity.87Hubert Aquin, Trou de mémoire (Montréal, Le Cercle du Livre de France, 1968)and L’Antiphonaire (Montréal, Le Cercie du Livre de France, 1969). Aquin’sprotagonists thus show a degree of foresight or, certainly, opportunism.Elie, La Fin des songes, Oeuvres (Lassalle, Québec, Hurtubise HMH, 1979), andMailhot, Le Passé compose (Montréal, Boréal, 1990). These two texts are studied inmore detail by Raoul.92The following chapters will attempt to address these issues; they will consider thespecificity of the violence in Québec fiction (as the product of a subordinated societygoing through the process of decolonisation), while bearing in mind the significantinfluence of the works of modern French and English writings, which, with theiraesthetics of rupture and textual innovation, are also scored through by an intrinsicdiscourse of sexual violence. For while the increased violence may be political, and timeand place specific, its representation appears to be connected also to a literaryprogression, which, at this time, seesQuébec entering its Modernist period (heavilyinfluenced by both the French and English Modernists and the Romantic Agonists89,aswell as the Surrealists and their interpretation of Sade), which suggests perhaps a widerfield of reference, as Woman is here also seen as the privileged site of textualexperimentation.The following chapters will consider these issues in novels by Victor-LevyBeaulieu and Hubert Aquin, while the final chapter will examine the work ofMarie-Claire Blais, whose work is also infused with violence, in order to explore any differencein its representation in the writings of a contemporary female novelist. Finally, inconsidering the authors’ use of language and narrative experimentation in conjunctionwith their exploitation of sexual violence, these chapters will examine the functionof this89Patricia Merivale’s articles, “Hubert Aquin and Highbrow Pornography: TheAesthetics of Perversion,” Essays on Canadian Writing 26 (Summer 1983) 1-12 and to alesser extent “Chiaroscuro: Neige noire/Hamlet’s Twin”, Daihousie Review 60.2 (1980)3 18-33 consider the influence of the Romantic Agonists on Aquin’s Neige noire.93thematic violence in its relation to any potential or proffered revolutionary “message” ofthe text.94Chapter ThreeUn rêve guébecois: the Eroticisation of Violence95Victor-Levy Beaulieu is among Québec’s most prolific writers. Since thepublication in 1968 of his first novel, Mémoires d’Outre-tombe, he has succeeded inproducing roughly one major work every year, bringing the total to around eighteennovels (and there are always others “en preparation”), as well as several plays, essays andarticles, while maintaining a successful relationship with radio and television production,and founding his own publishing company. Within the body of novels entitled La VraieSaga des Beauchemin, Beaulieu documents the lives of three generations of a large,sprawling and quarrelsome Québec family, in which his own experience is clearlyreflected. The Saga encapsulates his ambition to write the equivalent of Balzac’s“Comédie humaine”, centred on the culture and history of Québec. Modelling himself onwriters such as Victor Hugo, James Joyce, Baizac, Cervantes and Herman Melville’, whoall attained a certain status as “poete national” in their respective countries, Beaulieuidentifies a need for a national literature. As Francois Chaput writes:[son] projet d’écriture consiste a produire un grand récit épique quifonderait la littérature nationale et révélerait le peuple quebécois a luiméme2.1Beaulieu refers constantly to the works of these writers throughout his fictions, attimes almost to the point of plagiarism, although this tendency is less evident in Un révequebécois which will be the focus of this chapter.2Francois Chaput, “Victor-Levy Beaulieu, héritier d’un désir”, Tangence, 41 (oct.1993), 43-53, 43.96Such an oeuvre, essential to the identity of a nation and to national pride in Beaulieu’sopinion, would serve as a “Bible” or “founding text”3.Admittedly, Québec has perhaps arather higher than average share of “epic” literature, from the Golden Age of heroismportrayed in François-Xavier Garneau’s Histoire du Canada to the many romans de laterre, which told of the habitant origins in epic or, certainly, a highly romanticised andnostalgic fashion; however, this literature had little to do with the reality of the earlyFrench Canadians’ existence, serving instead to perpetuate the ideological values of aRoman Catholic elite, and has even less relevance to the contemporary, daily reality inQuébec. As a result, Beaulieu seeshimself and his people as the dispossessed andpowerless heirs of an inaccessible past and a problematic present4.Beaulieu’s writings therefore attempt to reclaim a past through the return to, andrevision of the origins of the Québécois (frequently associated as much with childhoodas with the myths of the past) in order to understand the present and so to progress. Thissame present is troubling, with its perplexing origins and consequences. For Beaulieu,être Québécois, c’est n’avoir ni temps ni espace, c’est vivre dans le creuxd’une béance historique, c’est n’être pas au monde sinon en se colletaillantavec son absurde5.Chaput, 43.As he writes in his Manuel de la petite littérature du Ouébec: ‘e ne savais pasdans quel passé mes ancêtres se situaient, je ne connaissais a peu près rien de leurmonde” (Montréal, L’Aurore, 1974). Quoted by Francois Chaput, 49.Beaulieu, Entre la sainteté et le terrorisme: essais (Montréal, VLB Editeur, 1984)463, quoted in Jean Morency, “Américanité et anthropophagie littéraire dans MonsieurMelville,” Tangence 41 (oct. 1993) 54-68, 67.97The crisis in identity which this expresses, caused by a distorted relationship with andvision of history, is typical of a colonised society and culture, deprived of the means ofself-government and self-definition, and placed “hors l’histoire et hors la cite”6.SinceBeaulieu is only too aware of the contemporary reality of the Québécois, of theirsecondary status as a colonised people and as a francophone minority in an increasinglyanglophone-dominated continent, and of their struggle for autonomy and independencefrom at least the 1960’s and 70’s to the present day, any hope of singing of glory beginsto fade, so that “a défaut de pouvoir chanter la grandeur de la nation, on chante sadéchéance”7.Consequently, Beaulieu’s writing is among the darkest, most gloomy,problematic and violent expressions of alienation a nation could call its own, as he writesthe founding texts of a culture experiencing a painful “rebirth” or metamorphosis - fromFrench-Canadian into Québécois.Revolutionary Violence and Narrative Subversion.Victor-Levy Beaulieu’s fourth novel, Un rêve quebecois (1972), is typical of hiswriting in that the plot or action is minimal, following the “symbolic murder”9of theheroine, Jeanne-D’Arc. The interest of the text resides rather in the actual telling of the6Albert Menimi, Portrait du colonisé suivi de Les Canadiens français sont-ils descolonisés? (Montréal, L’Etincelle, 1972) 92.Chaput, 45.8Beaulieu, Un rêve quebecois (Montréal, Editions du jour, 1972). All pagereferences given in the text are to this edition.Jacques Pelletier, Le Roman national (Montréal, VLB Editeur, 1991) 120.98story and in the musings and reminiscences of the protagonist, relayed through theinterventions of a satirical and occasionally provocative narrator-commentator. For thepurposes of the present study, this text is particularly interesting for its experimentalform and use of language, its relationship with events current at the time of writing, andboth its portrayal of a female character and its extreme violence, in many ways typical -even exemplary - of a trend which runs through much of the literature of the period.Dedicated to Madame Rosa Rose, the mother of Paul Rose, a key figure in the1970 assassination of Pierre Laporte, this is the only novel to date by Victor-LevyBeaulieu to be associated clearly with actual events and with a specific time inQuébec.The text announces its association with the “October Crisis” - the least tranquil momentof the so-called Quiet Revolution - when the War Measures Act was enforced inQuébec. The temporal and referential context can be recognised in the many allusions topolice and military surveillance and harassment, allusions to dynamite, to a plan hatchedby Barthélémy (the protagonist) and his friends, to “des cadavres déposés dans lescoffres arrières de vieilles voitures” (as was Laporte’s) and the fact that the action takesplace on the rue des Récollets in Montréal, associated with the kidnapping of JamesCross. However, while the paratext suggests that the novel should be read in terms of arevolutionary discourse, the “revolutionary” aspect or subplot of the text remainsambiguous.The political aspect of the novel is reiterated by the use of language, as thedialogue and the internal monologues and memories of Barthélémy and Jeanne-D’Arc,his wife, and their acquaintances, are parenthetically reported in ‘oual”, as “phonetic99transcriptions” of the spoken language of the working class in Québec: the controversiallinguistic and literary debate of the day is thus recalled, as is the author’s owncommitment to the use of joual in literature as a means of representing the uniquenessof the Québécois’°. At one point, for example, Lemy exclaims, “He, j’agousse-tu lespopailles a ton gout, mon grand sacraman! Pis y en a-t-y d’la fesse a Matin!” (13), whileJeanne-D’Arc later threatens, “Si t’avances encore, j’te câlisse ma bouteille s’a tête”(148), and finally one of the police comments, “ça pue en ostie dans Cabane” (110). Thegrammatical norms of standard French are transgressed as syllables are “swallowed” andsyntax is disrupted.The rest of the text, meanwhile, as Francine Couture Lebel and Michelle Provostobserve in their marxist critique of the novel”, is split between two narrative levels oflanguage. The framework of the narrative is written in polished, literary French prose,while the direct interventions of the narrator adopt a form of “Québécised” French,corrupted or punctuated with expressions or words specific to Québec. Phrases such as“on voulait le tuer au centre de la laideur et de l’épouvante” (42) and “Object d’affectiontrouble fige dans l’iris, javeline creusant les orbites, obscurcissant le regard” (34), forexample, contrast with the “anormative” French of “les scountches de cigarettes dans cequi restait d’eau gazeuse”, “les miettes de tchippes...” (32) and “il brequait violemment10At the time, as we have seen, linguistic subversion was considered by certainwriters one of the first steps towards liberation, a means of shaking off the traditions ofthe “beau parler francais” and adopting what was seen to be a different language - not‘just a dialect” - specific to Québec.Couture Lebel and Provost, “Exercice de tir (sur Un rêve québecois)”, Stratégie:pratiques signifiantes, 5-6 (automne 1973) 89-110.100aux feux rouges et les moffleurs hollywodiens faisaient un beau vacarme au débrayage”(13). In this way, a clash of different levels of language is created, illustrating the “conflitdes codes” which André Belleau identified in much of the contemporary literature ofQuébec12,asthe referential world of standard, literary French is juxtaposed with thelinguistic world of Montréal. Interweaving these different levels of language, the textrecreates the audio-social world of Québec, along with its social inequality, which wouldplace people such as Jeanne-D’Arc and Lemy - uneducated and limited precisely by thepoverty of their language - at the bottom of the pile. Indeed, the narrator deems itnecessary to intervene, to punctuate or “fill in the gaps” left by their dialogue. JeanneD’Arc’s thoughts, for example, are elaborated on by the narrator, as he says:Elle aurait voulu ajouter mais elle ne pouvait pas dire ces paroles qui nelui appartenaient pas. Seul le désir confus de les exprimer monta en elleen même temps que ses larmes(66)13.The text thus conveys a theatrical effect, with the narrator playing the prompter orchorus in what frequently takes on the air of a tragedy’4.The “metonymic violence” which Barthes referred to in Sade’s writings, and whichI considered earlier in relation to the practices of certain modern writers, such as the12Belleau, “Le Conflit des codes dans l’institution littéraire quebécoise”, inSurprendre les Voix (Montréal, Boréal, 1986) 167-174: I will be referring to this conceptintermittently.13In their analysis of the levels of language in Un réve québécois, Couture Lebeland Provost suggest that the obviously educated narrator adopts the language of theworking class with the critical distance of one who is “slumniing”, or appropriating thelanguage of the oppressed for his own political ends, going as far as to accuse Beaulieuof petit-bourgeois “imposture” (107).14I will consider the significance of the theatricality of the novel shortly.101process of juxtaposition and fragmentation, is highly visible in this text. It appears first, aswe have seen, as the different spheres of language are brought together. The same“conflict” is also evident in the occasional intertextual references which the text self-consciously incorporates. The world of consumerism appears, for instance, in thereference to a “Bébé chinois content content” (141), taken from a jello advertisement’5,while elsewhere, Lémy finds himself “réduit a s’écarter dans Morial Mort, a creuser lefaux monde des Steinberg, des Laura Secord, des Coins du Fumeur...” (19), thusincorporating a world of images and associations. On a different plane entirely,meanwhile, there are casual references to the “Pequod” (34) - the ship which sailed afterthe great white whale in Melville’s epic novel - and to windmills, evoking the elusivecrusade of Don Quixote, which was to become a central reference in Beaulieu’s ownnovel Don Quichotte de la démanche (1974). Although the practice of intertextuality ismore marked and more iconoclastic in Beaulieu’s other novels’6,the appropriation andincorporation of such references is in keeping with Beaulieu’s ambition to create a“littérature nationale”. It serves as a means of legitimising the Québec text by anassociation with other significant works of literature’7,in an attempt to force open the‘Identified in Couture Lebel and Provost, 95.16Beaulieu’s Don Ouichotte de la démanche is obviously one such example. He hasalso borrowed heavily from Herman Melville and Victor Hugo in texts addressed tothese two authors; later in Un réve guebecois, meanwhile, there are images evocative ofRéjean Ducharme’s Le Nez gui vogue, as we shall see. I will consider the concept ofintertextuality more thoroughly in the chapter on Aquin’s L’Antiphonaire, as it is a moresignificant praxis in that novel.17André Lamontagne, “Entre le récit de fondation et le récit de l’autre:l’intertextualité dans Don Ouichotte de la démanche,” Tangence 41 (oct. 1983) 32-42, 35.102closed boundaries of canonisation. It also serves as an indication of the cultural reality ofthe Québécois, or a representation of the problematic nature of self-definition, as thesometimes oppressive cultural influences of North America and Europe are madeapparent. As Jacques Pelletier states:La pratique intertextuelle fait vraiment sens lorsque replacée dans le cadredu projet que porte Beaulieu depuis les origines, lorsqu’envisagée a lalumière du mythe fondateur qui l’anime: celui d’exprimer la réalité, lavérité de la condition quebecoise a travers une symbolisation, unefiguration s’offrant comme un miroir dans lequel ce peuple pourrait sereconnaItre et éventuellement se transformer et accéder a la pleineexistence historique18.The physical violence reported is reflected on the structural level in the constantellipses and lacunae around which the text develops (in a reflection of the drunken,semi-crazed mind of the protagonist), almost as if the text had indeed been “shattered”and the shards (some lost) rejoined, somewhat erratically. Opening with Lémy’s return tothe rue des Récollets, for instance, the text passes to the level of fantasy as Lémy seeshimself driving home, then flashes back as he thinks of his relationship with JeanneD’Arc, and finally projects forward (again, fantasy) as he pictures their reunion.Elsewhere, the text leaps between memories of the nightmare world of the asylum, to thebrutality of the police and to his own brutality directed at Jeanne-D’Arc. Furthermore,the novel is divided into seven “Coupes” or chapters - larger fragments or “limbs” - as ifthe handsaw that Barthélémy finally takes to the supposed body of Jeanne-D’Arc hadalso been applied to the text. The cross-dressing scene, for example, is split between18Jacques Pelletier, “Victor-Levy Beaulieu: l’intertextualité generalisee,” Tangence41 (oct. 1993) 7-31, 30.103coupes 3 and 5, interrupted by Jeanne-D’Arc’s “confession” which constitutes coupe 4. Asthe reader winds his or her way through the ever-shifting texture of narrative, created bythe tangle of diegetic threads and the shifting linguistic levels, his/her attention is drawnto the text, to its writing, occasionally getting lost as one “voice” fades without warning orintroduction into the next. The text challenges the traditions of literary style, not onlybecause of the different levels of language, but also in terms of the structural norms ofstandard prose, as it refuses to allow the narrative to be a simple instrument ofcommunication, or to allow the reader to be a passive “consumer”. While the novelretains some elements of “traditional” fiction, the latter’s logical and reassuringchronological representation of reality is undermined, the problematic relationshipbetween colonised culture and history rendering it inappropriate. Here, history isperceived and presented rather as:un catalogue d’événements arbitraires que, par après, on rend logiques, lesenchaInant les uns aux autres, pour donner l’illusion d’une homogéneitequi n’a jamais existé’9.The reader is thus forced to play an active role in the unravelling and ordering of thefragments or “épiphanies”2°,trying to “make sense” of the repetitions and the analepsesthrough which the story is told, as the apparently “omniscient” narrator, traditionally theguide through the twisted paths of a novel, is less than reliable and certainly notimpartial.19Jacques Michon, talking about another of Beaulieu’s novels in “Les Avatars del’histoire: Les Grands-pères de Victor-Levy Beaulieu”, Voix et Images 5.2 (1980) 307-317, 307.20Jacques Pelletier uses the term in his article “L’Intertextualité géneralisée”, 28.104Indeed, far from being a neutral voice telling a story, the narrator underlines hisprivileged relationship with the author and his status as “go-between” for author andreader. In a manner reminiscent of eighteenth-century novels such as Sterne’s TristramShandy and Diderot’s Jacques le fataliste, Beaulieu’s narrator draws attention to theprocess of writing itself saying of Lémy: “ii bâilla, le temps de laisser voir au romancierses dents jaunies par la nicotine...”(14). The narrator is thus established as witness bothto the act of writing and to the actions of the text. He (and he is most definitely a malenarrator) is also, to a certain extent, in control of the characters, who are seenincreasingly as actors playing the roles written for them. The narrator toys with theirlives like one of the mythological Fates, as if waiting to “cut the strings” at whim. At onepoint, obviously enjoying the proceedings, he shares a “joke” with the reader:Encore chanceuse la Jeanne-D’Arc que ton Barthelemy y sait pas encorel’histoire du gérant d’caisse populaire pis du gros char s’arrêtant dans unnuage de poussière. Y sait pas encore, c’te pauvre Barthelemy, qu’yétaient couches, le gerant pis la Jeanne-D’Arc, sus l’siège, pis qu’ys’mangeaient joliment du cul. J’ai hate d’le voir pis d’voir la Jeanne-D’Arcquand y va apprendre ça le Barthélémy! (128).Elsewhere, the narrator is clearly identified as a member of the cast, while anothernarrative voice takes over the telling of the story:Ii riait, satisfait de son propre role qui était de jeter le soupcon dansl’esprit de Barthélémy afin de décupler sa mauvaise foi et le degoüt qu’ilavait pour la Jeanne-D’Arc (127-8).The effect of this narrative strategy and the theatricality it suggests is multiple: inthe first instance, it serves to place the reader in the role of “spectator” or even - giventhe frequently sexual and violent content of the text - of “voyeur”. At the same time itundermines the notion of “suspension of disbelief’, associated with traditional theatre but105equally applicable to the reading of a “traditional” or realist novel; just as the “alienationtechniques” of the Brechtian theatre tradition aimed to force the audience into the roleof critical observer, so here the reader is asked, “Pis, vous aimez-tu ça le livre?” (34).Constantly faced with the deliberate artifice of the text, the reader is encouraged toproceed with a certain distance, to observe the functions or workings of the “text as text”and to join in and enjoy the game. The reader is thus reminded that this is not just a taleof marital infidelity and revenge, but one with a broader context and significance, and assuch the text takes on an almost allegorical dimension.Jeamie-D’Arc and Barthelemy, far from being free agents in their own drama, arepuppets restricted in their movements and powerless to reclaim control over their ownexistence. They are very much aware of this condition, which is reflected on the textuallevel as they are seen acting out rituals or games, sometimes even criticising each other’s“performance”. During the much cited scene of transvestism, for example, Jeanne-D’Arcforgets her new persona only to be upbraided by Lémy:Maudit qu’t’es pas bomie acteuse! Comprends don une fois pour toute quec’est toi Barthelémy pis qu’moi j’sus Jeanne-D’Arc. R’garde-moi, j’ai lesoutien-gorge pis les rembourrures pis la robe. Que c’est que tu veuxd’plusse? Pis toi, t’as la culotte (69).The restrictions on their freedom are embodied on a pragmatic level by the police andmilitary presence and on a metaphorical level by “le monde des hippopotames” and “lesgardes blancs”, the apparently sadistic nurses at Dorémi, who haunt and pursue L.émy.The insistence on the adherence to rules or “scripts” and the repeated “répétitions” whichsee Lémy turning in circles, and finally the presentation of the characters as pawns insomeone else’s game, lend a feeling of constraint or oppression. Given the overt106referentiality of the novel, the sense of frustration, alienation, impotence and evenfatalism21 of a colonised people which this suggests - embodied in and brought to lifeby Lémy - becomes almost suffocating.Nostalgic Past vs Nightmare Reality.The novel traces the movements, nightmares and hallucinations of Joseph-DavidBarthélémy Dupuis (Lémy) as he returns from “Dorémi”, the asylum where he wasinterned following his bouts of alcohol-induced violence and delirium. Constantinterruptions in the flow of the narrative, along with the protagonist’s apparent inabilityto separate the reality of the present from that of the past and from his ownhallucinations and fantasies (past and present) render the unravelling of events difficult,if not impossible, although some key events become apparent. It seems, for instance, thatat one point in the marriage of Lémy and Jeanne-D’Arc, there was a time of tranquilityand stability. Living in the old family house, they slept in the bed which had belonged toLémy’s parents and were surrounded by an aura of tradition linking them to severalgenerations of Quebécois; they were thus an intrinsic part of the heritage and theculture with which the house and its contents were imbued. The cultural referentialitywhich the title suggests becomes apparent22;the life of Lémy and Jeanne-D’Arc in the21Couture Lebel and Provost also comment on this fatalism, 97.22The “universality” which the title implies has been questioned: in his article “Dequelques avatars de Dieu”, Francois Hébert asks: “Comment me recomlaltrais-je,Québécois, dans cette interminable débauche de sadisme bête et bestial?” Etudesfrancaises 9.4 (nov 1973) 352.107old house serves as a microcosm of Québec society, through the representative quality ofthe characters and their environment, marked by a number of objects traditionallyassociated with Québec. Jeanne-D’Arc describes this collective past to her lover, Fred:Cave. Clous. Harmonica. Vieux tchommes. Baptiste. Citrouilles. Grandchien jaune. Sans ces choses, comment la vie pouvait-elle être possible etpossédée? (88).The quasi-utopic past which these objects evoke has some similarities with that of thetraditional roman de la terre23,and so must be placed at an indeterminate time prior tothe disillusionment and violence of the revolutionary period of the diegetic present.This time of peace comes to an end and is replaced by the turmoil of the diegeticpresent which, as we have seen, corresponds to the unrest of the 1960’s and 70’s inQuébec. A number ofreasons are given for this change, but no definitive answer orassignation of blame emerges, forcing the reader to become part of the debate. Thereis the suggestion, for example, that the marriage of Jeanne-D’Arc and Barthélémy brokeup because of Lémy’s drinking: as he asks himse1f “une bouteille de bière en trop avaitelle Pu modifier leur espace?” (148), while elsewhere he wonders if she would have lefthim “just” because he hit her (20, 31). Jeanne-D’Arc, meanwhile, sets the time of thechange at the death of their child, remembering “le hon Barthelémy, celui d’avant le23I do not mean to imply that Beaulieu is in any way “taken in” by the promise ofthose earlier novels, merely that the “idyllic” period evoked here would be free of theknowledge of oppression. References to a peaceful past or earlier life in Beaulieu’snovels are frequently evocative of the “pre-oedipal” period of early childhood.The question of blame and punishment is central in the novel, however, theaccusations which Barthélémy levels at Jeanne-D’Arc are particularly significant, as willbecome apparent.108froid bébé, celui d’avant le premier coup dans le ventre mou...Y a pus rien qui est restéde c’qu’était” (78). In Lemy’s mind, however, the breaking up of their marriage wasJeanne-D’Arc’s doing, through what he maintains was her deliberate killing of their childand, perhaps more importantly, through her obscene comment and adultery withBaptiste, one of Lemy’s ‘brothers” in a blackmarket business (or perhaps a terrorist“cell”) set up in the cellar of the old house; the ensuing bitter fight destroys theirequilibrium, Lémy assuming that Jeanne-D’Arc “never loved him as he deserved to beloved” (100), and so begins his downward spiral into alcoholism, madness, impotence anddespair.Lemy attempts to evade this perception of reality, first through a combination ofalcohol and pills, from which he draws an illusory sense of strength and worth and atemporary escape, becoming increasingly confident the more he drinks:11 allait plutôt ne plus penser qu’à lui-méme...qu’à tout ce qu’il allait boire,qu’aux blagues qu’il inventerait, qu’aux histoires cochonnes qu’il raconteraita ses vieux amis.(...)II lui arrivait de songer qu’il était quelqu’un et que sisa vie était si tumultueuse, ii devait bien avoir a cela une raison. J’vas leurmontrer ce que j’peux faire.(...)On ne pouvait rien contre lui, contre sonindignation et contre son mépris. On ne pouvait rien contre sa beauté et sapuissance (46-47).Elsewhere, after a bout of drinking, Lémy sees himself as a horse, a frequent symbol ofvirility in Beaulieu’s writing (20). Secondly, the acting out and repetition of scenes or“mysteries” allow him to take control over some aspect of the chaos. Retreating into aworld of hallucinatory fantasy, Lémy becomes the “director” and designer of certainThe figure of the horse plays a significant role in Jos Connaissant (Montréal, VLBEditeur, 1978) and Les Grand-pères (Montréal, Editions du jour, 1971), for example.109rituals full of complex symbolism, assigning parts to each player and tailoring theprocedure. Acting before a generally admiring and imaginary audience, the controland acclamation that Lémy teases from his performances restores his sense of power andsignificance. The approval of the “audience” not only gives him the strength and courageto do what he would otherwise be unable to do - as “un bon acteur, c’est justement ç’uiqui fait c’qui est pas capable de faire dans le privé” (57) - it also endorses or validateshis actions, flattering his broken ego, again restoring to him a sense of his lost virility,often expressed in terms of violence. Cheered on by the audience,Il s’employait a toutes sortes de sparages, inventait des combinaisons dugauche et du droit tandis que des spectateurs innombrables, tout autour del’arène, applaudissaient les excellents jabs qui frappaient avec precision levisage, le cou, la poitrine et le bas-ventre de la Jeanne-D’Arc (49).Perhaps not surprisingly, his virility and refound potency are usually in direct proportionto the (imaginary) violence perpetrated on the body of the unfortunate Jeanne-D’Arc, asthe female body becomes the ideal site on which to work out male frustration, artisticendeavours and experimentation; the text thus revolves around what Jean Ricardou26Conceived amidst the confusion of his madness, the decor is set up precisely (in hismind, at least) according to a plan nailed to the door, the props checked off against a listand the furniture lined up with chalk marks on the floor (59). In fact, when the arrival ofthe police interrupts the play and brings him back to reality, Lémy realises: “La chambreétait maintenant sens dessus dessous. Ii avait renversé tous les meubles, éventré tous lestiroirs, déchiré avec ses dents le linge de la Jeanne-D’Arc, cassé les lampes, écharognéle matelas” (55), indicating both the violence which must have taken place and also thetotality of Lémy’s withdrawal from reality during the performance.110terms “une thematique privilegiee”27of sexual violence, which operates on a number oflevels.The Quintessential (Québec) Heroine: Virgin. Mother and Whore.Seen primarily through the eyes of Barthélémy, her broken, resentful and perhapsschizophrenic husband, as well as through the unreliable narrator, Jeanne-D’Arc is anambiguous character, rarely permitted to speak for herself. While a number of incidentssuggest that she was no angel, the reliability or the honesty of Lémy’s version of events isquestionable. The accusation of child-killing, for instance, may be unjust, due to amemory twisted by anger, despair and possibly guilt28,and typical of the inconsistencywhich calls into question many of Barthélémy’s descriptions and memories of JeanneD’Arc. Rightly or wrongly, however, the responsibility for his condition is placed on hershoulders and she is seen as “menteuse...et fourbe, et mesquine, et rusée” (151), in aclassic (and highly traditional) assignation of wife blame.27Ricardou, Pour une théorie de nouveau roman (Paris, Seuil, 1971) 221, also citedin chapter 1.28Reluctant mother she may have been, but far from being the child-killerBarthélémy describes Jearine-D’Arc may have miscarried in an incident in whichBarthélémy himself was involved. Jeanne-D’Arc remembers: “La mort était sortied’entre ses cuisses tandis qu’elle hurlait, la mort avait pissé d’elle, dans la honte et lapeur..Jeter dans le froid cette mort venue d’elle lorsqu’écrasée sous le corps de Barthélémysa tête s’était remplie d’étoiles et de feu. Et pleurer parce que rien n’avait jamais eu lieuet qu’à cause du bébé sans jambes et sans bras tout se bloquait pour l’avenir” (78, myemphasis). Lémy offers two alternative versions of the baby’s death (see also 160 and 41-2).111The choice of the character Jeanne-D’Arc as “scapegoat” evokes centuries ofEuropean tradition, involving the sacrifice of a non-conformist woman, (the Europeanwitchcraze, the treatment of female hysterics in the 19th century, and so on). Here thecharacter’s archetypal status as victim is sanctioned in the text by a number of cross-references to the various traditional guises of Woman, as she becomes a sort of“Everywoman”, adding multi-dimensionality to her character. Her name rich in semanticconnotations, Jeanne-D’Arc’s connection with the French national heroine is underlinedfrom the beginning, in the epigraph to the novel. Responsible for the awakening ofFrench national consciousness and for liberating the besieged town of Orleans, thememory of the “real” Jeanne D’Arc still has the ability to unite the French people at atime of crisis. Remembered for her courage and her “divine voices”, for fighting for Godand the king of France, for saving her people and, significantly, for her cherishedvirginity (hence her nickname, La Pucelle), Sainte-Jeanne-D’Arc was neverthelessbetrayed and burned as a heretic. By giving his character the same name as a significanthistorical figure, Beaulieu draws together the two women in the “melting-pot” that isQuébec, where the French heritage of the Québécois has been inextricably mouldedwithin a North American context29.Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc - virgin warrior - is juxtaposedwith la Jeanne-D’Arc - collaborator (because of her relationship with Fred,29The same can be said of the choice of the hero’s name with its evocation of theSaint Bartholomew’s Night Massacre in Paris in August 1572, a night of (similar)barbarism and bloodshed, and of violence against Protestant non-conformists.112representative of one of the forces of oppression) and whore30.In that “rapprochement”the differences between the two women and their two worlds become starkly apparent:their antithetical relationship is exposed, showing with ironic or paradoxical contrast thealienated state of the national consciousness of the Québécois, as the role of “nationalheroine” or “national martyr” is transferred to the shoulders of “la Jeanne-D’Arc impure”,unable to save herself let alone a whole nation.By the same token, Jeamie-D’Arc is held responsible for the shattering of theirconjugal peace and a life similar to the past vaunted in the nostalgic literature producedprior to the “prise de parole” of the late 1950’s and onwards, validated by the idealisedfigure of the “Mother” - the essential symbol and guarantor of national consciousness.That role of “valorising figurehead” is taken on here by Jeanne-D’Arc. Recalling the timeof the brotherhood in the cellar, Lémy remembers that, “du seul fait de sa presence elleleur donnait a tous une importance qu’ils étaient bien conscients de ne pas avoir encore”(147). Here, however, the powerful and socially-constructed Ideal of the virtuous Motheris replaced by the slatternly, childless and “child-killing” wife of a wronged man. Theconcept of “Motherhood” itself also becomes perverted, transferred to the sexualrelations between the two protagonists. At one point Jeanne-D’Arc attempts to enticeLémy into the bedroom, calling “Viens-t-en mon beau Lémy. Viens voir Moman. A vadonner du beau lailait a son Lémy” (45). She also carries Lémy around the house -The fact that Sainte-Jeanne-D’Arc’s much vaunted virginity is also a source ofhumour, might well be an added factor in the choice of the name and the association ofthe “saint” with the “sinner”. The “Maid of Orleans” thus possesses a dualitysimilar to laJeanne-D’Arc.113under duress - singing to him “Oh Oh gros bébé bleu dans les bras de sa Moman” (93)as if he were a too-large child, refusing to accept his age. This suggests a certainincestuous infantilism in their relationship, recalling Jean Filiatrault’s comment thatwhen Québec women sought a man in their bed, they found a child31.The maternalrole in the literary, cultural and religious traditions of Québec is thus subverted, as thehighly-prized role of the Mother is put into the Oedipal context and the “childless”woman becomes the substitute mother for the man who has never grown up32.By giving his distinctly Québécois novel a heroine who is the antithesis of thetraditional and stylised pattern, Beaulieu undermines the image of the “Mother” (fromwhom, it seems, no fictional Québec heroine can be totally free) and questions, byassociation, the appropriateness of that figure as a cultural icon. Beaulieu thus unravelsthe fabric of the nostalgic tradition and places Jeanne-D’Arc as the true and “re-coded”face of the “Mother” in the context of the Québec of the 1970’s: “une société mesquine,sans avenir, sans grandeur, engagée dans un processus de rapetissement irreversible etineluctable”33.31Filiatrault, “Quelques manifestations de la révolte dans notre littératureromanesque récente”, Recherches sociographiques, 5. 1-2 (aoiIt 1964) 177-90, cited inValerie Raoul, Distinctly Narcissistic: Diary Fiction in Ouébec (Toronto, University ofToronto Press, 1993) 37.32Patricia Smart indicates the Oedipal nature of many of the relationships portrayedin the quebecois novels of the revolutionary period in her article “Un cadavre sous lesfondations de l’édifice: la violence faite a la femme dans le roman quebecoiscontemporain”, in Terry Goldie and Virginia Harger-Grinling, eds. Violence dans leroman canadien depuis 1960/Violence in the Canadian Novel since 1960, Actes duColloque sur la violence/Papers from the Conference on Violence (St. John’s,Newfoundland, Memorial University, 1982) 25-32.Pelletier, “L’Intertextualité generalisee”, 16.114Nevertheless, however far removed his portrayal of Jeanne-D’Arc may be fromthe traditional Québec heroine, she does not escape the same fate and she will, like herforebears, be sacrificed for the greater good of Mankind. As Lémy realises the “true”nature of Jeanne-D’Arc (on witnessing her flirtation with Baptiste), his world, “sonchâteau de cartes” (151), crumbles. As the corruption of the symbol suggests thecorruption of the symbolised, so Jeanne-D’Arc, like Eve, the Mother of All andscapegoat “par excellence” within the Judeo-Christian tradition, will take the blame forthe expulsion of Man from this illusory place of refuge and for all his ensuing woes; thepedestal on which she had been placed will be used now as a stake at which to burn her.Violence as Catharsis: Provocation as Exoneration.The violence directed towards Jeanne-D’Arc operates as an expiation in a numberof ways. The traditional bearer of a society’s ills, the scapegoat was chosen from amongthe group for some salient characteristic which marginalises the victim, such as race,religion, physical deformity, mysticism, or even (again, as in the witchcraze), in the caseof women, for their sex. This victim, as René Girard explains:through a non-conscious process of mimetic suggestion...obviously appearsas the all-powerful cause of all trouble in a community that is itself nothingbut trouble.Girard, “Generative Scapegoating” in Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly, ed. ViolentOrigins: Walter Burkert. René Girard and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing andCultural Formation (Stanford CA, Stanford University Press, 1987) 91. As we saw inchapter 1, Girard points out that the crimes of sacrificial victims may well be imaginary,the violence perpetrated against them probably is not.115The sacrifice of the scapegoat is therefore seen as a purging, cathartic process by whichthe wrongs of a society and its sufferings are expelled and through which a new andpurified era may be entered. The “guilt” of this collective murder is displaced at themoment of “mimetic suggestion”:The roles are reversed. The victimisers see themselves as the passivevictims of their own victim, and they see their victim as supremely active,eminently capable of destroying them35.Having fixed the blame on Jeanne-D’Arc for all of his woes, Lémy makes her the focusof his hate and violent revenge - not just for whatever wrongs she may (or may not) havecommitted, but for all the perceived wrongs and abuse suffered by Barthelémy in hiscapacity as the “archetypal” Québécois. As he claims,Moi, j’ai jamais rien eu dans ma vie, câline, rien ne m’a appartenu, on m’atoujours toute enlevé, bon toi tu vas payer pour toute c’t’engeance (122).Lémy’s revenge on the mind and body of Jeanne-D’Arc illustrates what René Girardcalls the generative scapegoating process36 (the two characters both beingrepresentatives of the collectivity); referring to Jearine-D’Arc, the narrator tells us thatLémy[Ii] en avait fait une chienne qu’il battrait a mort et sur le dos de laquelleil se vengerait de trop d’humiliations et de honte (122).Girard, “Generative Scapegoating”, 91.See Girard, Le Bouc émissaire (Paris, Grasset, 1982) as well as his essay“Generative Scapegoating”, quoted above.116The rites he attempts to perform, therefore, become the preparations for (or perhaps there-enactments of) the ritual murder of the expiatory sacrifice, the supposedly laudatoryand liberating act prefigured at the beginning of the text:bientôt ii allait commencer quelque chose de noble, ii ne savait pas quoiencore mais ii était sür qu’il passerait a l’Histoire (16).This suggests that Lemy may, through this act, break the cycle of oppression and retakehis “rightful” place, in an act of violence set up as a literary rendition or retelling or as aparallel of the events of the October Crisis, in which Jeanne-D’Arc becomes thescapegoat for the collectivity.The reversal of victim-aggressor roles which Girard discusses is apparent here, asLémy is first seen as the victim of police brutality and derision, directed at him throughJeanne-D’Arc’s association with Fred (whether Jeanne-D’Arc prompted this attentionherself or Fred requested it of his own initiative is not made clear); secondly, as thetarget of the sadistic nurses at Dorémi, where he was sent, also apparently at theinstigation of Jeanne-D’Arc. Once again, however, the order of events and theassignation of blame is (deliberately) confused, as it seems in fact that Jeanne-D’Arc hadhim interned as a result of his drunken abuse of her. This reversal or confusion of theroles of aggressor and victim is an essential and expansive function of Beaulieu’s textualstrategy; it becomes the foundation and justification, even an exoneration, for Lémy’sbrutality.Barthélémy is powerless to perform what he sees as the “sublime” and definitiveact of liberatory violence, wishing117...que le meurtre de Jeanne-D’Arc Mt sa chose, sortIt entièrement de soncerveau, sans artifice et sans provocation, dans la pureté de sa haine et dumilieu même de sa démence (119).Elsewhere he states:La Jeanne-D’Arc ne pourrait-elle que se modifier sous ses yeux et setransformer en une bête pourrissante, dont tot ou tard, ii faudrait songer ase délivrer entièrement (130).However, rather than doing the deed, in an illustration of his impotence Lemy needs theconstant motivation of provocation. This becomes apparent at a point where thenarrative appears at first glance to be sympathetic to Jeanne-D’Arc, in allowing her aninstant of apparent honesty. And yet the recalling of her “peaceful” moments with Fred isframed by Barthélémy’s threats:Maudite vache! Baptême de poudrée! Continue, parle encore, sinon j’temets mon poing s’a gueule!(...)Envoye, pane mon ostie! Mais j’t’ai toutedit, Lémy. Pardonne-moi. Jamais! J’vas t’enfarmer dans garde-robe plutOt!Pas ça, Lémy. Non, non, non! J’vas faire toute c’que tu veux (89).The flashback to a somewhat happier moment (which provides a breathing space forboth Jeanne-D’Arc and the reader), becomes a parody of the confessional process, asBarthelemy takes on the role of interrogator, with all its cruelty and violence; like theInquisitors during the witchcraze, driven by hatred of Woman - the root of all evil - andthe desire to punish her for all of their own ills, so Lémy forces Jeanne-D’Arc, over andover again, to tell him of her activities with Fred.Jeanne-D’Arc’s “confession” serves a number of purposes: first, the act ofconfessing to Lémy turns her moment of respite and comparative happiness with Fredinto a “sin”, while some of the more intimate and “risque” acts performed with her loverbecome sordid and shameful once related within this context, spoiling and blackening her118memories and reducing her, in her own mind, to little better than a whore. Forcing awoman to speak of what she would rather keep hidden (and the selective hearing ofwhich Lemy and the narrator both seem guilty) is an abuse of power - a form of mentalrape37.The woman’s language is co-opted and (re)possessed by a man, leaving her withno defence. In this way, her spirit is ground down and Lémy, her brutal, drunken andseemingly worthless husband, sets himself up as the one wronged, the “innocent victim”.Lémy thus becomes morally superior and able to hand out the now ‘justified”punishment. Thanks to the “breaking-off’ of the text at this point, the reader can onlyguess at the violence which may follow or the sexual “favours” that might be extortedfrom the terrified woman.In addition, Barthélémy’s need to hear of Jeanne-D’Arc’s “crimes” before beingable to act recalls the second epigraph, by Paul Valery: “Offense-moi pour me donner laforce de te tuer”, which encapsulates the impotence of an aggressor, unable to act unlesssupremely provoked by his victim. It also questions the guilt of the selected victim and,by extension, the appropriateness of the choice of victim. Unwilling or unable to take onhis real oppressors, in a society dominated now not only by anglophones but also byThe same pattern is present in another of Beaulieu’s novels, Blanche forcée,where Job J. extorts information from Blanche about her past, including the incestuousabuse at the hands of her father, and then refuses to believe her, in a similar abuse ofpower and the confessional process (which also recalls the treatment of hysterics duringthe nineteenth century). This finally results in Blanche’s suicide (Montréal, VLB éditeur,1976). It also occurs in Hubert Aquin’s L’Antiphonaire, as Christine is forced to tell of apast affair and is left feeling (deliberately) belittled and shamed by both the confessionand the “confessor”, the man who claims to love her. Aquin’s Trou de mémoire includesa similar incident as a drugged R.R. must repeatedly recount her rape to OlympeGhezzo-Quénum.119francophones and allophones of a higher social status, Lemy turns to an easier target:Woman, ever the symbolic victim and scapegoat of man’s fmstrations. Of a similaract, Jacques Pelletier says:Geste de colère absurde, acte de vengeance et de liberation parodique,puisqu’il détruit une victime plutOt qu’un veritable ennemi, mais quiexprime de manière tragique toute la profondeur d’une alienation39.In order that Lémy (and the narrative) might justify this victimisation, JeanneD’Arc’s character, in the role that she is seen to play for the majority of the text (and therole Lemy sees her play), appears to be precisely one of “offensiveness”, a characteristicwhich is exploited to the full - that is to say that for much of the novel her behaviour isunpleasant, even obnoxious. However, Jeanne-D’Arc speaks almost exclusively atanother’s command; her words subservient to and dependent on another’s will, thewoman’s voice in this text is heard and her presence felt, primarily, as they arechannelled through a man’s “voice”. Jeanne-D’Arc is part of a wider textual strategy ofviolence - an imaginary and textual construct - the “perfect”, deserving victim who may bemore easily sacrificed in order that man’s story may be told. Once again, Woman doesSeveral of Beaulieu’s heroes succumb to the same “temptation” of taking out theiranger on someone weaker or more miserable than they: Malcomm Hudd drives Rikki tosuicide, as Blanche is driven by Job J., while Jos Connaissant twice beats his girlfriendMarie and Milien beats his dying wife, later dreaming of her mutilation anddismemberment. As we have seen, this pattern is evident throughout much of theliterature of the period, as the troubles of the male characters are worked out on thebodies of their female counterparts.Pelletier, Le Roman national, 118. Pelletier is in fact referring to the beating of anunconscious and dying Milienne by her husband in Beaulieu’s Les Grands-pères.120not “exist” as much as she is “represented”, and in that representation she becomes the“ideal target” for male violence.Jeanne-D’Arc, whom we see through Lémy’s eyes, is ignorant, vulgar in theextreme, “cheap”, cruel and promiscuous, and while she occasionally appears sympathetic(when talking to Fred, for example), when her fear, weariness and vulnerability arerevealed, she is generally portrayed as having few, if any, saving graces. In the cellar, theearth-shattering words she speaks to Baptiste, whom alcohol has made bold, are these:“He là, tu l’ôtes-tu ta sacrée main ou hen situ veux que j’pisse dessus elle?” (149) - athreat which she duly carries out, Baptiste apparently refusing to move his hand. Lémy’sviolent reaction to this, which involves beating Baptiste to a pulp, brings the police, whoin turn brutalise Lémy, smashing his ankle (reiterating the Oedipal thematic of the text)and causing the injury that will trouble him henceforth, taking away much of his mobilityand strength. At this point:Tout devint toupie vertigineuse, escarboucles de feu trouant la noirceur,longues coulées de sperme blanc jaillissant des cuisses de Baptiste quicherchait la passe dans le minou noir, mouillé et battant au centre de laJeanne-D’Arc...Et tandis qu’on le poussait dans l’escalier, la Jeanne-D’Arcécartait les jambes. Du bout des doigts elle tenait grand ouvert le longminou pour que Baptiste puisse s’y jeter avec fureur. Alors elle se mettraita crier et labourerait de ses ongles le dos nu (163-4).This act of (fantasised?) adulterous copulation, an open and callous sexual betrayal bythe man’s one valued possession, immediately follows his frenzy of violence aimedprecisely at defending or retaining that same possession. Perhaps not surprisingly, thisepisode defeats Barthélémy, at least momentarily. It is “unreal” in its outrageousness, itscruelty - a larger-than-life nightmare. The exaggerated proportions of the horror of this121incident and of Jeanne-D’Arc’s “contemptible” character are underlined as, shortlyafterwards, bruised, tear-stained and bleeding, she is seen having intercourse with Fred inthe kitchen, while Lémy is unconscious and recuperating from the attentions of thepolice4°. Later, the memory of this same incident is deliberately - and necessarily41 -recalled in order to fuel Lémy’s anger and violence as he prepares for the final andsupreme ritual: the killing and dismemberment of Jeanne-D’Arc. The enormity of hercrimes, her promiscuity and her lack of regard for Lemy or her inability to love him, arenecessary elements of the textual strategy and “aesthetic” which, in order to illustrateLemy’s impotence, wretchedness, cowardice and inertia, places Jeanne-D’Arc in the roleof an aggressor, the better to abuse her with an appearance of legitimacy. Jeanne-D’Arcbecomes a catalyst, a device or a medium which allows the focus of the text, thedegradation and sufferings of Lémy, to be communicated.Coloriisation and Gender Inversion.As the drama of Lémy’s frustration is transferred to the personal stage of the ruedes Récollets, the victimisation of Jeanne-D’Arc and the violence directed towards herprovide the metaphor for the revolutionary and liberatory violence suggested by thescapegoating model. The (former) representative of Lémy’s self-esteem, the mirror which°This is reminiscent of a scene from Hubert Aquin’s L’Antiphonaire, whereChristine, the protagonist, is drugged and raped while in a similar physical state,following the assault on her by her husband. While Jeanne-D’Arc is an apparently willingparticipant in this case, the choice of the shared image of the sexualisation of a physicallybrutalised woman is troubling.41Twice we are told, “il fallait absolument qu’il se souvienne de cette scene” (149).122reflected the perhaps distorted and flattering image he wished to see of himself12,Jeanne-D’Arc initially served as a substitute for the phallic mother figure whose gaze“enables the subject to form a self-representation”43.With Jeanne-D’Arc (and preferablyin the dark), Lémy could forget the poverty and oppression of his life and his owndereliction: “ça s’voit pas que j’sus laitte quand y fait noir. Y a pus d’cicatrices, y a pusde bobos sus l’pied. J’sus presentable” (29). Jeamie-D’Arc’s assumed love had given hislife meaning, value and security and, most importantly, had made him “feel like a man”:she was the “proof’ of his virility, which made of her his most - and perhaps his only -prized possession. Without Jeanne-D’Arc, the life they had shared together crumbles,becoming invalid, as does the proof or valorisation of Lémy’s self-image and hissomewhat questionable virility. Now: “ii se vit tel qu’il était, plissé et ride, plein depoints noirs sur le nez, la peau vineuse, les dents jaunes et sans femme pour s’oublier”(103). A shadow of his former se1f Lémy considers himself emasculated:Vieux lion perdu dans la jungle, blessé a mort, sans Tarzan pour lesquartiers de viande. Vieux lion édenté, privé de son rugissement, et leventre trop gonflé...I1 laissa les larmes couler sur ses joues et ferma lesyeux (37, my emphasis).A pitiful figure, Lemy thus takes his place among the likes of P.-X. Magnant, FrancoisGalarneau and the unnamed narrators of Prochain episode and Le Couteau sur la table,as he is finally left with the knowledge of his own impotence, to become the embodiment42As Virginia Woolf commented in A Room of One’s Own, women’s duty is to“reflect men at twice their natural size” (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1967). Also cited byRaoul, 23.Raoul, 117.123of the alienation, dispossession and powerlessness of the colonisedQuébec male, his own“victimisation” most apparent in the police brutality which serves as the overtmanifestation of his oppression. Having been found (or assumed) false, Jeanne-D’Arc,the now out-of-reach object of his desire, becomes the focus of his “narcissistic rage”,as, through a shift or “glissement” the sometime image of his manhood now mirrors onlyhis impotence. Lemy resorts to violence in a specific attempt to re-establish the sense ofpotency which he can no longer achieve sexually, thus demonstrating Patricia Smart’scomment regarding the male Québécois protagonist of this period: “[qui] réve a la foisde s’abolir dans la femme et de se donner l’illusion de la puissance en la foulant a sespieds45”. The inherent ambivalence of this dilemma is apparent in the sexual nature ofthe violence, as Lémy’s anger directs itself towards the site of both his desire and hisfailure, namely, the body, or more specifically and significantly, the genitals of JeanneD’Arc.Lémy’s response to the discovery of the apparent “true nature” of Jeanne-D’Arc -his recognition of her sexuality - is reminiscent of the Oedipal crisis - the moment whena (male) child realises that his mother is not, in fact, “phallic”. Following this paralleldiscovery, the representation of Jeanne-D’Arc changes from the reliable, pure and yetmaternal, undivided and uncastrated phallic mother who dominates the sometime utopicroman de la terre - evoked here as we have seen in the references to an idyllic (and preoedipal) state, prior to this discovery - to the threatening, impure, voraciously sexualRaoul, 20.Smart, “Un cadavre sous les fondations de l’édifice”, 29.124figure of the “castrated” and “castrating” or “abject” mother common to novels of thisperiod. Through the shift in blame which Girard describes (and which I discussed inthe last chapter in the more specific context of Québec gender-relations), the Mother isonce again deemed responsible for the impotence of the male protagonist; she musttherefore be destroyed if he is to attain (or perhaps regain) his rightful place as a Subjectwithin the Symbolic order. On a wider scale, then, the novel offers a representation ofthe ideological shift which took place in Québec, illustrated in the fictions of therevolution littéraire precisely through a re-coding of the Mother; the symbol of thefeminine refuge values associated with the colonised culture is thus inverted and rejected.The impotence of the protagonist, meanwhile, is underlined, first, in the scene oftransvestism which illustrates, in a concrete fashion, the apparent inversion ofstereotypical active/passive (masculine/feminine) gender positions produced in Québecunder colonialism47- the powerful and phallic mother taking precedence over the(temporarily) impotent and “feminised” father. At the same time, this powerlessness isValerie Raoul discusses this concept in relation to diary fiction in Québec inDistinctly Narcissistic, eg. 229. The term “abject mother” is from Julia Kristeva’s Pouvoirsde l’horreur: Essai sur l’abjection (Paris, Seuil, 1980). It is interesting to note thatanother strong mother, Catherine de Médici, was instrumental - even the “villain” - inthe massacres for which Barthélémy is named. See for example, Robert M. Kingdon,Myths about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres 1572-1576 (Cambridge, MA., HarvardUniversity Press, 1988) and Arthur Tilley, The French Wars of Religion (London, Societyfor Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1979).In his section on Beaulieu in Trois Romanciers guebecois, Gerard Bessetteidentifies a latent homosexuality in Lémy (Montréal, Editions du jour, 1975) 100-101.This is typical of many male protagonists of the period. Jean Larose, (cited in Raoul)claims that this is indicative of the fact that the Québécois have been “blocked in theimaginary stage, associated with anal eroticism, because of the power of the mother fromwhom they cannot separate” (Distinctly Narcissistic, 36).125evoked by the contrast with Jearme-D’Arc, whose namesake, the “Warrior Maiden”, isindeed the “fenime phallique” or “virile”, dressed in men’s clothing. This is echoed, again,in the scene of transvestism, as Lemy, the character who “hears voices” and who hasbeen released from Dorémi (Domrénii), attempts to “become” Jeanne-D’Arc, in aneffort, perhaps, to liberate his people48.Lémy’s impotence is also indicated - paradoxically - in the violence he directstowards Jeanne-D’Arc. Much of the more “straight-forward” domestic violence is realenough, as is shown by Jeanne-D’Arc’s fear of reprimand for her failures in the actingout of the mysteries and in her desperate pleas and promises as Lémy extorts herconfession. Many of the more outrageous acts of aggression, however, take place only inhis mind. Lemy’s distress and anger are expressed in terms of sado-erotic violence whichserves both to reassert control and, in his hallucinations, to endow him with an almostsuperhuman virility, expressed in terms of a phallocentric obsession. As Lemy, drunk,follows Jeanne-D’Arc into the bedroom, we are told: “Plus 11 s’approchait d’elle plus il seraidissait dans sa sourde colère”, to the point where he claims: “J’a queue comme unclou d’giroffe” (48). At another moment, he talks of “la phalle majestueuse” (141), whileThis role reversal recalls Jean Larose’s argument that some male intellectuals inQuébec became “feminist” in a paradoxicalattempt to regain some sense of potency byan association with the perceived power of the “phallic” Woman and so become “men”once again. Referring specifically to the focus of the journal La (Nouvelle) Barre du jourand the avidity with which male critics adopted the feminist theoretical approach ofNicole Brossard, (itself modelled on the Parisian French feminist movement), Larosecomments; “c’est le dernier mimétisme, le plus quebecois, de la mere par le fils”, in“Une modernité bien de chez nous”, La Petite Noirceur (Montréal, Boréal, 1987) 141-171, 171. See also “Le Féminisme masculin”, 179-190.126elsewhere, that focalisation on the phallus becomes a total metonyniic identification as“Ii était un membre...” (48).The Eroticisation of Violence.The regenerative effect that violence offers Lemy depends greatly on the style andextent of abuse inflicted on Jeanne-D’Arc, itself designed to belittle or humiliate, so thatby her reduction Lemy may feel elevated. Muchof the violence is intentionally extremelydegrading, and its explicit focus on the woman’s sexual organs (the site of her difference)suggests an extreme misogyny, especially if weconsider the sadistic pleasure with whichboth Lémy and the narrator (and perhaps by implication, the author?) watch JeanneD’Arc’s suffering. I mentioned earlier the narrator laughing over what Lémy does not yetknow: at that point in the proceedings Lemy is involved in one of the more extendedand brutal bouts of violence (albeit imaginary, as he admits he was actually sitting on thefridge all the while). Jeamne-D’Arc has threatened to leave Lémy, whose reaction is toget out the leather strap and test it, his actions very deliberate. There is a degree ofanticipation and relish as he gloatingly informs her: “quand j’vas avoir fini avec toi, tus’ras pus qu’un p’tit tas d’guenille sus t’tapis[sic] (122)”, and he prepares to beat her:Ii se leva, écarta les jambes, bomba la poitrine. Ii était nu, le vent soufflaitdehors, il avait la queue raidie comme une barre de fer..(122).At this moment, in Lémy’s mind, he is proud, stands tall, exudes power and virility and,while the storm rages outside, the scene takes on an epic and heroic quality as, “quelquechose trop longtemps attendu allait enfin arriver”. As he grows in stature and strength,Jeanne-D’Arc, inversely, is:127figee dans sa peur, abrutie...son corps était une peur bleue de la mortqu’elle voyait entre les jambes écartées de Barthélémy...(122-3, myemphasis).The phallus becomes a weapon, a symbol of his power and of her death, in an instanceof overtly Freudian significance. Finally, Barthélémy decides that “Pisser sur le corps dela Jeanne-D’Arc lui parut être ce qu’il avait de mieux a faire pour commencer savengeance” (123). The next few pages describe, step-by-step, the sado-erotic atrocitiescommitted (in Lemy’s mind) on Jeanne-D’Arc’s body, as he pursues her, beating herwith the strap - now seen as “la continuation de son corps, haineuse, terriblementhaineuse” and concentrating his efforts on her breasts, backside and vagina, those partsof her body becoming increasingly grotesque. The passage is too long to be quoted in itsentirety, but the violence becomes highly sexual as Jeanne-D’Arc’s screams of “Oh,Lémy, oh Lémy, oh Lémy” become cries of sexual pleasure. The scene culminates in herorgasm and declarations of undying love, as Lémy beats and kicks her until she is “unetumeur galopante...dechir[ée] en lambeaux” (126), recalling Barthes’ comments on theSadeian woman: “la femme est abImée...on produit...une chose49”. However, Beaulieuadds another layer to the Sadeian intertext, illustrating what Susan Suleiman says ofRobbe-Grillet’s Projet pour une revolution a New York: “to the fantasy of totaldomination is added the fantasy that if it’s done right, she’ll enjoy it”50.Roland Barthes, Sade/Fourier/Loyola (Paris, Seuil, 1973) 127, also cited inchapter 1.50Susan Rubin Suleiman, Subversive Intent: Gender. Politics and the Avant-Garde(Cambridge, MA. and London, Harvard University Press, 1990) 66.128The pleasure that both Barthélémy and the voyeuristic narrator get from thisscene is obviously intensified by Jeamie-D’Arc’s helplessness51,as the narrative shiftsgleefully back and forth from the scene of violence to the police station, where JeanneD’Arc’s potential saviours are playing cards in their shirtsleeves and making too muchnoise to hear either her cries or the telephone (which Lémy had disconnected anyway).The “erotic” quality of the violence, or of its results, becomes apparent elsewhere whenFred and Jeanne-D’Arc meet for the first time. Fred recalls his first sight of her, the verypicture of humiliation, bleeding and grovelling in the dust, blood and urine in the cellaralong with Lémy and Baptiste:Le faisceau de la lampe de poche s’était arrété sur le cul nu et soufflé desang et pourquoi diable avait-il fallu qu’il l’aimât dans cette premiereimposture, dans cette rondeur blanche, sauf pour les poils qui lui sortaiententre les fesses (86-7).A relationship is thus established between female victimisation and eroticism, and shortlyafterwards, in spite of - or perhaps because of - the bruises, the blood and the generalvulnerability of Jeanne-D’Arc (who, incidentally, is never allowed any dignity), the twobegin a sexual affair.The pleasure that Jeanne-D’Arc is supposed to experience during the bouts ofviolence has a number of connotations: first, of course, her submission - of which she issupposedly proud - shows Lémy’s regained control and superior power and woman’shappy restoration to her rightful place. Her sexual pleasure, meanwhile, is indicative ofLémy’s virility, while at the same time, in suggesting that a woman could enjoy theThis recalls a number of scenes from L’Antiphonaire which I will consider in thenext chapter.129experience of being brutalised, the text plays on the old myth of “women’s masochism” -perhaps ironically, perhaps not. However, while the treatment of Jeanne-D’Arc isobviously phantasmagoric, given the apparent enjoyment and approval of the protagonistand his spectators (the narrator and author), it certainly does not seem that Beaulieu istrying to deconstruct the myth, nor is he trying to make any particularly positive,revolutionary statement about women’s sexuality.In fact, the treatment of Jeanne-D’Arc throughout the novel suggests an intensedislike for women and women’s bodies, evident as the narrator “fans the flames” and rubshis hands together in anticipation of the next indignity to be inflicted on Jeanne-D’Arc.At the very beginning of the novel, meanwhile, Lemy returns home and observes “que çapuait, dans l’air. Trop de femmes devaient avoir leurs regles” (14). As Jeanne-D’Arc’s“castrating” vagina becomes the focus of his hatred in its capacity as the symbolic site ofhis impotence and anger, Lemy considers “son minou devenu une forcure puante” (126)and elsewhere, “son minou comme une gueule de poisson, s’ouvrant et se fermant etéructant” (128), as the female genital is seen as a menacing (and perhaps “voracious”)mouth52.Later, Lémy is finally able to fantasise the performance of the (too) longawaited and ultimate act of violence, the murder of Jeanne-D’Arc, involving the totaland methodical destruction of her body, the breaking of all her bones, herdismemberment and her decapitation, accomplished by twisting the chain she wore52The image recalls, among others, Jean-Paul Sartre’s comment from his essay “TheHole”, reprinted in Existentialism and Human Emotions, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (NewYork, Citadel-Philosophical Library, 1985) 84-90, cited in English in Jane Caputi,ThAge of Sex Crime (Bowling Green, Ohio, Bowling Green State University Popular Press,1987) 144.130around her neck. At the same time, not content with these considerable acts of violence,Lémy feels it necessary to tear out her pubic hair, break wind on her breasts and, ofcourse, commit the final indignity, the ultimate act of violence, the necrophilic rape ofwhich he asks himself “Peut-être avait-il tue la Jeanne-D’Arc seulement pour lui fairecette offense?” (168). This act is significant in terms of Lémy’s sexual capability, as itseems to be the only incidence of coitus between the two of them (if Jeanne-D’Arc canreally be said to be “involved” in this act). The fact that Lémy is able to penetrateJeanne-D’Arc only once she is in this state offers little hope for the recovery of hispotency or for the success of the liberatory violence which this act purports to incarnate.At the same time, the hatred it appears to express towards the woman and her body isextreme, as she is reduced to a pure sexual function.This degradation of the female body continues as, at one point, the “heartless”Jeanne-D’Arc taunts Lémy, now invalided following the brutality of the police; shoutingat him, she tries to force him to eat:Ii pleurait parce qu’elle le méprisait depuis que sa jambe l’obligeait arester assis toute la journée: elle ne comprenait pas qu’il pouvait être aussimalheureux dans son infirmité ni ne voyait dans ses gestes qu’elle posaitcette subtile provocation a laquelle elle se livrait devant lui (161).It is this “subtle provocation” which drives Lémy to punch Jeanne-D’Arc, once again,knocking her unconscious and then attempting, unsuccessfully, to insert one of thesausages that he had refused to eat into her vagina, in a rather heavy-handed image ofhis own impotency, as “la saucisse se defais[ait], la graisse pissant de l’une desIncidently, Jos Connaissant, another of Beaulieu’s heros, fantasises committing asimilar offence (Jos Connaissant, 177).131extrémités”(162), thus foiling his efforts. Elsewhere, the image is reiterated in thecourse of a violent fantasy, as Lemy imagines her, “une carotte dans le cul et la tige d’unénorme poireau dans le minou”(130), thereby reducing her body to a piece of meat - shehad, after all, first been strung up by the ankles along with some animal carcasses.Finally Lémy worries: “Aurait-il le temps d’achever l’oeuvre, ou allait-on le surprendrealors qu’il lui remplirait le minou de chiffons imbibés d’essenceT’(126), in a RobbeGrilletien act of sadistic violence55.The act of forcing objects into a woman’s vagina iscommon enough among rapists (who are not necessarily impotent males), servingprimarily to humiliate. It entails the total degradation and despoilment of a woman’sbody, an extravagant defilement and expression of hatred and perceived power56.It alsoserves as an act of revenge against the “abject” mother or her substitute, the vagina beingseen as both the place of origin and the site of potential emasculation, and so a sourceof horror57.The choice of image recalls the “Roi du Hot Dog” in Jacques Godbout’s novelSalut Galarneau! (Paris, Seuil, 1967).Main Robbe-Grillet uses similar acts of sadistic violence performed on women’sbodies in his novels Projet pour une revolution a New York (Paris, Minuit, 1970) andJMaison de rendez-vous (Paris, Minuit, 1965).Susan Brownmiller identifies this type of act elsewhere, in the film Last Exit toBrooklyn and also in William Faulkner’s Sanctuary, considering it a “novelist’s renditionof the traditional Freudian view of sexual violence”, according to which only an impotentmale would perform such an act with a phallic substitute: Brownniiller maintains, rather,that the act is, in fact, the “coup de grace” often inflicted after a real, physical rape.Against our Will: Men. Women and Rape (New York, Bantam Books, 1976) 195.Kristeva, Pouvoirs de l’horreur.132Jeanne-D’Arc’s body thus becomes the focus of sadistic and highly misogynisticfantasy games, the site of a frenzy of almost cartoon violence, as she “refuses” to die andLémy imagines her: “son corps une tire s’allongeant indéfiniment sous le pneu d’uneautomobile dans la Catherine” (130), or roasting on a spit while a chorus sings sacredsongs around her in what is, perhaps, a parody of the burning of the “real” Jeanne-D’Arc(or of any one of the millions of other women burned by women-hating priests), againreiterating the sacrificial nature of the violence against a female scapegoat. Elsewhere,Lémy imagines that “elle n’entendrait jamais une aussi belle musique que celle de la scielui sciant la cage thoracique”(129) and finally, in an image close to the violent portrayalof women’s bodies in Surrealist art, Jeanne-D’Arc is seen with four bottles of beercooling inside her frozen carcass, her mutilated body transformed into a serviceableobject (130). In this way, Jeanne-D’Arc is dehumanised, her image here far from thewoman herself divorced from the reality of flesh and blood.Thinking of her in these terms - either as a cartoon character who can survive anyamount of brutality, or as an object deserving of such treatment - makes the realviolence against her easier for Lémy to perform and also, to a certain extent, renders theviolence more acceptable to the reader because it is more “unreal”. This distancing isalso brought about by the bathos with which much of the violence is related. Indeed, thereader is invited (and expected) to enjoy the bloodfest, as much of the horror is undercutby the incongruity of Lémy’s behaviour. The assumption of the police that the preciousshoe box contains a gift for Jeanne-D’Arc, when all the while it supposedly contains oneof her bones, first carefully soaked in caustic soda to remove all of the flesh, has a133twisted and macabre humour about it, as does the reader’s realisation that thedismembered mannequin covered in red paint that falls out of the wardrobe isBarthêlémy’s “Jeanne-D’Arc”58.The fact that the status of so much of this violence isquestionable, the boundaries between reality and fantasy being blurred, also adds to the“guilt-free” enjoyment of the text. Elsewhere, the narrative adopts a different strategy, asat one point we are told that Lémy’s imaginary audience is not always totally approvingof his performances:Barthelemy avait l’impression de jouer devant un public de province qui,lorsque la pièce atteindrait a la violence, se lèverait en bloc pourprotester” (55, my emphasis).The implied audience is of course the reader, who is thus manipulated through his or heramour-propre into accepting the violence (as artifice) in order not to be considered“parochial” and unsophisticated.The de-realising effects of bathos or parody, theatricality and the constant ruptureor “coupure” which the text practices, therefore serve as a means of defence, as SusanSuleiman writes:by exposing the scene[s] as only play they enable the reader...to experiencethe excitement as pleasure, devoid of the anxiety that would accompanysuch scenes enacted in real life59.58The image of the painted and damaged mannequin recalls “la Mariée” in RéjeanDucharme’s Le Nez gui voque (Paris, Gallimard, 1967). In this text, the stolen (andsomewhat battered) mannequin, wearing a wedding dress, is daubed with ink (95-99).Suleiman, 63. Again, Suleiman is talking about Robbe-Grillet’s novel, Projet pourune revolution a New York.134Once the reader has “clued in” to the fact that this violence is fantasised, after the initialshock of seeing Jeanne-D’Arc, “le cou cassé, la tête et la flamme des longs cheveuxblonds entre ciel et terre, mouillée de sang chaud” (29), as Barthélémy walks in throughthe door, the murder of Jeanne-D’Arc and the visits by the police become a kind ofgame, in which the reader is complicitous.However, it is a game in which Jeamie-D’Arc is nevertheless the victim, albeitsymbolic. And yet not so, as Jeanne-D’Arc is in fact dead, or so the police kindly remindLémy. How she died we are not told, we can only assume that it was not at the hands ofher loving husband. In any case, having provided the narrator, Lemy, Fred, andapparently the reader, with so much sport, having been the victim of Lémy’s frustratedviolence and anger and the battleground on which the symbolic “liberation” of theQuébécois is fought within the novel, Jeanne-D’Arcis disposed of. Her role within thetext is to serve as victim for as long as her victimisation is necessary to the developmentof L.émy’s story, at which point she can be “killed off’ unceremoniously by the text (or,rather, by the author), another expendable character who could only be female6°.Sexual Violence and (Counter)revolution.The effectiveness of this violence, on all levels, is questioned within the novelitself, as it closes on what Patricia Smart describes as “une note de fausse liberation,60In addition to the texts considered in the last two chapters, in Claude Jasmin’sPleure pas. Germaine (1965), a young girl’s suicide brings two men (her father andformer lover) together, while in Le Nez qui vogue, Chateaugué must die if Mille Mulesis to become a man; she kills herself once he apparently has no further use for her.135dont l’ironie est apparente”61.Indeed, having “finally” dealt with Jeanne-D’Arc, the textends in a somewhat flippant manner as Lemy wipes his hands, throwing her legs to thedog and her head in the cellar:Une fois le plancher lavé a l’eau de Javel, ii pourrait enfin changer sesvêtements, retirer de la petite boIte de velours l’harmonica du Père,détacher le chien et marcher dans Morial Mort en direction deshélicoptères remplis de soldats et qui tournoyaient au dessus de la rueMonselet (172).While the violence initially appears to offer the promise of liberation, or certainly ofrenewal62,the fact that Barthélémy has already “killed” Jeanne-D’Arc on a number ofoccasions suggests that the cathartic power of violence is at best temporary andincomplete and that, like the ghost of Joan Ruskin which haunts her murderer, P.X.Magnant, in Aquin’s Trou de mémoire, the memory of Jeanne-D’Arc and all that sherepresents will remain with him. The fact that these “murders” take place in the realm offantasy, meanwhile, suggests that Barthélémy has as yet failed in his attempts to takecontrol of his destiny and to move from the level of “acteur” to “actant”. While violence ispresented as a natural reaction, engrained within the very landscape (41), Lémy realisesthat the way out is far more complex and that the violence has come too late; heremembers “le disque use de la rebellion deux fois centenaire” (154) and “l’imagerieancienne, c’est-à-dire les cent mille Joseph-David-Barthelemy Dupuis de son rêve,...qui61Patricia Smart, “Un réve guébécois de Victor-Levy Beaulieu”, Livres et auteursguebécois (1972) 46-49, 48.62The harmonica which Lémy retrieves serves as both a reference to the past (interms of traditional music etc.) and a phallic substitute in Beaulieu’s writing. See alsoDon Ouichotte.136marchaient vers le futur” (152). Finally, it seems as if his action was too long awaited, themoment for violence has passed or is now uncontrollable and indiscriminate, as thoughBarthélémy “était un membre qui avait été trop longtemps bandé” (48), ejaculatingexplosively and without control. The solution is, therefore, more complex, as he finallyrealises:tuer la Jearme-D’Arc ne suffisait peut-être pas, la mutiler et l’outrager neconstituaient sñrement pas une fin ni une délivrance souhaitable. Toutétait plus subtil, moms fadilement identifiable, tout ne relevait sans doutepas de la Jeanne-D’Arc ni de lui-même d’ailleurs iii de la grosse main deBaptiste posee comme un défi dans le califourchon secret (170).Beaulieu’s examination of the events of October 1970 ends in pessimism and thedarkness of failure, the acts of violence against his chosen scapegoat are seen ultimatelyas futile, as in his other novels where similar patterns of abuse are apparent. And yet itwould appear that even had the violence been successful in terms of its liberatory andcathartic aspects, there would be no place for Jeanne-D’Arc or for the women sherepresents. The text may be “revolutionary” in its use of language and structure, and therepresentation of Jearme-D’Arc is radical in its challenge to the concept of the “Heroine”of the traditional French-Canadian novel, yet her role, and indeed the text, remainfundamentally unsubversive, even reactionary, since her status as Victim is unquestioned,and is moreover essential to the functioning of the text. Jeanne-D’Arc, her body theplayground of misogynistic fantasy, the site of intense, graphic and repetitive violence, isexcluded from male plans for a new world order, which must, in Patricia Smart’s words,137be built on her corpse63.The female body therefore remains “le lieu privilégié pourlattentat1M- the ideal site for violent crime - and a barrier to be destroyed for thebenefit of the disaffected male, who still assumes that to become a Man he must ab-jecthis mother or her substitute. While the colonised and “feminised” male may hopeultimately to achieve full subjecthood and full masculinity following the completion ofthe decolonising process (so rejecting an artificially and temporarily imposed state ofeffeminacy), woman can never be other than herself and as a result must remain theeternal Object to a male Subject, both the means and barrier to male self-sufficiency.63Smart, Ecrire dans la maison du père: L’émergence du féminin dans la traditionlittéraire du Ouébec (Montréal, Quebec/Amérique, 1988), see especially her chapter 6and also her article “Un cadavre sous les fondations de l’édifice”.64Main Robbe-Grillet, Le Monde, 22 septembre 1978, interview pour “Le Mondedes lettres”, quoted in Dardigna, 21.138Chapter FourL’Antiphonaire: a Literary/Literal Striptease.139Hubert Aquin is considered among Québec’s most challenging authors. The fournovels for which he is primarily renowned - Prochain episode1,Trou de mémoire2,L’Antiphonaire3and Neige noire4 - have been the subject of diverse studies since theirpublication and have recently been reissued as part of a critical edition of Aquin’soeuvre: a significant recognition of his importance and influence, unusual for a writer sorecent. The texts of this colourful, even legendary figure, are considered radical in theirtreatment of traditional writing styles, their intertextual borrowings from many sourcesand their deliberately misleading or “playful” and carnivalesque quality. Aquin was arevolutionary spirit5,not only with regard to his writings but also to the nationalist crisisin Québec during the 1960’s and 70’s, involved in the separatist movement until hisdeath at his own hands in 1977. The first two novels are infused with the crisis, as theprotagonists are implicated in revolutionary activities, yet caught in the same frustrations,1Hubert Aquin, Prochain episode (Montréal, Le Cercle du Livre de France, 1965).2Aquin, Trou de mémoire (Montréal, Le Cercle du Livre de France, 1968).Aquin, L’Antiphonaire (Montréal, Le Cercle du Livre de France, 1969). All pagereferences given in the text will be to this edition unless otherwise specified.Aquin, Neige noire (Montréal, Pierre Tisseyre, 1974). In addition to these fourprinciple texts, there are also Aquin’s first novel, Les Rédempteurs, written in 1952 andpublished in 1959 in Ecrits du Canada francais (volume 5, 45-114) as well as L’Inventionde la mort, written in 1959, which has only recently been published (Ottawa, Leméac,1991): neither has received the critical attention accorded the other works.In his article “Euphorias of Substitution: Hubert Aquin and the Political Novel inQuébec”, Fredric Jameson comments that Aquin wasknown as a “revolutionary dandy”.Yale French Studies 65 (1983) 214-223, 214.140madness and impotence as Barthélémy Dupuis; the later novels have absorbed thecultural malaise of the period and transferred it to another narrative level. Increasingly,however, this malaise is taken out on the bodies of women: Trou de mémoire sees themurder of Joan Ruskin and the rape of her sister, known as RR, while inL’Antiphonaire, the protagonist, a woman, documents numerous rapes, most of which sheendures herself; finally (in a development which Françoise Maccabée Iqbal describes asa move from “quantity to quality”6)the multiple abuse of L’Antiphonaire is fine-honedinto an “exquisite” Sadeian (or Robbe-Grilletien) murder, as Nicolas, the protagonist ofNeige noire, performs the ritualised and sadistic torture, excision, manducation andmurder of his wife, Sylvie, while on their honeymoon.This apparently anti-woman stance has received some attention from feminists7such as Lan Saint-Martin and Valerie Raoul, in their analyses of Trou de mémoire8,6Francoise Maccabée Iqbal, “Violence et viol chez Aquin: Don Juan Ensorcelé”,Canadian Literature 88 (Spring 1981) 52-60, 52. While I appreciate the “sentiment”, Ifind the word “quality” somewhat troubling: it suggests, of course, a value system inkeeping with Sadeian philosophy and perhaps a “removed” subject position on the part ofthe reader, not surprising in itse1f given the extreme formalism of Aquin’s writings, butsymptomatic of the way in which violence may be presented so as to evacuate the painand horror (and the political implications) of its reality.‘Indeed, Robert Richard, a prominent scholar of Aquin, suggests that themistreatment of women in Aquin’s novels has received sufficient attention: he talks of around table at which everyone bemoaned the fate of the “aquinien” women, “pour ensuitepasser a autre chose” - presumably more important (Le Corps logique de la fiction: lecode romanesque chez Hubert Aquin Montréal, L’Hexagone, 1990, 121). It seemsstrange then, if the subject is so well worn, that so few published articles seem to addressthe issue.8Lan Saint-Martin, “Mise a mort de la femme et “liberation” de l’homme: Godbout,Aquin, Beaulieu”. Voix et Images, 10.1 (automne 1984) 107-117 and Valerie Raoul,Distinctly Narcissistic: Diary Fiction in Québec (Toronto, University of Toronto Press,1993).141while Neige noire has been studied by Patricia Smart9.L’Antiphonaire, meanwhile, anambitious, troubling and often baffling text, does not appear to have received quite theattention - feminist or otherwise - given to Aquin’s other novels. On publication, reviewswere mixed, although it was criticised chiefly for its “gratuitous” erudition and for anumber of inconsistencies10,to which I will return. L’Antiphonaire does lend itself,however, to an analysis of the use of violence in literature and of the role of Woman asVictim, as well as a discussion of the “feminism” of Aquin’s writing (since certaincomments by and the identity of the protagonist raise the question); this is an elusivetopic, particularly in this novel, whose extreme and perhaps deliberate ambiguity issummed up by Patricia Smart when she says:L’Antiphonaire peut se lire a la fois comnie un roman féministe et commeun des romans les plus misogynes de l’epoque’.While my intention in this chapter is not, of course, “to determine once and for allwhether or not “Hubert Aquin, writer”, was a misogynist”, the dichotomy expressed byPatricia Smart is crucial to an analysis of the violence within the novel, and at the sametime, illustrates the ambiguity of the text and the multiple readings it propagates.Patricia Smart, Ecrire dans la maison du pére: l’emergence du féminin dans latradition littéraire du Québec, 1988 (Montréal, Quebec/Amerique, 1990) 265-29 1.10Gilles Thérien reports on this in “Presentation”, L’Antiphonaire, Edition critique,tome 3, vol 5 de l’édition critique de l’oeuvre d’Hubert Aquin (Montréal, Bibliothequequebécoise, 1993) xxxix-xuv.Smart, “Les Romans d’Hubert Aquin: une lecture au féminin”, Le Romanquebécois depuis 1960: méthodes et analyses, sous la direction de Louise Milot et JaapLintvelt (Québec, Presses de l’Université Lava!, CRELIQ, 1992) 2 15-227, 220.142L’Antiphonaire: A Treatise on Women?The fact that the protagonist is an intelligent, educated woman has often beenread as a significant feminist element in L’Antiphonaire. In her book, Hubert Aguin.romancier12,Francoise Iqbal rightly suggests that Christine, a female doctor, working onher PhD thesis and “sexually liberated”, would seem to be the very model of the “modernwoman”: such a choice of heroine would also seem to indicate a degree of overt woman-positiveness, hitherto unseen in male writing in Québec, a breaking away from thesuffocating Wife/Mother roles so favoured up until this point. And yet the “mise enscene” of a “positive” female figure is not, in itself, necessarily a feminist act. Indeed,despite her impressive achievements, Christine’s adult life even prior to the beginning ofthe novel appears to be a catalogue of disappointments, failure and abuse, primarily withregard to or at the hands of men, as is revealed when Robert Bernatchez, her lover,forces the information from her in an interrogation or violation similar to that sufferedby Jeanne-D’Arc in Un rêve guebécois (although at this point Christine is notthreatened with physical violence). From her initial triumph as a medical doctor, at atime when such a profession would have only just been opening its doors if not its heartsto women, Christine is forced to resign, following an abortion performed by a “collèguecomplaisant” who then demanded sexual favours in return for his silence13.While such12Iqbal, Hubert Aguin. romancier (Québec, Presses de l’Université Laval, 1978): seeespecially her section “Féminisme”, 195-199.13Many women have found themselves in similar situations due to the often illegalnature of abortion. See The New Our Bodies Ourselves: A Book By and For Women, byThe Boston Women’s Health Collective (New York, Touchstone-Simon and Schuster,1992) 372.143a situation would be troubling in itself Christine was, at the time, not only married, buthaving an affair with Robert himself while the pregnancy was the result of a casualencounter with a visiting doctor. From this dilemma (for which she was, of course,largely responsible) onwards, L’Antiphonaire, a fictional autobiography, charts thegradual but incessant decline of Christine - her painful disintegration from potentialMD.PhD to suicidal whore. Given her demise, and the humiliation she endures beforekilling both herself and the baby inside her, could it not also be assumed that Christine,the protagonist and narrator, is deliberately created as an “elevated” (and so a marginal)figure, the better to “knock her down”? - a practice which, after all, as we have seen, hasbeen common in Western literature for several centuries (the eighteenth-century heroinesprings to mind)’4.The fate of Christine would thus be a form of “cautionary tale” or“backlash”, so often encountered by women and female characters who succeed in“stepping out of line” or “rising above their station”.Such an apparently negative portrayal of the fate of modern woman could well beseen as reactionary, especially given the advances made by feminism during therevolutionary period in Québec history when the novel was written. In his book Le Corpslogique de la fiction, Robert Richard talks of the spirit of “Contre-Réforme” which is asignificant part both of Aquin’s writing and of post-modernism as Richard sees it’5;according to this logic, Aquin, the revolutionary, would invert the “popular” politicalreforms of the time - not so much to question the reforms per Se, but in order to call into14See chapter 1.15Richard, Le Corps logique de la fiction, 98.144question the means by which they were being achieved and the “runaway” or perhapsnaïve optimism which so often accompanies new advances. Such a strategy couldcertainly explain the apparent undermining of the feminist advances of the time - acalling into question in order to strengthen, an adoption of reactionary attitudes preciselyin order to expose them for what they are. The repeated rapes of Christine and Renata,seen in the light of this spirit of “contre-réforme”, could therefore be interpreted as asubtle reminder - unconscious, perhaps, benignly or otherwise intended - that, for all herintellect and professional qualifications, despite years of progress and liberation,Christine (Modern Woman) is still vulnerable to the one power that man will alwayshold over woman - namely, the act of rape. Her fate could be seen as a reminder tothose caught up in the superficial improvements to women’s lot, of the deeper and morefundamental inequalities between the sexes. Assuming this is so and that the abuse ofwomen in the novel is intended indirectly as a “feminist” statement or agenda - and theremay be no way of knowing for sure - how effective or valuable a strategy is this withregard to feminism, and how much, in its game of “Devil’s Advocate”, does it serve tonormalise or perpetuate a belief in the acceptability of violent degradation of women?The “pro-feminist” argument would seem perhaps a little more overt elsewhere inthe text. The fact that Christine comments on “la secondarité substantielle et éternellede la femme depuis le XVIème siècle jusqu’à nos jours” (57), thus underlining thesimilarities between her situation and that of Renata Belmissieri, despite the fourhundred years of “progress” which separate them, has often been called upon as anexplanation of the dual narratives of Aquin’s text and a response to any accusation of145misogyny’6:L’Antiphonaire is thereby deemed to reveal and criticise the apparentlyperpetual mistreatment of women. However, this argument, although proffered to acertain extent by the text and borne out by the parallels between the lives of bothRenata and Christine, would seem to place the exposure of continued gender inequalityas a central focus of the text and a fundamental criterion for the structure ofL’Antiphonaire. Given that Christine is, however, a qualified doctor working on adoctoral dissertation, accomplishments of which Renata could only dream (and for whichshe would probably have been burned), such an explanation appears perhaps a littleover-simplistic17.This is especially apparent in the author’s own somewhat ambivalentresponse, during an interview, to a question regarding his portrayal of Christine, andwhether it might perhaps suggest a misogynist tendency: Aquin replied that,ily a quelqu’un qui a répondu qu’au contraire cela prouvait que je n’étaispas misogyne: parce que me mettant dans la peau de la femme je mefaisais battre, humilier etc., done c’est dire que j’épouse, assez intensémentdans le cas de L’Antiphonaire, la position de la femme’8.The fact that Aquin had to rely on someone else’s explanation of and interpretation ofhis own text and his own narrative strategy, would certainly seem to belie the notion thatfeminism was a primary motive in the structure of the text and in the representation ortreatment of women in the text, as “Aquin’s” explanation of his “adoption of Woman’s16Iqbal, Hubert Aquin. romancier, 195.17André Lamontagne also notes this in his study Les Mots des autres: la poétiqueintertextuelle des oeuvres romanesques de Hubert Aquin (Sainte-Foy, Presses del’Université Laval, 1992) 172.‘Yvon Boucher, “Aquin par Aquin. Entrevue”, Québec littéraire 2 (1976) 129-149,140, quoted in Patricia Smart, “Les Romans d’Hubert Aquin”, 223 (my emphasis).146plight” appears to be an afterthought. This ambivalence would also, finally, appear tocast doubt on any particularly feminist agenda within the notion of counter-reform.Meanwhile, Christine’s occasional comments regarding the feminisation oflanguage - with reference to her own profession, for example: “tout le monde sait...que lemot médecine n’a pas cours quand ii s’agit de designer une femme-médecin” (45), andelsewhere, ‘j’étais née pour cette carrière superbement interrompue...de philosophe dessciences... ou de penseur (j’adore les mots sans equivalent féminin)” (131) - also seem tosuggest a “feminist” consciousness or awareness, on the part of the narrator and so on thepart of the author. The same can be said for her comments regarding the status ofwomen and the freedom of modern woman - such as when she writes:J’ose croire que le temps est passé - depuis belle lurette - oii il fallaitchanter les charmes de la vie au foyer et les mérites de l’épouse qui attendcomme Pénélope que son mann de man revienne de ses hosties de petitschants homériques. Le temps homérique est fini...(44).While this statement is, of course, extremely valid and pertinent - both with regard to thechanging status of women in Québec at the time and as a comment on the changing roleof the female character in Québec literature - once again, the fate endured by Christinewould seem to contradict or undermine the positive sentiment it expresses. Furthermore,given Aquin’s reputation as an expert and consummate plagiarist, adopting and adaptinganother person’s words for his own ends, could not this awareness of feminism equally beseen as an appropriation, conscious or unconscious, of the feminist discourse, just as thediscourses of medicine and philosophy are assimilated within the text...?The complexity and ambiguity identified by Patricia Smart with regard to the“feminism” or “misogyny” of the text must already be apparent. Aquin’s novel typically147refuses to be pinned down, inviting or inciting the reader to create his or her ownversion of the text: the reader’s identity, therefore, must necessarily have some effect onhis or her particular version, created out of the act of reading, itself a central theme inthe novel. My intention, as I have indicated elsewhere, is to examine the criteria in thetext which allow or even produce such ambiguity and prompt the diametrically anddramatically opposed readings suggested by Patricia Smart. The focus, once again, will bethe presentation and reading of violence - textual and physical - which takes placethroughout the novel.Violence as Catalyst: the Writing Process.L’Antiphonaire traces the fate of Christine Forestier, a qualified doctor no longerpractising medicine, who has been working on a doctoral thesis on sixteenth centurymedicine’9- a project she claims is a consolation for giving up medical practice havingmet and married Jean-William, although she does not explain fully the reason for herresignation until it is forced out of her by Robert Bernatchez, and even then her accountis inconsistent(128)20.Christine is seen working on her thesis research prior to theAndré Lamontagne suggests that Christine’s thesis has already been abandonedprior to the beginning of the novel (Les Mots des autres, 150); this may be so, butChristine does refer to it repeatedly as if it is still an ongoing (albeit an increasinglyunfeasible or impossible) project.20Christine claims first to have given up medicine for Jean-William; she then blamesthe doctor who performed her abortion and who consequently attempted to blackmailher (81). The opening section of the text, meanwhile, suggests a different course ofevents, as the unidentified narrator (presumably Suzanne, as she is the only remaining148ninth epileptic seizure suffered by her husband: her writing is interrupted when, duringthis crisis, as on at least one previous occasion, Jean-William becomes extremely violenttowards her. Christine escapes, narrowly avoiding being hit by the glass ashtray hurled byJean-William, drives off in their rented car and eventually stops at a pharmacy where shehopes to find the wherewithal to dress her wounds and to buy Demarol for Jean-William.Instead, she is given morphine by the pharmacist, and is raped and imprisoned overnight.When on a second attempt she reaches Jean-William by phone, she finds that he hadtraced her previous call and that he believes her “coupling” with the pharmacist was“amorous” - a misconception she does little to dispel, incidentally. Jean-William alsoadmits that he has been suspicious of her for some time, has had her followed, is awareof her affair with a certain Robert Bernatchez and, finally, does not love her (98-100).Shortly after this conversation, Christine sees Jean-William enter the pharmacy where heshoots the pharmacist. In fear for her own life, Christine then flees, without reporting herhusband to the police. Isolated while the damage to her face and body heal, Christinebegins to write. Her already confused and doomed thesis project becomes increasinglyembroiled with the events of her own life until, by her suicide, she ends both her textcharacter capable of writing) reports, “C’était en juillet; en mai elle avait déjà quitté lamédecine et, peu de jours après, elle avait fait la connaissance de Jean-William” (16).The difficulty in establishing the “real” story is typical of many of the novels written atthis time, as we have seen (as well as of the nouveau roman in France, for example),history being seen as a false and/or subjective construct (over which the Québécois-ascolonised have limited control).149and her life, in a literal dramatisation of “la mort de l’écrivain” - the original workingtitle of the novel21.Although Christine’s “story” does not begin with the first page of L’Antiphonaire,as becomes progressively apparent throughout the elliptical course of the novel, theassault on Christine by Jean-William - the first in a series of acts of physical violence -has several functions. On the diegetic level, it precipitates Christine into a number ofdangerous and violent situations, setting the tone for the novel, in which rape, murder,attempted murder, druggings, betrayal and suicide are almost de rigueur. On anotherlevel, as Christine comments, her story would not have been told, her “novel” wouldnever have been written, had it not been for the blows she received from her husband:si je n’avais pas recu sur la paroi temporale gauche un certain coup depoing de Jean-William, je ne serais pas ici en train de me forger desphrases pour mieux degrafer mon soutien-gorge et exposer, a la vue desmariiaques, la peau legèrement décolorée de mes deux seins...(45)22.A pattern begins to emerge at this point. In Trou de mémoire, the so-called RR beginsto write, taking over the editorship of the “novel”, having been raped by P.-X. Magnant(by whom she believes she is pregnant - although it is equally possible that Olympe is thefather - and with whom she claims to be in love); rape is here seen as a metaphor “forthe metamorphosis from “acted upon” to “actor”23 and so implemental in the“regeneration” of RR. Neige noire, meanwhile, sees the project for the creation of a film21The various plans for L’Antiphonaire are included in the Edition critique,presented by Gilles Thérien, 34 1-396.22I will return to this choice of image later.23Valerie Raoul, 237, citing Lori Saint-Martin.150whose subject and inspiration is to be Sylvie, the victim of a brutal sexual murder at thehands of her own husband, who would (according to Jacques Pelletier) thereby achievepassage from “reality” into the world of fiction, and therefore attain immortality,making Sylvie’s death a “creative act”. What this seems to suggest is that Aquin’sstrong female characters have to suffer brutal abuse at the hands of men, in order torealise their “creative potential”: an alarming and intensely problematic concept, to saythe least, which seems to suggest, by extension, that these women should also be gratefulfor their mistreatment. For Christine, however, the “benefits” of violence or“compensation” for violence received (the creativity or immortality attained) are lessclear. At the beginning of the text, she is already in the process of writing, working onher thesis-cum-medical history, a text which would have gained her access as a Subject tothe masculine, even patriarchal world of academia and of the Symbolic. The assault byJean-William, which begins the “deterioration” of Christine’s life and text, forcesChristine from such a path and redirects her to the traditionally feminine realm of lettersoccupied by autobiography. Christine may still enter the hallowed halls of academia, butnow only as the Object of voyeuristic literary and psychological study.Jacques Pelletier, “Sur Neige noire, l’oeuvre ouverte d’Hubert Aquin”, Voix etImages 1.1 (sept. 1975) 19-25, 23. Patricia Smart, meanwhile, suggests that Sylvie, as the“symbolic”, the idealised woman under the male gaze, must be eliminated in order thatEva and Linda might achieve their status as real Subjects: fair enough, but the graphicand sadistic means of her elimination raises many questions. See Smart, “Woman asObject, Women as Subjects, and the Consequences for Narrative: Hubert Aquin’s Neigenoire,and the impasse of post-modernism” Canadian Literature, 113-4 (Summer/Fall1987) 168-178, 176.This is also intimated in Iqbal, Hubert Aquin. romancier and in Smart, Ecrire dansla maison du yère.151On the textual level, finally, the violent act inflicted on the writer-narrator of thetext is transposed directly intouviolencehiperpetrated on the text itself as linearity andcontinuity are dislocated and academic treatise becomes autobiography. Therepercussions suffered by the writer, aside from the chronic physical consequences of theattack, ensure the continued discontinuity of the text and a gradual erosion of thedistinction between text and reality, as Christine’s document is “infected” by the violentevents in her life and so becomes an ever more impossible task. Recording the attack,she comments that “les savantes theories me sont passees d’un seul coup de poing” (45),and adds elsewhere: “j’ai perdu mon sujet de these quelque part dans les dunes de SantaBarbara et de San Diego” (18) - a sense of loss or pessimism which becomes increasinglyintense as the novel develops:le temps manque toujours...pour écrire une these qui - a jamais -demeurera une hypothèse a propos de la “science médicale” du l6èmesiècle: jamais je ne finaliserai cette these (131).In fact, it is not so much the subject of her thesis that Christine has lost, but theability to focus on it and to maintain her objectivity with regard to the subject, as sheadmits: “a force de me mettre le nez dans ce manuscrit, j’ai peut-étre perdu la distancefavorable a une perception plus juste, plus equitable” (159). The writing of this textbecomes a self-conscious means of escape or place of refuge from “[sa] propre vie ratée”(19). Christine’s research on medical history becomes concentrated on the fate of aparticular manuscript, the Traité des maladies nouvelles by Jules-César Beausang and soEstablished in Montreal with Robert, Christine complains of a residual but severepain in her left temporal vein, giving her cause to fear a brain haemorrhage (127).152intertwined with an account of the lives of themajor players in the drama that shebegins to write “au hasard de Chigi et de Beausang” (176), thus playing the roles ofhistorian, detective and literary critic. Enmeshed within this already complex text are notonly the autobiographical details of Christine’s own life and her growing disenchantment,but also a narcissistic, auto-reflexive critique of her own writing - a critical “meta-text”common in the post-modern novel27 - as Christine struggles with the various battles inher life, including the continued writing of her gordian knot of a text, which shedescribes as:Sans titre, sans logique interne, sans contenu, sans autre charme que celuide la vérité désordonnée, ...composé en forme d’aura épileptique...(17).Writing as Performance: the (De)construction of Self and the “Etre pour autrui”.L’Antiphonaire combines the story of its own creation with the story of thecreation of Christine as, in writing her text, Christine also writes herself in a process ofself-parturition: she exists only through her text, as text, evolving with her writing. Ratherthan being a “readerly” construct, the novel charts the process of construction - or,perhaps more appropriately, a dual process of construction and deconstruction - as the27Of the post-modern text, Valerie Raoul comments: “narrative becomes the explicittheme as well as the necessary form and means of its message” (14). This praxis is also,appropriately enough, common to the fictional journal, especially those produced inQuébec in the 1960’s,when its specific emphasis on historicity and subjectivity made it “asingularly appropriate medium for the textualization of the Québec political situation atthat time”(lO).The similarities between this description of Christine’s own text and the novelL’Antiphonaire are striking, adding another layer of auto-referentiality, even serving as amise en abyme for the text as a whole.153text and the novel itself (as a genre) are exposed and disassembled in conjunction withthe exposure and deterioration or fragmentation of its narrator, the one apparentlyfueffing the other. The text thus functions around a process of fragmentation on both thediegetic and extra-diegetic levels, as Christine’s comment on her physical state: “lesdiverses parties de mon pauvre corps sont disloquees, détachées l’une de l’autre et neforment plus un organisme vivant et fonctionnel” (58) is later applied to her text, “dont laforme insensiblement se désintègre et m’échappe” (185). Her “experience dedésintégration psychique” (121), meanwhile, exacerbated by the disintegration of hertext, is eventually adopted as or translated into an aesthetic, as she writes: “Je suisfragmentaliste... Pour moi, l’existence n’est qu’une série de sequences brisées, autosuffisantes, dont l’addition n’egale jamais la totalité” (218), another comment whichserves as a mise-en-abyme for the textual strategy.The choice of autobiography would seem to be highly appropriate, with its(idealised) property of revelation or unveiling, a function which the text exploits overtly,as Christine writes early in her text: “ce livre que je commence doit, partiellement aumoms, révéler celle qui le compose” (22). Indeed, as she writes about the events of herlife, the secrets of her past and the hidden depths of her personality gradually becomeuncovered, the “journal” becomes the place to expose her soul, as well as a reflection ofher “self’, and the gradual deterioration experienced by that “self’. This exposure isdescribed in terms of a literal physical disrobing:La pauvre folle que je suis s’y étale en pleine lumière, corsage nu, topless,seins a l’air et l’âme en déconfiture. Après tout, qui refuserait a l’auteurde ce livre (moi) de s’exhiber...(44).154The direct relationship between Christine’s text and her body which this suggests is alsoevident in the earlier quotation, in which she blames the violence against her for herwriting process; if Jean-William had not attacked her, she writes:...je ne serais pas ici en train de forger des phrases pour mieux degrafermon soutien-gorge et exposer, a la vue des maniaques, la peau legèrementdécolorée de mes deux seins...(45).The writing of this autobiography is seen in effect in terms of a figurative striptease,performed by the narrator-writer, and paralleled by the actual removal of clothing whichtakes place throughout the text, as Christine is seen in various stages of undress:teasingly semi-nude in the motel at Drummondville, naked in the office of Dr. Franconi,and, shortly before her suicide, “pantelante, nue, déconfite” (220).The image of the strip-tease functions on a number of levels; on the diegetic level,first, for the idea of “performance” which it encapsulates. Christine’s text is written in ajournalesque fashion; it is written from day-to-day, serving the role of confidant(e) orrefuge and relating the events of her life, her feelings, her thoughts. However, contraryto the expectations of a true journal, which would be written solely for the eyes of thenarrator/writer, Christine’s text is addressed to an audience - one, moreover, to whomshe refers as “les maniaques” - the voyeuristic viewers of her semi-naked body. Christine’srelationship with her readers is developed through a series of interpellations, which drawthe reader in as a participant in the production of the text. Her awareness of writing fora narratee is reflected in the commentary she makes on her own writing and her evermore apparent fear of displeasing her audience, both by her writing and by herbehaviour - her “self’. The reader-audience is quickly cast in the role of judge, from155whom Christine seems to be seeking understanding or even absolution throughherconfessional (and somewhat “self-flagellating”) autobiography.The authenticity and accuracy of an autobiography written for the approvalof areader (set up as critic and judge) is dubious, despite the narrator’sassurances that “jen’ai rien truqué, rien déformé, rien gonflé” and later claimto recount “autant d’épisodesqui se sont réellement déroulés tels que je les ai décrits” (213). Followingthe assault byJean-William, a decidedly pessimistic Christine considers her options ina dialogic style:Vous me direz: a 37 ans, on n’abandoime pas encore tout espoirdeplenitude feminine, on ne renonce pas a la vie pleine et satisfaisantealaquelle les femmes ont maintenant droit... D’accord! Maisvous n’avez pasvécu, chères lectrices incompréhensives, la moitié de ma pauvre existence,vous n’avez pas fait le tour de mon jardin, ni accumulé a ce point desurprises et d’orgasmes que les futures joies ne puissent m’exciterencore etme redonner une jeunesse que j’ai vertement gaspillée a sonder lesinsondables theories de Simon Stévin [etc.]...(45, my emphasis).This comment appears to be addressed specifically to those female readerswith afeminist consciousness or awareness, hinting at their intolerance - again perhapsrecallingthe “counter-reformist” argument of Robert Richard. Later, having commentedon thelack of improvement in women’s lives and rights over the four hundred yearscovered bythe text, Christine adds, “Comme le féminisme se porte mal, je sens que je perdsde plusen plus de lectrices. C’est bien dommage, mais que voulez-vousT’ (57) - a ratheroff-handdismissal of any (again, specifically) female readers she presumes to have turnedoff. Itseems ironic that the female narratee should be considered so unimportant,consideringthe apparently revolutionary pride of place assigned to a woman within the text(but thenIqbal comments: “Inversons un dicton: qui s’accuse s’excuse”, Hubert Aguin..romancier, 214.156perhaps my feelings are hurt!). Christine’s reader changes, however, asmuch later,addressing herself to her “unique et sombre lecteur” (21O)°, she assumesshe hasalienated the majority of her readers: her solitary (and presumably moretolerant orforgiving) reader is now referred to in the singular masculine form and,while the nounmay also be used in a non-gendered sense, this shift in gender-specificityis interesting,given Christine’s defensive attitude with regard to her female audience. Itseems possiblethat Christine has progressively given up on her “lectrices” and could be saidto bewriting, performing or peeling for the masculine reader-spectator.Her writing or being “for” others, her need to meet with approval orto please,also results in the repeated auto-criticism of Christine’s text and heracknowledgement ofher shortcomings as a writer, when she disparages her text,Je reconnais que ce livre (le mien) peut provoquer une certaine irritation....Je sais, d’ailleurs, que ma prose detraquee ne contient aucun ingredient deplaisir pour le lecteur (207).This assumption of her reader’s impatience increasesto the point where she writesfinally:Une goutte encore, et je vais déplaire: voilà, c’est fait, oui,je déplais, jesuis irritante, je fais mal (telle une douleur a la tête).. (213).However, the distinction between Christine and her text is so far erodedthat the two areinseparable. The criticisms of her writing are thus equally directedtowards her self: hercomment - “Si cela devient irritant (a la lecture), aussi bien me laisser tomber,car - vous°Iqbal suggests that the direct address to the reader is a further means ofdemythifying the writing process and also serves to “create” the reader, Hubert Aquin.romancier, 214.157devez me croire - je n’ai pas fini de vous décevoir” (207), for example,initially appearsto address the issue of her “unreadable” text and yet finishes on the note of self-disparagement and despair which will ultimately end the text.As a performer, Christine sees herself increasingly through the eyes of herprojected spectator, passing judgement on herself and her text as she imaginesanother’sappraisal. Her vision of herself is thus exteriorized, objectified to the point wherevariousincidents are described in cinematographic terms, as she refers to herselfas “la vedettefeminine” and “la chère Christine” (210)31.Her self-image thus becomes increasinglydependent on her spectator’s gaze - that other being almost exclusively male,be it JeanWilliam, Robert or Franconi (or even the “unique et sombre lecteur”?). Havingarguedwith Robert in Drummondville, she writes: “il me révélait mon pointvulnérable...Jen’avais jamais mesuré que j’étais physiquement si dépendante du plaisirque j’éprouvaisavec un partenaire” (76). However, the dependence which according to herapplies onlyto the physical nature of her relations with a partner, in fact applies equallyto herdependence on male evaluation of her person. This pattern is evident throughoutthetext, as she adopts distorted and fragmented male reflections of herself takingon thatgaze and moulding her “être pour autrui” to fit the images it projects, to the point whereshe cries: “Je ne me connais plus; je ne me reconnais plus...Je suis devenue uneautre”(237). Those reflections being predominantly negative, Christine’s self-image deterioratesthroughout the text. The pharmacist in San Diego assumes that she cameto him for31Aquin exploited the form of the film scenario to a much greater extent in Neigenoire.158drugs and indeed, later, Christine embarks on a pattern of substanceabuse either to helpher sleep or to keep her awake long enough to write (118, 131). Interms of herrelationship with Robert, after the argument at Drummondville Robertignores her,reading through his speech:C’était comme si j’avais soudain disparu ou que j’avais été absorbéeparun gouffre: je n’avais plus de poids, ni d’intérêt, ni même unsemblant deseduction feminine aux yeux de Robert. Ii venait de me condanineral’inexistence la plus intolerable: je n’étais rien, Hen,une pauvre file désolée,indigne, incapable d’être a la hauteur de la vie...(75, my emphasis).Her despair increases, however, as Robert does finally turn hisattention to her, ready forhis humiliating and sadistic interrogation. Describing herselfas she assumes he must seeher, she writes:je n’étais plus celle qu’il aimait, mais une femme indécente qui forcait sondésir sans réussir a le provoquer vraiment (76).Following their conversation, she finally adds:Je me voyais a travers les yeux de celui que j’aimais, que j’avais aiméetqui m’aimait encore; et j’étais laide, je ne me supportais plus(80)This conclusion after all, must have been Robert’s intention, given,as she says, that“cette conversation aberrante... ne portait...que sur des details propresa m’humilier”(77). Robert, meanwhile, leaves the motel ready to give a speech, as if in drainingher ofany self-respect he has gained in stature and composure - just as Barthélémyis satisfiedby the humiliation of Jeanne-D’Arc in Un rêve guebécois. Following another argument,this time with regard to Christine’s fascination with Antonella and Robert’sinsinuationabout the similarities between the sexual behaviour of both women, Christine writes:Dans un monde masculin, les femmes libres sont vite traitéesde putain:elles n’ont pas droit au bénéfice du doute, ni même a une sentence159suspendue! Rien a faire, l’homme ne juge pas...il condamne...C’esttellement plus facile, tellement plus commode, tellement plus sécurisant!(162).The anger and pessimistic hopelessness which Christine’s comment encapsulates isbased on an awareness that the belief in Woman’s inherent “uncleanliness” is necessaryto Man’s justification of his continued subjugation of women, his potency derived fromretaining her in the position of “Other” to his “One”, his “stature” inversely proportionalto hers32.Christine’s self-image is progressively eroded during her relationship withRobert - primarily because of the latent threat of a reopening of the conversation atDrummondville, which Robert wields like a concealed weapon. On the day following thissame argument (during which Christine’s “sordid” past is indeed slyly alluded to) whenRobert asks her to return to medicine, Christine appears to have lost any will of herown, cowed by the tacit violence integral to their relationship, replying meekly: “Si tu mele demandes, je m’y remettrai volontiers...Mais vraiment, ii faut que tu me jures que celane te déplairait en aucune facon” (168).Christine’s ready assimilation of the face affixed to her by another’s gaze may wellbe connected to the longevity and endurance of the traditional ‘balance” of power andthe conviction of the impossibility of proving her self-worth in a world where “le mal etla souillure sont immanquablement portés au compte des femmes...” (162). Indeed thisdoctrine seems to be taken to its logical extreme in this text, as it is primarily throughcontact with Christine that the men she encounters (willingly or unwillingly) suffer, either32have noted Aquin’s apparent awareness of “women’s issues” earlier in thischapter: again, the focus is on the use that the text makes of this awareness.160dying or becoming impotent, as Woman is once againrepresented as a spirit ofdestruction and death or even as a castrator. This may well explain, forexample, heracceptance of Jean-William’s accusation that she “slept with” the pharmacist.Hermemory of the incident shifts, meanwhile, to allow the intrusion of thepossibifity of herown “complicity” in the affair, as she adopts the causative expression “jeme suis laissdroguer” (139) to describe the situation and elsewhere,“Je suis la chère et nulleChristine...qui s’est laissé violer a San Diego par un boucanier hispanisant”(196). Thecausative mode has an integral sense of complicity, suggesting that“she allowed herselfto be raped” or “she got herself raped”. Her acceptance of responsibilityintensifies untilshe says: “j‘ai probablement tout gache et a jamais” (224),a confession which wouldseem to encompass all that has happened to her, despite herstatus as victim in many ofthe incidences.Meanwhile, having been enlightened as to her husband’sfeelings towards her,Christine writes:Jean-William me soupconne...de toutes les convoitises imaginableset d’unecapacité incommensurable d’intentions lubriques qui ne s’adressentpas alui (40).At this point, Christine denies the charges of promiscuity, claiming that her“intentionslubriques ou hédoniques” are directed solely at Jean-Williamhimself33.Later, however,she assimilates this view of herse1f labelling herself a whore and commentingthat:Given the alacrity with which Christine and Robert renew theirpast relationship,however, this claim would appear a little suspect - unless, of course, sheis again reactingto Jean-William’s image of her.161Je n’ai plus de morale dans mon comportement avec lesautres hommes.Plus ça va, plus je me dis que Jean-William m’afrappée avec violenceparce qu’il me méprisait sans mesure soudain...A ses yeux, j’étais déjà uneputain, une chienne, un être indigne de respect.Depuis - paradoxalement -je semble me conformer a cette image de moi: mon comportementme faithorreur. Et j’ai honte (237, my emphasis).At the lowest point of this downward spiral, Christine describes herselfas “bestial” (207),the only positive thing remaining to her being sex:Au diable l’altimétrie, la planimétrie, la cosimétrieet Ia profundimétrie, sila jouissance obtenue (en vitesse et sans morale)avec un inconnu me rendcirculaire(...).J’aime jouir; affreux, me direz-vous! Mais quelquesinstantsde plaisir irresistible prévaudront infailliblement et toujourscontre lestheories débilitantes d’Adam de Fuldaet d’Ugolin d’Orvieto...(208, myemphasis).The existential crisis which Christine experiences throughoutthe text, although theresult of some fairly obvious factors, is exacerbatedby the fundamental contradictionwhich haunts her and all women, namely the dual portrayalof Woman as both evilcorruption and pure beauty. She reads the condemnation, (aswe have seen) in theeyes of the (predominantly male) readers or spectators for whosebenefit she seems to bewriting, and who bring with them - to the “performance”- a wealth of cultural knowledgeor ‘baggage”, even prejudice. Christine’s observation that evil isinvariably deemed afeminine characteristic, meanwhile, is based on a structure whichhas been in existencefor centuries, as Carl Jung observes in Psychology and Alchemy:the feminine principle isseen to represent “the earth, the regions under the earth,and evil itself’, as opposed toThis crisis is elsewhere described in language reminiscent of themalaise describedin Sartre’s La Nausée, for example, as she cries: “ma tristesseest visqueuse et douce...àmon image” (147), and ‘je me sens prise dans le sable mouvantet visqueux qui me tientlieu de sol” (148).162the higher, spiritual qualities of the masculine principle35.The mirror imageof this“earthly” feminine principle, meanwhile - the pure and virginal beauty of Mary, forinstance - is represented in the frequent citations from the “Cantique des cantiques”,aswell as from various medieval treatises on beauty, in which women’s physical andspiritual beauty is evaluated according to a standardised set of supposedly objectiveaesthetic criteria and is lauded as “le symbole de la beauté de tout l’univers”(83) and“une sorte d’évanouissement dans la passivité” (149). These quotations arerepresentative of the obsessive attention which has been paid to women’sbeauty -internal and external - throughout the centuries, and which has caused the“fixation” withappearance now considered a “feminine” narcissistic trait and resulting alsoin thecontemporary multi-million dollar beauty industry. As Daniela Di Cecco hassuggested,caught up in the snare which is the “Beauty Myth” (the means by which Man haskeptWoman so preoccupied with her appearance and by the insistence on itssupremeimportance, that she is permanently insecure with regard to it, and unableto muster thetime and courage efficiently to challenge his dominion over her), Christine’s repeatedcitation of these texts both illuminates and exacerbates her own resultant obsessionwithC. G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, trans R.F.C. Hull (London, Routledge andKegan Paul, 1953) 23.Attributed to Jean Scot Erigène, taken from Bruyne, 3.367 (Thérien, Editioncritique, 282, note 92).‘‘Christine is quoting from Thomas Gab de Verceil (see Thérien).163beauty, as she submits to or is victim of the tacit violence which this dominating mytheffects.The passages from these texts serve as a form of yardstick for Christine who,again, measures her self-worth according to external factors:as she deteriorates, sheimagines herself ever further from the stereotype of the “ideal woman” described inthetext. The importance traditionally attached to women’s beauty, externallyprescribed andimposed, is thus instrumental in Christine’s deterioration. The beginning of thedownward slide can once again be laid at Jean-William’s door. Following herescapefrom the motel room, it is not until Christine sees her “laideur répugnante” in therearview mirror that the despair of her predicament hits her and she breaks down:J’étais blessée dans mon visage et dans mon corps...Ledésespoir...m’écrasait: j’avais perdu tout espoir de vivre sainement,derecouvrer l’integrite de mon visage et de mon corps. Salie, monstrueuse,jepleurais... incapable de fuir San Diego. Je n’en avais plus l’énergie, iii ledésir (47).She adds: “le monde s’était écroulé avec mes charmes faciauxde jeune épouse” (48).The importance attached to her external appearance, which seemsto take precedenceover any importance attached to her professional qualifications, is toa certain extent theresult of conditioning, its pride of place encoded within Western women’s psyche overthe two thousand years between the writing of the “Cantique des cantiques”andChristine’s text. Later she quotes from Thomas Gallo de Verceil:Daniela Di Cecco (PHD programme, Department of French, UBC) pointedout therelationship between the theme of beauty in L’Antiphonaire and Naomi Wolfs textIhBeauty Myth (Toronto, Vintage, 1991) in an unpublished paper, December 1992.164Tu es belle dans les oeuvres et belle dans la simplicité, belle par lesacteset belle par la vie, belle par la connaissance, belle dans le corps endomptant la volupté de la chair et belle dans l’âme en extirpantjusqu’à laracine des désirs du monde, belle dans la chair par la chasteté, belle dansl’esprit par l’amour, belle en secret et en public, belle dans la douceuretbelle dans le combat (147).Her response to this text plays on the structures and concepts of the original; itillustrates her despondency as she fails on all points, as, having been made pregnant bythe pharmacist and having lied about the incident to Robert in an attempt to save himgrief Christine takes on the projected image of complicity and corruption of which shenow considers herself guilty:Moi, je ne suis ni belle dans la chair, ni belle en secret, ni belle dans lecorps, ni belle par la chasteté: toutes ces connotations cisterciennesde labeauté de la femme me sont refusées...(148).Elsewhere, having quoted at length from a text she attributes to Rupert de Deutz,Christine responds:Quel eloge éblouissant de la femme que je ne suis pas, que je ne seraiplus jamais...J’ai fini d’être belle (147)°,once again unable to “live up to” the standard of physical and spiritual Beauty soacclaimed by the texts.Caught up in the game of conflicting and distorted reflections, as Christineattempts to adapt the better to suit her own image, the layers of attributes which clotheher figuratively and which give her “value” within the social system - her profession, herAccording to Gilles Thérien the biblical passage has been shortened, Editioncritique, 286, note 133.4°Thérien comments that the quotation attributed to Deutz is in fact from Bruyne,3.34-35. Edition critique, 285, note 130.165thesis, her marriage, her morals and her beauty - are peeled away along withher clothesand left lying on the beach, in the pharmacy in San Diego, in the motelinDrummondville, in Franconi’s office and so on, leaving her bereft, aloneand vulnerable,physically and spiritually naked.The Poetics of Violence: Auto-reflexivity. Textualitv and Intertextuality.As we have already seen in part, the concepts of unveiling and performancecanequally be applied to the creation of the novel itself. As it evolves, the textprogressivelyreveals its own textuality, as well as laying bare - and laying to waste - thestructuringprocesses of the “traditional” novel in a stratagem of spoliation and demythification,asthe layers of artifice are forcibly peeled back and exposed.L’Antiphonaire is the product of repeated layerings of reading andwriting, whichtake place within two textual spaces. On the narrative level, the processis split betweentwo time-frames, that of Christine in the twentieth century and that of the“sub-plot” inthe sixteenth. Jules-César Beausang’s “original” manuscripts are appropriatedby thepriest Leonico Chigi who, in addition, takes on Beausang’s identity, in orderto givehimself credibility and to escape persecution in the reign of suspicion andfear under theInquisition. Having read the manuscripts, Chigi begins to write, weaving his ownstoryinto and around Beausang’s text - “qu’il enrichit de toute evidence de plusieurs morceauxqui étaient de son cru (Chigi)” (217). According to Christine, Chiginourrissait en lui-même l’ambition de produire un écrit entièrementapocryphe øü Chigi se raconterait lui-même, integrant a ce récitl’existence fictive (ou imaginee) de Jules-César Beausang (175).166This project is reiterated as Christine, the 20th century reader, also beginsto intertwineher autobiography with that of Chigi-Beausang or Beausang-Chigi41,adding her owncommentary, filling in the blanks in “their” text, either with information from differentsources or with her own assumptions and imaginings. In effect, Christine re-writes“their”text in a style very similar to that of Chigi, of whom she says:La lecture de son bréviaire (soit: un chapitre par jour) ressemblaita unetechnique de fragmentation; ainsi, Chigi composait son récitautobiographique en plusieurs fragments (ou tableaux) ma! relies lesunsaux autres, disloqués, disjoints. L’ensemble donne une forte impressiondediscontinuité, de découpage brutal (217, my emphasis).This observation could equally be applied to her own text, as well as to her readinghabits, as she reviews each day a section of Chigi-Beausang’s text.The novel thus brings to life the idea of the palimpsest, as one text is writtenoveranother, although here the previous text is woven into the current document, rather thanbeing “erased”. As each new layer is added and each “version” becomes ever furtherremoved from the “truth” or original text, the events and characters ofthe stories are reinterpreted and re-evaluated through the eyes and words of the latest author,a processwhich - as we have seen - Christine encounters to her cost when, on reading Chigi’s textto her lover, Robert, she is forced to confront his “reading” of both Antonella andherself. The layering process continues as, after Christine’s suicide, her manuscript isfound and read by Suzanne B[ernatchez]-Franconi (Robert’s ex-wife and the wife/lover41On another level, Aquin’s taking on of Christine’s identity, in order to write “her”autobiography, parallels Christine’s brief attempt to write as Renata (28). We canassume that this text is not Renata’s as, at one point, Christine comments on the latter’silliteracy.167of Docteur Albert Franconi, with whom Christine has also had sexual encounters),who isalso prompted to write - presumably in her diary - of what she intends to do with theknowledge she has acquired. The novel ends with a suicide note from Franconi,whorealises that Suzanne has discovered (and read) the manuscript and “cannot live withtheshame”, prompted once again to write by another’s act of reading. In each case, readingserves as a catalyst, converting readers into writers in what might serve as a textbookillustration of Roland Barthes’ theories of the “texte scriptible”42,as the reader isenlisted in the process of the production of the text which is itself renewed or rewrittenby each reading, refusing to allow him/her to be a passive consumer. The act of readingis therefore literalised, as the process of “re-creation”, intrinsic to both reading andwriting is brought into play by the text as a central and fundamentalinterest orstructuring device43.The layering of texts and readings, meanwhile, along with the openexploitation or appropriation of a text by later writers, serves to dramatise andexposethe inevitability of the influence of earlier texts, thereby demythifying the “sacred”concepts of Originality and Authorship, through an unveiling of the true nature of“creative writing” as a process of “selective recycling”.42Roland Barthes,Z(Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1976).Robert Richard goes further, stating that: “L’histoire (au sensdes événementsqu’un récit raconte) du roman aquinien, n’est autre que celle des lectures quisont et quiseront faites de ce roman..J’unique objet du récit aquinien n’est autre que celuide sesparadigmes lecturaux” (Le Corps logigue de la fiction, 84). This emphasis, however,evacuates the intense physical violence which both parallels these reading paradigms andof which Christine is a victim.168On another level, the patterns of reading and re-writing also dramatise the writingstrategies of the author. Aquin’s text is replete with intertextual borrowings - “desréférences historiques invérifiables” (207), from diverse sources, their content pillaged,appropriated and rewritten by Aquin himself in a stratagem of plagiarism which parallelsthe plagiarism of both Christine and Chigi within the text. The fictitious Jules-CésarBeausang himself on whose “imaginary” text both Chigi and Christine build, is actuallymodelled closely on the sixteenth-century physician and aichemical adept, TheophrastusBombastus von Hohenheim or Paracelsus, of whom Beausang is said to be a disciple,while some of the quotations attributed to Beausang are in fact from Paracelsus’ ownwritings45.Much of the medieval philosophy, including the texts on beauty, meanwhile,is taken unattributed from Edgar de Bruyne’s text, Etudes d’esthetique médiévale.By its excessive accumulation of elements from the worlds of philosophy, religiousdoctrine and history, medical and social history, autobiography or confessional, the novelbecomes a neo-baroque patchwork a la Borgès - a true “Bibliothèque de Babel”. Theintroduction or penetration of the novel by these different discourses has a number ofimplications. On the diegetic level, as writing becomes an increasingly unsatisfactorymeans of expression (or escape) for Christine, the intertextual references multiply, attimes, to the point where the erudition of the text seems to become a form ofAndré Lamontagne discusses the different facets of the intertextual processinL’Antiphonaire. See chapter 5 of Les Mots des Autres, 147-195.“See Thérien, “Presentation”, XXVII and Lamontagne, Les Mots des autres, 147-95.Edgar de Bruyne, Etudes d’esthetique médiévale, 3 tomes (Bruges, de Tempel,1946). Noted in Lamontagne, Les Mots des autres, 188 and Thérien, “Presentation”,XXVI.169“substitute”, or “consolation”, the citations rattling around in their own empty discursivespace, becoming an end in themselves. In the chapter that follows her “interrogation” byRobert, for instance, Christine writes:Je ne sais pas si je m’extasie sans raison sur ce passage d’un des“averroIstes intégraux” comme on a coutume de designer Scot Erigène,Cassiodore, Boèce, Abbon de Saint-Germain, Osborn de Gloucester,Hraban Maur et le fameux Rémi d’Auxerre. Tous ces penseurs- et biend’autres - me sont familiers, parce que, au cours de ma recherche pour laredaction de ma these, j’ai cru hon de parcourir les auteurs qui, pour unJules-César Beausang ou un Pomponazi, étaient les grands philosophes“modernes”, les “anciens” étant Aristote, Platon, Plotin, Héraclite, Zénond’Elée... Dieu sait que ma delectation fut longue et bénéfique, comme dutl’être celle d’un Jules-César Beausang qui, a plusieurs endroits danssesoeuvres, fait de longues citations des grands auteurs comme Honoriusd’Autun, Williram d’Ebenberg, Jean Scot Erigène, saint Bonaventure,Orderic Vital, Rupert de Deutz, sans compter Guillaume d’Auvergne etl’Aquinate qui l’ont particulièrement marqué. Et j’en oublie d’aussiimportants que Gerard d’Abbeville, Alexandre de Halles et le fameuxAdam de Belledonna...(83-4).Here, as André Lamontagne points out, “l’esprit critique cede toutefois le pas a uneerudition qui tient plutôt de la compilation”47,as Christine’s reaction to the memory ofthe trauma of Robert’s questioning is to fill the white page before her with words. Just asP.X. Magnant fills the pages of Trou de mémoire with his verbal “bave” in order to keephidden the secret of Joan’s death48,so Christine writes, in order perhaps to weave a veilof words to conceal the truth exposed so brutally by Robert - a phenomenon she refersto when she admits: “Ce nombre incalculable de mots s’agglutinent en une poudrerie quifait écran” (185). This overflowing of words and names, meanwhile, serves to clothe her“iLamontagne, Les Mots des autres, 175.Aquin, Trou de mémoire, 21.170nakedness following the “violation” she has just relived through her text. Thespewing outof her immense knowledge could well be an attempt to reviveher self-esteem, to restoreher from her state as humiliated and degraded object to intellectualspeaking, writingsubject, and so heal the “narcissistic injury” inflicted on her by her so-called lover.Ineither case, the communicative and critical value of language isevacuated, along with thedidactic power of the intertext, as her writing here serves as arefuge and words becomean end in themselves.On another level, the profusion of names andtitles within a text is typical oftreatises of alchemy (many of which are cited here). This hasbeen considered asignificant structuring and thematic element of L’Antiphonaire49,from the quotation ofthe axiom of Marie la Prophétesse (“L’un devient deux, le deuxdevient trois et le troisretrouve l’unité dans le quatre”) at the beginning of the novelonwards. Jean Bélangeradds that the proliferation of names and titles, taken largely fromthe sixteenth centuryworld of the sub-plot, evokes an image of the Renaissance, a timewhen “les découvertes,la soif des connaissances, la pluralité des religions, la ferveurdes croyances semultiplient dans un chevauchement infini et suggestif’50,while Iqbalcomments that“cette epoque se caractérise par un éclatement qui provoque unerevolution desmentalités...Une attitude nouvelle envers Ia vie se fait jour”51.Theseare characteristicsof a period of change which could equally apply to the twentiethcentury and, inSee, for example, Albert Chesneau, “Déchiffrons L’Antiphonaire”,Voix et Images,1.1 (sept 1975) 26-34 and Iqbal, Hubert Aquin. romancier, 201etc.5°Jean Bélanger, “L’Antiphonaire”, Etudes francaises, 6.2 (mai1970) 214-219, 215.‘Iqbal, Hubert Aquin. romancier, 198.171particular, to the opening of minds which occurred in revolutionaryQuébec, itself amelting-pot of cultures, languages and change. By the inclusion of sucha wealth ofreferences in a twentieth-century text, the world of the Renaissance evokedhere isdrawn into the world of North America and Québec of the 1960’s. The breakingdown oftemporal boundaries which this subversion of the ‘traditional” representationof time andhistoricity in the novel perpetrates is typical of the novels produced inQuébec at thistime, which are marked by a new awareness of historicity52.This bringing together of disparate yet somehow related elements isemphasisedon another level by an escalating system of “dédoublement” which operatesbetween the“twin” narratives, as figures and events in the sixteenth century, Europeansubplot areechoed four hundred years later in Christine’s North American “diary” - explainingheralmost obsessive fascination with the stories. The “antiphonic” qualityof the text thusbecomes apparent, the two timeframes and continents set up like choirs performingthe“Call and Response” characteristic of the musical form, as an incidentsuch as the rape ofRenata Belmissieri by a printer in Chivasso is followed by the account ofChristine’s ownrape by a pharmacist in San Diego, under somewhat similarcircumstances. Christine isthus set up at this point as the mirror image of or the “response to” Renata,to whom sherefers as her “double” and elsewhere as “[sal lointaine soeur” (29, 61). Thereflection isnot constant, however, as the characters evolve and interact, their identitiesshifting fromvictim to victimiser, through the multiple perspectives offeredby the text and its reader52Raoul, 10. See also my chapter 3, regarding the presentation of history in VictorLevy Beaulieu’s Un rêve québécois.172characters, as the stories twist and turn in the labyrinthine style at which Aquinis anadept. At different times, then, Christine reflects both Renata, in her position as rapevictim, as well as - in her interpretation of Robert’s gaze - Antonella, thewoman whobetrays Renata53.There follows also Leonico Chigi, whose writing practice issimilar toChristine’s own and who shares her interest in Beausang’s manuscripts and, finally,JulesCésar Beausang himself for their common profession and for the fact that theyare bothassaulted, Beausang by brigands and Christine by her own husband, among others.WhileChristine may be said to “seek out” (un)consciously those doubles who provide herwithsome validation of her own existence as her own identity progressively fragmentsTM,(another facet of the process of projection which we saw earlier), the samemultipleparallels may be drawn throughout, among the other characters: both therapists, U.“Bob” Gordon and Carlo Zimara, are murdered (the details of their own respectivecrimes are remarkably similar); both Robert Bernatchez and Leonico Chigi becomesexually impotent, and both Renata Belmissieri and Jean-William Forestiersuffer fromAlbert Chesneau suggests that the novel functions around a principle of“reincarnation expiatoire”: according to this “schema”, Christine wouldbe thereincarnation of Antonella Zimara, reborn in order to “revivre a son tour lecalvairejadis infligé a sa victime”. “Déchiffrons L’Antiphonaire”, 32. However, this binarysystemignores the fact that Christine can be linked, at different stages of the text, to everycharacter in the subplot.Lamontagne, Les Mots des autres, 171. Marie-Odile Liu meanwhile suggests that“le procès d’identification ne saurait aboutir puisqu’il n’y a proprement dena identifier”.(“Petite incursion du côté du baroque et du transdiscursif ou L’Antiphonaire: un baroquea vide.” Revue de l’Université d’Ottawa 58 (avril/juin 1987) 69-77, 76.) Again, whileLiu’s observation may be a logical extension of the structural element of reflection, itnegates the highly significant element of sexual violence.173epilepsy - and so on, in a seemingly unending oscillation of reflections.As Jean Bélangerwrites:le lecteur est plongé dans une multiplicité de perceptionsconcentriques,lesquelles entourent les personnages et les révêlent commeau travers d’unprisme55.This doubling or reflecting process causes an equalisation between characters,theirexistence “extended” over four hundred years. It also undermines thetemporal distancebetween the two “plots”, creating a “quasi-equilibrium” or a simultaneitybetween the twoworlds, woven together by the movements of the text back and forth,while Time itselfbecomes both multiple and divided or “dive”56.The coming togetherof the two periodsemphasises both their difference and similarities, thus destroying the uniformityoftemporality and chronological sequence of the “traditional”novel.For the reader, meanwhile, the confrontation of elements perhaps “alien”,andcertainly “unexpected” or marginal in relation to the novel form, causesa series ofinterruptions or obstacles in the reading process, some more significantor jarring thanothers. While every reading of every novel is bound tobe different, owing to the“cultural baggage” that the reader - as text - brings to his or her reading, oneof theproperties of intertextuality is to exaggerate this aspect. The readingprocess ofL’Antiphonaire, scattered with proper names and obscure allusions, becomesone of“rupture”, the linearity of the narrative constantly checked bya process ofBélanger, 216.Richard adds the concept of “le clivage du temps” to Guy Scarpetta’s listof thefour principle characteristics of the postmodern novel (Le Corps logiquede la fiction,108), referring to L’Impureté, by Scarpetta (Paris, Bernard Grasset, 1985).174(non)recognition. Aquin plays on this aspect, challenging his readers, toying with them,certainly, as they fight their way through the text, faced with the desire to understandsome of the more obscure references, or even to verify. Indeed, there are a number ofstudies of the erudition and intertextuality in L’Antiphonaire which have shown theinaccuracy - even “dishonesty” - of many of these references: according to Gilles Thérien,the text De Natura fossilium, for instance, attributed to Beausang, was actually written in1546 by Georg Bauer, known as Agricola57,while as Françoise Iqbal points out, itwould have been hard for Beausang to be a “gomariste ardent” when he died beforeGomar was born58.Many of the quotations, meanwhile, such as those from theCantique des cantiques, for instance, are altered slightly to emphasise different aspects of“Christine’s” text and obsessions - namely the sensual or erotic aspect59 - although noindication of any changes is given within the text. Aquin’s representation of epilepsy,finally, is decidedly misleading; there is no strain of the condition which causes theviolent and vindictive “madness” suffered by Jean-William6°.Although the inaccuracies of Aquin’s text could, of course, be due in part to thespeed with which he completed the manuscript, it seems more likely to be a continuationThérien, “Presentation”, xxvii.58Hubert Aquin. romancier, 183, commenting on page 129 of L’Antiphonaire. Seealso Thérien, “Presentation”, xxxiii and Lamontagne, Les Mots des autres, for moredetails on the anachronisms and inconsistencies of the text.See Lamontagne, Les Mots des autres, and Thérien, “Presentation” for details.60Gilles Thérien remarks on this (“Presentation”). See also Donald Scott, AboutEpilepsy, revised edition (New York, International Universities Press, 1973) and M.R.Trimble and E.H. Reynolds, eds., What is Epilepsy? The Clinical and Scientific Basis ofEpilepsy (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, 1986).175of the process already in use in neo-baroque style in Trou de mémoire, where“interpretive” footnotes serve primarily to mislead and confuse. The deliberateincorporation of false information and references amongst the genuine erudition of thetext becomes a game played by Aquin, at the expense of his readers, or at the expense ofthe bond of trust which the reader of the “traditional” novel expects from the Author and“divine creator” of the world of the text. The effect is two-fold: first, the authority of the“Author as God” is undermined, thus recalling the concept of the “death of the Author”.At the same time, meanwhile, the reader is manipulated throughout the text in whatcould be seen as either a “breach of the contract” between reader and writer -traditionally a paternalistic relationship of omniscient guide/god and spectator/disciple,or an exaggeration of the domination on which that relationship is founded: in eithercase, this manipulation was to become yet more pronounced and more aggressive inAquin’s next novel, Neige noire, where such intervention on the part of the author issomewhat cynically and distressingly seen in terms of the actual physical rape of the reader61.61Patricia Smart sees this image in terms of a more “woman-positive” interpretation,underlining “cette conscience de la profondeur des enjeux et des fantasmes qui sont al’oeuvre dans le processus même de la representation. Conscience désespérante de lapart de l’auteur, qui dévoile les origines de cette violence dans des concepts de l’identitéet de la connaissance fondés dans la reification de la femme, et apparemmentinextricables des procédés de la narration” (Ecrire dans la maison du père, 275). While Iagree that women’s subjugation and objectification appear to be inherent and integralcharacteristics of (Western) discourse and narrative, once again, I have serious concernsabout the method employed in its subversion, if indeed subversion it is. The rather eageradoption of a fundamentally anti-woman image (that of rape), along with the type of fatewhich awaits Sylvie (Neige noire), supposedly in order to critique the subjugation ofwomen and pave the way for a “new era”, calls to mind that old adage written onbathroom walls that “Fighting for Peace is likeF***ingfor Virginity” - i.e. liable todestroy irrevocably the very thing one sets out to achieve.176The implicit violence with regard to the narrative, as well as to the stereotypicalpositions of Author and Reader, is also reflected on the generic level.‘Traditional”generic boundaries are broken down as different discourses are “recycled” andinterwoven, interacting to create disturbance or “impureté” - to use Guy Scarpetta’sterms62.Thus, Christine’s historical account of the lives of the sixteenth-centuryfiguresis pre-empted by her own autobiography, for instance, while the two narrativesbecomeintrinsically spliced together or entwined, along with the highly technical medicaldiscourse of Christine and Franconi in discussing Robert’s critical condition. As thediscourses are set side by side, a process of communication or “dialogism”is establishedbetween them63;this could even be considered a type of contagion, as onediscourse isinevitably “infected” by its proximity to the other, provoking a re-evaluation ofeachdiscourse in its new habitat or surroundings. As we have seen, the recontextualisationofelements, discourses and genres entails inflicting a certain violence on both thenarrativeof L’Antiphonaire - in terms of rupture and infiltration - and on the sourcematerial.First, in terms of what Belleau has called “le conflit des codes”TM,the relocationof aconcept within a new textual space causes the confrontation of the specific systemsorcodes on which the transplanted material and its “host” are respectively founded. Withinthe context of the literature of Québec, seen at this time as a “literature of62The expression “recyclage” is from Scarpetta, Impureté. Also quoted inRichard,jCorps logique de la fiction, 105.63The term “dialogism” is from Bakhtin’s The Dialogic Imagination, cited inLamontagne, Les Mots des autres.64André Belleau, “Le Conflit des codes dans l’institution littéraire québecoise”,Surprendre les voix (Montréal, Boréal, 1986) 167-174.177decolonisation”, the inclusion of intertextual borrowings can also be seen as anappropriation of the network of culture represented by the reference, a questioning oraconfusion of cultural boundaries and validity, as L’Antiphonaire offers an image of“l’espace littéraire” of Québec. The process of aquinien intertextuality, meanwhile, soclose in many ways to the “Collage”, practised by the Surrealists, can also be seen as aninherently violent - even sexual - practice67,as part of a text or image is torn from itsoriginal context and forced into a new “virgin” space. This image of sexual violence isreiterated on the diegetic level as Christine’s hold on her written text weakens, alongwith any control over her self, and elements external to the original writing project forcetheir way into the textual space. As she says: “la vie s’èst insérée de force dans monpauvre récit; et, du coup, celui-ci s’est transformé en une autobiographie” (44, myemphasis).This concept of the violence of the writing process in L’Antiphonaire - therupture, the contamination, the fragmentation and the forcing of text - is employedequally on the structural level, as the novel is shattered into a series of textual fragments,some mere paragraphs, some covering the space of several pages. The cohesion ofthenovel is thus dissolved and any residual linearity destroyed, as the narrative thread jumpsSee, among others, Lise Gauvin, “Parti pris” littéraire (Montréal, 1_es Presses del’université de Montréal, 1975); Maurice Arguin, Le roman quebécois de 1944-1965:symptOmes de colonisation et signes de liberation (Québec, Université Laval, CRELIQ,1985) and Raoul, Distinctly Narcissistic.Lamontagne, 1_es Mots des autres, 148.67See my chapter 1 and also Robert 3. Belton, “Speaking with Forked Tongues: MaleDiscourse in “Female” Surrealism” Dada/Surrealism, 18 (1990), 50-62, 52. Collage wasdescribed in terms of “defloration” or rape.178from one temporal space to another and from one narrative to the next. The spacesbetween the fragments parallel the process of ellipse and analepse by which informationis withheld; Jean-William’s return journey and the phone calls made to Suzanne, forinstance, are related long after the event, but the circumstances of Christine hearingabout it are not revealed. It is as if the pieces of the “casse-téte géant” (18) thatChristine is creating are arranged, perhaps arbitrarily, perhaps forced into place, whilesome have gone missing only to be discovered later, and some will never be found. Thetext is fragmented, not with the brute violence with which Un rêve québécois(the text)and Jeanne-D’Arc (the character/fantasy) are dissected or carved up, but with repeatedlayers of methodic and “sophisticated” violence played out on the diegetic level andspecifically on the body and psyche of Christine.The Eroticisation of Violence and the Spirit of “Contre-Réforme”.Initially, it would seem as if the text functions around a poetics ofindiscriminateor non-gender-specific victimisation and violence, as the violence done to the Text, to thetraditional novel form and genre, is reflected in the catalogue of misfortunes whichL’Antiphonaire could be seen to be, and which seems to “favour” neither sex. Thebalance of unpleasant, painful and violent deaths is shared fairly equally betweenmaleand female characters as, one by one, they are raped, brutalised and suffer due tovarious natural and unnatural causes. In terms of characterisation, also, Aquin offersaCarlo Zimara is caught in the act of raping Renata Belmissieri and is killed by hiswife, Antonella; Renata is later hanged, betrayed by Antonella who is, herself caughtwith a lover and stabbed by her “partner”, Leonico Chigi; Chigi, meanwhile, visits the179selection of the “lowest of the low” in both narratives, and of both sexes: the self-centredChigi, for instance, is a walking illustration of Christine’s comment about “ces cherspretres d’époque, tolls plus monstrueux les uns que les autres, tous plus impies et plushérétiques les uns que les autres” (57), as well as a vehicle for Aquin’s anti-clericalism.The two opportunistic rapists, Zimara and Gordon, along with the cynical andexploitative Franconi and the blackmailing doctor who performed Christine’s abortioncan hardly be said to represent Man at his best69.Christine and Antonella, meanwhile,are by no means free from shortcomings. The violence and trauma inflicted on all thecharacters could therefore almost be said to be their “just desserts”, with L’Antiphonairetaking on a moral aspect, as punishment is handed out to fit the crime - although as aninterpretation, this hardly seems appropriate or sufficient.As we saw in Un réve québecois, where the chief victim of physical violence is thealmost habitually obnoxious Jeanne-D’Arc70,the lack of any redeeming qualities in theIrbohémiennesand dies of the “pox”. In the twentieth-century story, Jean-WilliamForestier shoots and kills the pharmacist who raped Christine and twice attempts tomurder Robert Bernatchez, whom he leaves paralysed; Jean-William later kills himself ina car crash; Dr. Franconi, whose relations with Christine are highly suspect, announceshis intention to kill himself and, given that the text ends with his suicide note, we canonly assume that he does so; Christine, finally, having suffered - among other abuses -beatings, rapes and involuntarily administered narcotics, kills herself leaving onlySuzanne, “la seule et vivante image” (245) of all that has happened, physicallyunscathed - although she has the dubious privilege of knowing that both men with whomshe has been involved have been unfaithful to her and have abused Christine sexuallyand mentally.69As Françoise Iqbal comments - with heavy irony - on the male characters inL’Antiphonaire, “il en ressort sans conteste l’image d’un être supérieur!” Hubert Aquin.romancier, 196.70See chapter 3.180majority of the characters does allow the text to exploit an excess ofviolence withoutgreat fear of alienating the reader - as his or her sympathies are not fuilyengaged and“moral outrage” is unlikely71.At the same time, it would seem that, exceptin as muchas their suffering affects or reflects the (anti-) development of Christine, theviolenceinflicted on or endured by the minor characters is (relatively) incidental,with certaincharacters, such as Gordon and Zimara, existing only in their somewhatone-dimensionalcapacities as rapists, in order to commit violence and so change the course ofthe story,before being eliminated themselves. The nature of the violence being so extreme- onecould even say sensational(ised) - while being so profuse, it would seemreasonable tosuggest that the violence operates as a device, a stratagem of excess, itself a quality ofthe postmodern novel. The intense layering of acts of violence servesto undermine itsreality, to derealise the violence and shift the focus from the énoncé toinclude theprocess of énonciation.It is in part this aspect which distinguishes the violence against Christine.As wehave seen, the writing of the text goes hand-in-hand with the painful andincessantdisintegration and degradation of Christine, which itself serves as an integralpart of thestructuring or destructuring of the text. It is perhaps this focus - the rathertoo obviousparallel between female protagonist as victim and “Text as Victim” - as wellas thegraphic nature of the causes of the fragmentation of Christine which make thistext so7’By the same token, it is interesting that Christine becomes increasingly irritating asthe novel progresses.72Richard, Le Corps logigue de la fiction, 105-112.181ambiguous and so troubling for the female or feminist reader (and calls into questionthefeminism of Aquin’s text). Once again, Woman is used and abusedas a device in atextual strategy or as the joker in a game of textual violence. Once again, thechoice offemale protagonist, the selection of abuses suffered and the way in which thoseabusesare both administered and described are highly significant. For Christineis abused ormisused by every man she meets, from her own father - “cette histoirede tentative deviol” (76) - to the acquaintance who made her pregnant, and from the pharmacistto thedoctor and the two men who supposedly love her, Jean-William and Robert73.It issurely no coincidence that “Christine” is so-called, the female “double”or reincarnation ofthe quintessential sacrificial victim, himself betrayed by father and friends.Within the textual space, the violence serves no cathartic purpose,but simplyinfects and destroys. On a different level, however, it appears designedto provide eroticsatisfaction. The gradual disintegration Christine experiences throughoutthe text isaccelerated by a number of contrived incidents and inconsistencies which serveonly toincrease her degradation or dig her deeper into her own grave. Thelogistics of Christinebeing locked in the pharmacy all night, for example, free to wanderaround the store, tofind the drugs and make-up she needs and yet apparently incapable of turninga deadboltor calling the police, is questionable: had she been locked in the smalloffice where therape took place, the situation would perhaps be a little more credible.The fact that sheWe could include among those Aquin himself for it is after all he, who, in creatingChristine, determined her gender, the events which would take place, the peoplewhomshe would meet, the violence which would be inflicted on her - and on her sisters -aswell as the ways in which it would come about and be portrayed.182is made pregnant by the pharmacist, meanwhile, the last in this particular series ofindignities heaped upon her, is also questionable. Leaving Jean-William she comments:J’ai eu une pensée - une dernière - pour Jean-William, pauvre épileptiqueque j’avais aimé et de qui j’aurais voulu un enfant (heureusement quedemain ou ce soirj’allais avoir mes regles)... fini l’espoir d’avoir un enfantd’un homme capable de me tuer dans une de ses crises épileptiques (48,my emphasis).If her period is indeed so imminent - and she/Aquin makes a point of telling us later ofthe regularity of her cycle and the close record that she keeps - it is extremely unlikely,first of all, that Christine would be made pregnant by the rape74.It is, however, verypossible that the trauma (both of the rape and of the attack by Jean-Wffliam) wouldhave interrupted her cycle somewhat, although neither she nor Robert seem to considerchecking at any point75.The chronological reliability of the text is admittedly suspect -the period expected at this point is seen to be just three days late when Christine looksat her diary following Robert’s enquiry, although considerably more time must haveelapsed to allow for her return to Montréal and her moving in with Robert. Yet even ifChristine’s calculations were off, given that she has just had forced and unprotectedintercourse with a stranger and that she is after all a doctor, is it not surprising, first,thatshe does not notice the lateness of her period before being asked by Robert (and onceThere is of course the possibility of error in her calculations - or that she is alreadypregnant by Jean-William. A similar situation arises in Trou de mémoire where RRbelieves her suspected pregnancy is the result of her rape by P.X. Magnant, althoughOlympe may well be the father.‘Again there are echoes of Trou de mémoire, when Olympe reassures R.R. that shecannot be pregnant as a result of the rape because of the point in her cycle at which ittook place.183he has “burned all his bridges” on her account) and, secondly, that, the possibility eitherof sexually transmitted disease or, indeed, of being pregnant, did not occur to herearlier? While she could be forgiven for being confused and disoriented by what hashappened to her, or, of course, for being in denial, the total overlooking of such obviouspossibilities by a victim of rape seems very dubious. Again, however, the text appearsmore concerned with placing Christine in ever more hopeless situations than with itsinternal consistency. The surprise discovery of her pregnancy in Robert’s presence andthe necessity of her lie to cover the truth and so protect herself from Robert’s disbeliefwith regard to the nature of the incident, is far more effective in propeffing herdownwards and far more damaging to her self-image, as she fmds herself pregnant byarapist and having lied to the man who accepts to be a father to the child.The portrayal of the violence of which both Christine and Renata are victimsrequires closer examination. The rape of Renata by Zimara and that of Christine by thepharmacist are very similar. In each case, the crime is opportunistic and the woman isfirst made totally vulnerable: Renata is at first asleep and then undergoing an epilepticseizure and therefore totally at the mercy of her attacker, while Christine, on arrivingbeaten and bruised at the pharmacy is first drugged and then raped. In each case, also,the violation is eroticised and once again, it is this eroticisation of sexual violence - therelish with which it is described - as much as, if not more than, the violence itself (thereality of sexual violence and its occurrence in erotic fantasy being, after all, a “fact oflife”), which is troubling to the feminist reader.184Renata arrives exhausted at Zimara’s house, delivers the manuscript and fallsasleep while he examines it. Turning his attention from the text to his young, beautifuland apparently virginal visitor (who is thus in effect the classic Sadian heroine) Zimara“procéda a quelques dévêtements qui la rendirent plus proche, plus belle encore a sesyeux”. The style is anecdotal and, at this point, almost humorous, as Christine imaginesthe scene. Later,quand ii l’eut partiellement dévêtue, celle-ci sortit de sa torpeur, et tentapar tous les moyens possibles de repousser cet inconnu (l’imprimeur), maistrop tard, Carlo Zimara n’entendait plus raison et il était lance dans sacourse vers une jouissance prochaine. Plus fort, l’imprimeur tint sa proiedans ses bras et il arriva a son orgasme très rapidement, la violant ainsidans son existence et son secret de jeune flue (60-6 1, my emphasis).Again, the language has echoes of the “salacious story” told to entertain or evenstimulate, with its rather “precious” use of parentheses and the euphemistic and old-fashioned terminology of the final line.As the incident progresses, Renata is prey not only to Zimara’s violations, but alsoto a seizure. Her convulsions arouse Zimara, who continues his “caresses”, until “lapauvre Renata...hurlait non pas de plaisir mais sous l’effet des secousses régulières,implacables, intolérables” (61). There is a clear parallel drawn here between epilepticspasm and orgasm - partly through the text’s denial of Renata’s possible pleasure whichonly serves to underline the similarity: the rape is thus presented as a parody or distortedvision of an act of mutual consent and pleasure, lending a twisted or perverse eroticismto the scene, described at one point as an attempted ‘seduction”.The scene is reiterated later when, having suffered the beginnings of anotherseizure during her confession to the priest, Leoriico Chigi, Renata is taken to the sacristy185and laid on an altar - with obvious connotations of the “virgin sacrifice” or(again) aSadian scenario. Chigi reads to her, perhaps in an attempt to exorcise herdemons - hischoice of texts, however, is surely unusual for such purposes. Reading fromboth the“Cantique des cantiques” (deliberately modified once again in order to emphasisethecarnal aspect of the text76)and the “Cominentaire d’Origene” of the “Cantique”, Chigisucceeds in arousing both himself and Renata to a point of mystical and sexual climax,asRenata “eut des étranges secousses rythmées dans le bas-ventre, tandis quel’abbé Chigirâlait comme un désespéré en émettant un liquide blanc et riche qui jaillissaitde luiavec une sorte de spontanéité totale! (90)”. The rather coy use of the exclamationmarksuggests, again, perhaps the oral delivery of the story for the pleasure of an audience(recalling the performance aspect of Christine’s text), while the excess of thescene -Renata is described as “couverte de sperme” - has echoes of Rabelais. Again, theparallels between orgasm and the seizure are drawn, more specifically thistime, as“Renata Belmissieri se contorsionnait...en émettant des cris informes, des râlesrauques -comme Si SOfl appétit amoureux n’était nullement apaisé” (90). Any physical distresstheyoung woman may be experiencing and the fact that Chigi took advantage of herstateare evacuated by the eroticisation of her illness.The account of Renata’s rape by Zimara appears directly before Christine tells ofher own rape by the pharmacist - also referred to at one point as “une entreprisedeseduction”. Having fled from Jean-William’s violence, Christine describes herselfas“tumiflée, abominablement massacrée...médecin atrocement déflguré, désespéré,battu”76Lamontagne, Les Mots des autres, 156, note 5.186(67), looking as if she has just walked away from a car crash. It is in this physicalstate,visibly in pain, extremely distressed and highly vulnerable, thatshe goes to the pharmacyseeking help. In view of this, the reception which awaits her mightperhaps be illustrativeof the fact that rape has little to do with “sexual attractivenesst’andmuch to do withpower - although again there are echoes of a Sadian intertext, thefemale protagonistbeing here “in a position of the greatest possible humiliationor “objectffication” vis-à-visthe aggressor”. The description of the rape undermines any potentiallydidactic or“positive” aspects of its representation, however. The drug given toChristine by thepharmacist serves both to immobilise her and to alter her perceptionof the incident; it isalso, perhaps, responsible for the enhanced physiological sensationsshe experiences, asshe writes:une drogue hallucinogène sous forme de capsuleet voilà que j’étais partiepour le septième ciel, enivrée, emplie de ce petitpharmacien modestedont la lame en acier traité au tungstene me transperçaitcomnie lesflèches des cupidons transpercent le coeur extatiquede la Sainte-Thérèsedu Bemin (68).Once again, the language used to recall the incident is troubling,as the pharmacist’sinvading penis becomesune douce épée, comme une dague médiévale...longue,interminable,coupante, rapide et lente, surtout, pondérée par latendresse que lepharmacien inculquait a ses caresses et la régularitéde ses mouvementsde retrait et de reprise...(68)Susan Rubin Suleiman, Subversive Intent: Gender. Politics andthe Avant-Garde(Cambridge, MA. and London, Harvard University Press, 1990) 65. Also citedin mychapter 1.187and elsewhere: “indemne et durci comme une branche de noisetier au printemps”(67).The “romantic” poetry of her language turns an act of sexual violence into an act ofgentle sensuousness which, in turn, becomes a mutually satisfying and “gratifying’experience. The distinction between “sex” and “rape” is thus eroded,as the act takes onthe characteristics (or the “signs”) of consensual sex.The blurring of the two sexual acts is systematic throughout the text. DescribingRobert’s reaction after discovering her pregnancy, she writes:ii se jeta sur moi, affolé, passionné comme jamais je ne l’avais vu...Il étaittout en sueur, déchaIné, presque violent tellement son désir le portaitfollement vers moi (144, my emphasis).The terms she uses here, the image she evokes, is indeed one of force, and while sheattributes the incident to “passion”, given the preceding revelation of her pregnancy, itseems more likely that this is indeed an expression of Robert’s power, an attemptto “puthis mark” on Christine, to reclaim her or repossess her andto forget or deny that she hasalready “belonged” to someone else. His sexual “magnificence” later that night appearstobe an attempt to prove his own potency - something which, given the power games wehave seen him play with Christine, seems to be a favourite preoccupation - thusmakingit all the more ironic that he should become impotent following Jean-William’s attack.Robert’s behaviour afterwards, meanwhile, is hardly typical of a man passionatelyin love- he drags her naked from the bed, tossing money at her for the room service he hasordered, saying “Rhabille-toi, beauté”. The gestures, his words and the passing ofmoney - albeit as payment for the gin and tonics ordered - are all too reminiscentof thedismissal of a whore.188The erosion of the distinction between rape and sex, and Christine’s“déchéance”,are at their most extreme during her “relationship” with the highly manipulativeFranconi. Their first encounter takes place when the doctor surprises Christine inhisoffice where she has been sleeping naked - her nudity, under the circumstances, wouldseem in “poor taste” and given the ensuing events, seems to be another detail contrivedto precipitate Christine into further sexual violence. Christine takes entire responsibilityfor what follows, with her comment “ii aurait suffi que je me taise. Mais j’ai pane.Et, encela reside le facteur (inutilement) déclenchant...” (198). While she is dressing,thedoctor forces her back to the bed and she adds: “Je dois peut-être rajouter quejedevinais ce mouvement de sa part: j’avais méme trouvé particulièrement indécente mafacon de prendre du temps...” (198). Throughout the scene, Christine’s “objections”become increasingly transparent, while her refusal to understand the doctor’sintentions -her “naïveté” - becomes progressively both irritating and insincere, until her final“Non,non, non...” is transformed into the “annonce paradoxale - d’une jouissancefrisonnante,inoubliable, parfaite”(201)78.This “humorous” little detail is the culmination in theportrayal of Christine as a willing and eager victim. As Patricia Smart comments: “Elleseconforme exactement au stéréotype de la “femme qui a provoquéle viol”, encoreinvoqué par certains juges dans les procès pour viol ou inceste”79.The entiresequence,This recalls the similar scene in Beaulieu’s Un rève quebecois describedin mychapter 3.‘Smart, “Les Romans d’Hubert Aquin”, 222.189meanwhile, is described in the “teasing” terms of pornographic confession, as Christineplays the innocent. Her comment,dois-je nécessairement tout raconter, décrire par le menu les caresses etl’entreprise impudique du médecin ainsi que la surprise que j’ai simuléeafin (j’imagine) de rendre moms monstrueux ce qui s’est passé dans ce lapsde temps qui a suivi mon lever et précédé notre orgasme commun (198-9),is a purely rhetorical construct. Hinting at what happened, it gives just enough detail topique the attention of the reader/listener, before continuing to give the promised reward.And reward it is, for the reader as for Christine, as once again the sexual encounter isthe “best it has ever been”.The sense of her complicity which, as we have seen, is instrumental in thedeterioration of Christine’s self-image and her increasing disgust with her behaviour, hasfurther repercussions, as Patricia Smart suggests when she says:Toute la violence sexuelle étalée au cours du roman se trouve justifiée parl’assurance que nous donne Christine elle-même qu’elle “ne mérit[e] riende mieux”80.The novel clearly revolves around the concept of blaming the victim, who, in this case,becomes one of her own most vindictive accusers and, finally, her own executioner.Aquin’s third novel challenges the structures of the European novel, underminingthe very foundations of patriarchal language and presenting the reader with multiplepossibilities of readings through the layering of texts. The “revolutionary” character whichthis would imply, however, has certain blind spots. For beneath this textual, generic andlinguistic challenge there lies, once again, a female protagonist on whose body the°Smart, “Les Romans d’Hubert Aquin”, 222.190revolution takes place. Beneath all the layers of potential readings and texts, theerudition and plagiaristic intertextuality, in his portrayal of Christine and her fate,Aquinexploits a wealth of clichés about rape and women’s sexuality. The difficulty forthefeminist reader lies in the fact that where textual clichés and truisms have been clearlysubverted, the sexual clichés with regard to women seem to be very much aliveandperhaps even more healthy as a result of Aquin’s representation ofa woman as aninherent and deserving victim. As Patricia Smart comments, it seems that“L’Antiphonaire est un exemple dramatique de cette volonté de degradationde lafemme dont Christine elle-même accuse tous les hommes”81.However, while thepossibility remains that Aquin’s “counter-reformist” intentions may haveaimed to exposeand subvert such a fantasy through the presentation of an “excess” of rapeand sexualviolence, the novel does not succeed in deconstructing it (thus calling intoquestion thevalidity of the approach - if indeed such it was): rather, in its eroticisation ofviolence,the reader is encouraged once again to enjoy the spectacle of rape, whilethe fantasy ofrape as both sought by women and sexually satisfying to women is fuelledandperpetuated. Seen within the context of the “prise de parole” and the literaryrevolutionin Québec, one possible “message” is that the violence directed at womenso common toliterature of this time, with all it implies to the colonised writer and public, maynot be ameans to liberation (ending as it does in total destruction), raising the questionas towhether the repression of one group is ever liberatory for another. It may, however,serve a different (ie. an erotic) function. The question that arises at this point,is whether81Smart, “Les Romans d’Hubert Aquin”, 221.191it is possible to present violence, particularly graphic sexual violence, in a non-eroticisedfashion: that is, whether it is possible to escape the system by which sexual violence isencoded as both “acceptable” and pleasurable for the spectator. The next chapter willattempt to address this question in a study of Marie-Claire Blais’s Une saison dans la vied’Emmanuel.192Chapter FiveUne saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel: Hereditary Victimisation.193Since the appearance of her first novel in 1959, Marie-Claire Blais has publishedmany novels and several volumes of poetry, as well as a number of plays. While heroeuvre has been considered uneven, some of the novels being all but dismissed, La BelleBête (1959)’, Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel(1965)2,Les Manuscrits de PaulineArchange (1966), Le Sourd dans la ville (1979) and Visions d’Anna (1982), havereceived considerable critical and popular acclaim internationally, each receivingprestigious literary awards.Rooted in Québec and the province’s fundamentally Catholic culture, Blais’s textsare infused with a dark and sinister violence which, as we have seen, pervades muchQuébec writing. Yetthis violence, while often extreme, differs greatly from the violencediscussed in the novels by Victor-Levy Beaulieu and Hubert Aquin, having none of thecontrived quality nor the narrative “eagerness” of these texts. In addition, Blais’s textspresent many and varied victims and perpetrators, rather than offering a particular(usually female) target as the focus of male rage. In the phantasmagoric and destructivefairy-tale world of La Belle Bête (an anti-”Cinderella” story), for example, the violence is1Marie-Claire Blais, La Belle Bête, 1959 (Montréal, Pierre Tisseyre, 1968).2Blais, Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel, 1965 (Montréal, Québec dix sur dixStanké, 1980).Blais, Les Manuscrits de Pauline Archange (Montréal, Editions du jour, 1968).‘Blais, Le Sourd dans la yule, (Montréal, Stanké, 1979).Blais, Visions d’Anna, (Montréal and Paris, Stanké, 1982).194committed (either directly or indirectly) by a young woman, rejected for her “ugliness” byher physically beautiful, yet emotionally empty mother whose narcissistic adoration of herbeautiful idiot son causes hatred and jealousy, homicide (to which the young woman,Isabelle-Marie, incites her brother) as well as matricide, a violent disfiguring and, finally,a double suicide. Elsewhere, the violence is more measured and “realistic”, its presenceserving as social commentary and critique. In Les Manuscrits de Pauline Archange, acatalogue of almost overwhelming misery, the narrator recounts endless incidences ofchild abuse, including the constant physical violence inflicted on her cousin Jacob by hissadistic father during “les soirs de grands fouets” (55), and the sexual abuse Paulineherself endures at the hands of the young Franciscan who attends on her sick andlongsuffering mother, and the spiritual and mental abuse inflicted on generations of girlsattending the convent school, taught - often brutally - to be ashamed of their naturallychanging bodies and emotions.The presentation of violence, although frequent, is often almost understated.Again, in Les Manuscrits de Pauline Archange, Pauline describes the various violentincidents concisely or allusively, as if she were trying to explain her often painfulchildhood (and, through it herself) to a listening friend, with both the distance ofhindsight and the intimacy of personal experience. There is nothing “erotic”, for instance,about the rape of Pauline by the young Franciscan whose “faiblesses maiheureuses” and“etrange conduite” (45-6) are evoked rather than narrated: the tell-tale “signs” - the bloodon her legs and her clothes - interwoven with, or told “through” a description of hermother’s suffering. Her own suffering, meanwhile, is apparent through the tears and cries195that her mother was too sick to notice. Nor is there anything eroticised about thepotential union of Lucia, a fourteen-year-old Street kid in Le Sourd dans la yule, with “unhomme gras et court...son cou nauséabond” (109). The incident itself is not described,but “set up” with a minimum of detail: Lucia is seen getting into the man’s car, and therepeated, unsavoury description of her “companion” is enough to evoke physical repulsionand an appropriate aura of sordidness. This approach is very unlike the blow-by-blowaccount of the abusive treatment of Christine in L’Antiphonaire or of Jeanne-D’Arc inUn réve guebecois.The violent incidents presented differ greatly, as do the justifications fortheirinclusion; in each case, however, violence serves as a representation or an indication ofacertain social reality during the period of political unrest inQuébec. As Gilles Marcottecomments:lire [les] romanciers...c’est lire avec eux, par ce qu’ils font, par les formesqu’ils mettent en jeu, le monde dans lequel nous vivons6.This chapter will consider Marie-Claire Blais’s treatment and use of violence and hervision of a changing Québec reality conveyed through this. Although later texts suchasLe Sourd dans la ville and Visions d’Anna are more daring and experimental in form, Ihave chosen to focus on Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel, writtenat the height of theRevolution tranquille, which is contemporary (and so more justly comparable) to thenovels already discussed. Although there are several different victims, the similaritiesbetween them are clearly drawn, while the novel’s focus on a “model” family setsup a6Gilles Marcotte, Le Roman a l’imparfait: La “Revolution tranquille” du romanquébécois, 1976 (Montréal, L’Hexagone, 1989) 23.196microcosm of Québec society at a certain time, ostensibly ruled by the matriarch7.Italso demonstrates a pattern of what appears to be hereditaiy violence and unavoidablevictimisation, at the centre of which is the Mother-figure herself.The “Anti-Roman de la terre”.Set in rural Québec, Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel opens with the eyes ofEmmanuel, born that same morning, the sixteenth addition to an ever growing family. Ashis mother has already returned to work in the fields, Emmanuel is watched over byGrand-Mere Antoinette, the eldest member of the household, who shares her thoughtsand complaints with the baby. The gulf of many years between them is filled, gradually,as the others return from work or school and the novel is able to expose threegenerations or three phases in the evolution - or deterioration - of the “classic”Québecfamily: rural, Catholic, hard-working, numerous and very poor.At first sight, the novel sets up a context similar to that of texts such as MariaChapdelaine, La Scouine and Trente arpents, drawing on the textual tradition of theroman de la terre. However, the picture Marie-Claire Blais paints is far from the rosy,idealised world of the ideological texts which serve as its intertext. Here, in place of thedevoutly dutiful Maria Chapdelaine and the young Bertine of Un homme et son péché,or even Guèvremont’s Phonsine and Angelina, is a swarm of flea-ridden, malnourishedand neglected delinquents, reeking of poverty and grovelling in the dirt, in a world wheresickness is both ubiquitous and seasonal:‘See chapter 2.197tout le monde toussait dans la maison: on entendait siffler la toux commeune brise sèche par les fentes des lits et des portes. “Cela passe avecl’hiver”, disait mon père, et ii avait raison. Car au printemps, chacun denous bourgeonnait, fleurissait sous la vermine et la rougeole (70).The salient features of the roman de la terre are therefore present, but thetraditional characteristics and values, which were already becoming corrupted in thenovels of the naturalist period in Québec, have been further twisted. Taken to a logicalextreme, the characters, preoccupations and philosophy of the roman de la terre havebecome caricatures or parodies of the original models. Laura Chapdelaine andAiphonsine Moisan, the very templates for the “Mother-as-Saint” of the traditional andideological texts, have been replaced by Emmanuel’s nameless mother, identifiable by“son visage triste, ses épaules courbées” (12), “toujours épuisée et sans regard. Sonvisage...la couleur de la terre” (27) - the life all but sucked out of her after years ofnurturing. As he is the sixteenth child, Emmanuel’s birth is no cause for celebration andno excuse to rest. Children are the inevitable, troublesome and draining consequence ofthat nightly union which she anticipates with a weary “Comme la nuit sera longue”(17).Her attitude to Emmanuel is vague, verging on automation: he is merely the latest insuch a long line of offspring that she can no longer keep track of all those who have notsurvived their harsh lives, even mourning a child to whom she cannot remember givingbirth. She incarnates the concept of the fertile and dutiful wife and mother and, whileher image is perhaps exaggerated, in acknowledging the strain and weariness of her bodyafter so many labours, it is far more “real” than the ideal she reflects.198The eternal sameness offered as the ultimate aspiration of Maria Chapdelaine8and the patterns of inheritance which the littérature terrienne sought to promote, arerepresented here by the herd of daughters, set to follow in their mother’s footsteps, inwhat would seem to be a cycle as inevitable as death itself:les Roberta-Anna-Anita avancèrent comme un lent troupeau de vaches,chacune entourant de ses larges bras une espiègle petite fille aux cheveuxtresses, qui, dans quelques années, leur ressemblerait, et qui, comme elles,soumises au labeur, rebelle a l’amour, aurait la beauté familière, la fiertéobscure d’un bétail apprivoisé (45).The very possibility of change, or even of finding happiness in the apparentlyunavoidable institution of marriage, seems unlikely. Having described the typical courtingscene - similar in many ways to that of Euchariste and Alphonsine9- the narratorcomments: “elles n’avaient rien a espérer auprès de ces boutonneux jeunes gens qui lesfréquentaient sans même oser les regarder” (135). There are also echoes of the fate ofMaria Chapdelaine who will marry Eutrope Gagnon, her habitant neighbour, for the sakeof the further preservation and propagation of the French-Canadian people, her sense of“duty” precluding any other choice in that novel - an impasse which is reiterated andexaggerated in Blais’s text in the perpetual “inevitability” suggested through the lack ofany other available choice.Their father, meanwhile, apparently a hardworking habitant farmer, is also abrutish, ignorant man - far from the model of Menaud or Jean Rivard - who demands his8The “voice of Québec” which Maria hears at the end of the novel and whichinfluences her choice of husband and future tells her that “au pays du Québec....rien nedoit changer”. Louis Hémon, 187.Ringuet, Trente arpents, 17-20.199nightly “dues” and whom his wife addresses as “vous”, even in those supposedly “intimatemoments”, which are also the only times they exchange words (albeit simply the woman’sfruitless protests). Once again, the desired sameness of the roman de la terre shows in thereflection of the father’s image in his older sons: equally uneducated, they have the same“appétit brutal” (26-7) and are screened behind the same cloud of blue smoke at the endof the day. The only contact this father has with his younger children takes the form ofthreats and violent punishment, including a weekly beating’°: indeed he scarcelyacknowledges his newborn son, who is too young as yet to warrant such violentcorrection. Powerless through poverty and ignorance, caught within what is seen to bethe vicious circle of the habitant farmer’s existence, he exerts his virility in the only wayremaining to him, taking out his anger on those weaker than himself (in itself anindication of impotence). He is a bully, towards his wife and children, and yet in thepresence of Grand-Mere Antoinette, “la voix d’homme n’est qu’un murmure. Elle seperd, disparaIt”( 13).For, at the top of the pecking order is Grand-Mere Antoinette, the quintessentialmatriarch and in many ways the epitome of the Mother-figure so honoured by the romande la terre. She rules the household, oversees the distribution of food and makes themajority of decisions regarding the upbringing of her grandchildren; she also provides10He is even responsible for the death of one child, Olive, crushing her head underhis plough (71).200them with their sole source of attention and affection’1,since their mother is tooexhausted to care for them, their father all but absent. Both the upholder of Law andprimary care-giver, Grand-Mere Antoinette fills the void created by the harshness of thereality of the birth-mother’s existence and the impotence of the father. In effect, likeRose-Anna Lacasse and so many other mothers in novels from Québec, she takes on theroles of both mother and father, and so can be seen in terms of the phallic mother,combining her maternal qualities with the paternal and “masculine” characteristics herson-in-law lacks. In her, Blais highlights the intrinsic mirror-image of the saintly Mother,bringing together an Aiphonsine Moisan with a (perhaps somewhat kindlier) version ofClaudine Perrault, making of her a possible representative of both the Imaginary andSymbolic realms.Grand-Mere Antoinette is thus inevitably possessed of a certain duality. A severedisciplinarian, feared and respected by the family, she is also the mother sought out forher warmth and kindness, and although she saves her grandchildren from the ignorantbrutality of their father, she is seen applauding in sadistic appreciation as le Septième isbeaten for some misdoing. Her own authoritarian ways - her insistence on education, onthe evening prayer and on obedience - are reinforced by the occasional swipe at theHer all-encompassing, “limitless” Motherliness is portrayed in the exaggeratedimage of her bed, filled with various grandchildren, while sundry cats and dogs and evena sheep, rescued from the cold, sleep on the warm floor (135). She would thereforeappear to be far from the picture painted by Paul Gay, who writes: “Grand-MereAntoinette qui paraIt detestable dans les premieres pages, se montre ensuite plus videque méchante, espèce d’automate d’un creux noir inouI, qui ne réfléchit que de laréflexion des bétes qui ont charge d’autres bêtes”. “Les Prix Medicis: Une saison dans lavie d’Emmanuel”, Le Droit (le 17 dec. 1966) 12.201children with her cane, but are tempered with generosity as she hands out sugar andcandy to open mouths, like a mother bird feeding her starving young: she is both the“Witch” and the “Fairy Godmother” of folk tales. Her duality extends beyond thishowever, first when as her kind treatment of the dying and putrefying Horace isundermined by her impatience and tacit cruelty(?) as she dresses him in a clean, but stilldamp shirt which may well “speed him on his way”. Simultaneously an “Angel of Mercy”and the “Death Crone”, her “altruism” is further tempered by the morbid desire to bepresent at his death and a degree of disappointment whenever she finds him (and JeanLe Maigre) still living12.Finally, while she is mother to an unspecified number ofchildren (and grandchildren), she also encapsulates the “opposing” pole of the idealisedwoman of the littérature terrienne, retaining a degree of purity (even “virginity”), due tothe fact that her husband never saw her naked.The meeting place of countless antithetical values, the character of Grand-MereAntoinette is a key to a system of binary opposites around which the text is structured,and which Gilles Marcotte has identified as a process of “carnavalisation”13.Thetraditional Carnival, as discussed in Mikhail Bakhtin’s studies of Rabelais and12While this fascination with death is rooted, in part, in practicality - bereavement iscause for a good meal, courtesy of the Curé and also means one less body to feed andclothe - it is also a logical (and ironic) reflection of Church teachings regarding death,parodying the Curé’s bland optimism and supposedly comforting clichés on the death ofPivoine: “un ange de plus dans le ciel...Dieu vous aime pour vous puriir comme ca!...Ah!Comme Dieu vous recompense” (67).13Marcotte, Le Roman a l’imparfait, 168.202DostoIevski’4,involves the calling into question of “official” convention through thesubversive power of humour, principally parody. During the temporary misrule ofCarnival, a re-structuring of traditional hierarchies took place, the fool becoming king forthe day and so on. Old values collided with new, and although order was restored thefollowing day, through the rejuvenating power of laughter a process of cathartic changewould take place, so that that order would necessarily be different or in some way“renewed”.The carnivalised text, as André Belleau suggests in his essay “Carnavalesque pasmort?”5,involves a similar process of renewal through the revaluation of the old systemand the violation or inversion of existing hierarchies and binary poles. Marie-ClaireBlais’s novel is not a text that one would immediately consider “carnavalesque”: it doesnot echo with the riotous laughter that would normally be associated with such a festivaland has even been criticised for sinking to “le fond de notre abjection”6.And yet,twisted throughout its darkness and its violence, there is a thread of fierce but14Marcotte cites from Mikhail Bakhtin, L’Oeuvre de Francois Rabelais et la culturepopulaire au Moyen Age et sous la Renaissance, trans. Andrée Robe! (Paris, Gallimard,1970). The issue of carnival is considered in more detail in Problèmes de la poetique deDostoIevski, trans. Guy Verret (Lausanne, Editions de l’homme-Slavica, 1970), especiallychapter 4, 119-210.15Belleau suggests a “schema” of three aspects inherent to literary carnivalisation:“l.Dans la culture populaire, un système interne d’oppositions et de permutations detype binaire; !e cul et la tête, la mort et la vie, l’injure et la louange etc. 2.Le discoursambivalent de la culture carnavalesque populaire versus le discours unilateral de !aculture dite officielle. 3.La transposition textuelle des deux premiers systèmes par lacarnava!isation.” “Carnavalesque pas mort?” in Surprendre les voix: essais (Montréal,Boréal, 1986) 193-202, 196.16Jean O’Neill, “L’Uriivers hideux de Marie-Claire Blais: Emmanuel et la misère desminables”, La Presse, (le 3 juillet 1965) 5.203understated humour, as the roman de la terre along with the institutions it representedand valorised, as well as the beliefs it sought to perpetuate, are subjected to parody.Operating here on both the structural and the discursive levels, parody seeks todeconstruct the existing system, not with the savagery of satire but, as Marthe Robertwrites, throughla piété et l’ironie, le respect et l’humour, l’admiration et la critique,l’attendrissement et la rigueur; qui substituent done au ou bien categoriquede la satire un et déchirant, maintenu jusqu’aux limites de l’absurde17.The interplay of binary opposites and the duality or ambivalence which this definitionsuggests (an echo of André Belleau’s concept of textual carnivalisation) are very much inevidence in Une saison de la vie d’Emmanuel. The resultant equivocal and paradoxicalquality, the constant inversion of values and systems, the violation of boundaries,contribute to making the novel both a classic “texte carnavalisé” and an effectivelyrevolutionary text.The text is indeed structured around a series of binary opposites, the distinctionsbetween them unsettled, often with comic effect. The two fundamental antipoles of birthand death, for instance, are brought together in Jean Le Maigre’s autobiography, wherehe describes the “fortuitous” death of his elder brother Pivoine (Joseph-Aimé) on thesame day he was born, so that the funereal feast could also serve as a “celebration”8.17Marthe Robert, L’Ancien et le Nouveau. de Don Ouichotte a Franz Kafka (Paris,Grasset, 1963) 32, quoted in Marcotte, Le Roman a l’imparfait, 176 (original emphasis).18The description of Jean Le Maigre’s birth is also, through its excess of noise andbodily fluids overflowing their limits, typical of the carnivalesque tradition: “nonseulement je criais, mais ma mere criais elle aussi de douleur, et pour recouvrfr nos ens,mon pêre égorgeait joyeusement un cochon dans l’étable! Queue journée! Le sang204The alterity of life and death, or of alive and dead, meanwhile is undermined as Jean LeMaigre, physically dead, is infinitely more “alive”, thanks to his grandmother’s reading ofhis writings, than the majority of his family who, like his nameless father and mother, arelittle more than automatons. These one-dimensional characters, along with the elderbrothers, the Curé, the Directeur - even the “Grandes A” and the “Petites A”, whose“generic” names merely serve to emphasise a lack of individuality - are known by astrictly functional “title”, rather than a proper name, having no psychological depth’9.Their lives are restricted to the “role” that they play - a role taken directly from thetradition of the roman de la terre which, through this inversion, is shown to be in theprocess of “deterioration”.Elsewhere, the opposing values of celibacy and promiscuity or prostitution arereconciled, as HéloIse, the eldest daughter, has been sent home from the conventbecause of her solitary sexual activity and her fantasies about several of her “sisters”.During a recurrent dream, HéloIse’s beloved convent is described as:cette hotellerie joyeuse que fréquentaient des hommes gras et barbus, desjoues roses, a qui Hélolse offrait l’hospitalité pour la nuit. Elle les recevaitdans sa cellule, et les religieuses faisaient brñler de l’encens a la cuisinepour les visiteurs. HéloIse était aimée (119).coulait en abondance” (66). Marcotte compares the birth of Jean Le Maigre to that ofPantagruel, in Le Roman a l’imparfait, 177.19Maroussia Ahmed suggests that the lesser characters belong to “un mondezoomorphe”, often likened to insects or animals. “La Technique de l’inversion dans lesromans de Marie-Claire Blais”, Canadian Modern Language Review, 31.5 (May 1975)380-386, 381.205The parallels between the worlds of the convent and what is obviously a brothel aredrawn more clearly, once this dream has become HéloIse’s reality - a reality into whichshe throws herself moreover, with a zeal equal to what had previously verged onreligious fanaticism, switching “du culte de la Vierge au culte de la chair dans la mèmefoi et avec la même ardeur”20.These parallels are set up through comparisons betweenMere Supérieure and Madame Octavie Embonpoint, the brothel owner and a Mother-figure to HéloIse, described as:si économe, certes aussi économe que la Supérieure... Madame Octavieaime trop le yin, elle mange trop de fromage. Mere Supérieure aimaitbienle fromage elle aussi. Mais elle n’en mangeait jamais pendant le carême.Peut-être que Madame Octavie devrait jeilner elle aussi, faire penitencecomme la Supérieure (144).The comparison reveals both HéloIse’s naïveté and her inability to distinguish betweenthe two worlds or “levels”, whilst creating a wonderful image of crossed boundariesandcodes and displaying the ironic twist of humour which pervades the text. Here, theelevated world of Catholic doctrine, nicety, self-control and spirituality is brought closetothe “low” world of sexuality (specifically prostitution), demonstrating the carnivalised -even iconoclastic - aspect of the novel.This “rapprochement” is reiterated as Madame Octavie defends her business tothe local priest, himself apparently tempted by the “provocations” offered by theAuberge, and by Madame Octavie herself21.Madame Octavie claims that:20Ahmed, 384.21L’abbé Moisan describes Madame Octavie as “provocante...au point de précipiterun saint homme en enfer, juste a lever le petit doigt” (157).206Des orphelines, des bâtardes, des infirmes, je les ai sorties des poubelles,monsieur l’Abbé, ma charge est aussi grande que la vôtre (155).She thus adopts nothing less than a fundamental principle of Christian charity byinverting the categories of “le Bien et le Mal”. Although one can well imagine the priestspluttering into his cassock at this comment, the socially encoded gulf between theinstitutions is reduced by the comparison - perhaps “ingenuous” from the point of view ofMadame Octavie, but definitely “tongue in cheek” within the play of the carnivalisednarrative. The call for tolerance and the subversion of moral hypocrisy which it expressesare repeated, finally, as HéloIse is “visited” by Monsieur Le Notaire before he meets withboth the Mayor and the Priest - each the representative of a different facet of thepatriarchal “Establishment”. The Auberge is thus “elevated” by being placed in the samecontext as the other “legitimate” institutions, while they, in turn, have been “demystified”,their hypocrisy exposed, so that the pedestals upon which they sit are brought tumblingdown. The re-hierarchisation which this effects, allows for the coexistence of the Aubergeand the “moral majority”, representing both the spiritual and sexual needs of thecommunity.The exchange of levels which is effected here is integral to the spirit of Carnivalwhich, as Marcotte indicates, “rabaisse le sublime et ennoblit ce qui est en bas, ce qui estbas”22,not in order to eradicate the difference between them, but to challenge thecodes which hierarchise and valorise them: in effect, the process is very close to thefundamental principle of Deconstruction, as well as the concept of “mitoyenneté”,22Marcotte, Le Roman a l’imparfait, 174.207discussed by Roland Barthes inLZ,by which a new discursive space, or even a newworld, is created in a position “between” two opposites, thereby allowing thesimultaneous existence of both and neither pole. This concept is represented on the wallsof HéloIse’s room at the Auberge; decorated both with lascivious photos and the crucifixfrom her convent cell, it serves as a “mise en abyme” for the coexistence of the twoworlds of religion and sexuality, each regenerated by its proximity with the other, itsboundaries or codes “violated” to create a “new” space.The eroticisation and “popularisation” of Christian mysticism, is reiteratedelsewhere, as Hélolse prepares for a “spiritual marriage” with the “Celestial Bridegroom”.The picture is highly reminiscent of the statue of the ecstasy of Saint Theresa by Bernini,in that the sensual associations of mysticism, of being “touched by the hand of God”, aretaken literally: however, the incident is “deflated” by the fact that HéloIse is awaiting thevisitation of God wearing nothing but black stockings, a classic token of pornography. Asimilar incident occurs at the beginning of the novel, as Jean Le Maigre and leSeptième, his “partner in vice”, are narrating “[des] histoires vicieuses” under the guise ofthe confessional process, as a means to arouse themselves and each other. Jean LeMaigre imagines himself during a genuine confession “jouissant de se trahir, remuant debas secrets, dans une delectation fantasque” (29) and later, he has “l’eau a la bouche al’idée de dire ses fautes au curé” (50). Both boys finally look forward to their nightly,reciprocal masturbation, as much for the pleasure of being able to confess, as for thephysical pleasure - the act of confessing serving as a secondary sexual activity. Thecarnivalesque nature of the image, meanwhile, is completed by the fact that upstairs, the208rest of the family is enduring the evening prayer under the command of Grand-MereAntoinette: above, there is the image of pious religion (if a little forced), whiledownstairs, that same religion is “undermined” and appropriated for erotic purposes, thespatial references exploiting the traditional structures of “high” and “low”, “heaven” and“hell”, “le Bien et le IVIal”.Regeneration: Carnivalisation and Catharsis.In each of the incidents above, certain rituals of Catholicism have beenappropriated and recontextualised in a process parallel to that of Intertextuality and/orCollage, seen in operation elsewhere23.The opposing poles of religion (encoded withina Catholic cultural discourse as “moral rectitude”) and sexuality (encoded as “moralcorruption”) are brought together, their distinction eroded through a process of“glissement”, as one “becomes” the other while also retaining its own qualities. Thechallenge to the coding of such values, meanwhile, as we saw in chapter one, is also, inBataillian terms, the fundamental precept of eroticism, inherent to the concept of“transgression”. In Marie-Claire Blais’s novel (in contrast to the works of Aquin andBeaulieu in which similar techniques are often employed) the “violence” which thistextual strategy implies, and which has elsewhere been interpreted as an inherently23Chapter 1, for instance, looked at Surrealist Collage and its implications, whilechapters 3 and 4 have considered intertextuality in the works of Victor-Levy Beaulieuand Hubert Aquin, respectively.209sexual violence or “textual rape”’, is not seen here as a parallel to (nor is it reflectedin) the sadistic sexual violence endured by a female character, as the frustrations of thecolonised male author and/or protagonist are worked out on her body. Here, thosefrustrations are directed primarily towards the patriarchal establishment which has forcedboth men and women into fixed gender roles and structures, through the novel’s intrinsicand revolutionary restructuring of hierarchies. The implementation of humour,meanwhile, makes the iconoclastic nature of the text a little more “palatable”, but no lesseffective - perhaps more so, given the seductive nature of humour and particularly ofparody. “Teasing” but not “victimising”, anarchistic but not vindictive, focussed and ironicbut not exclusive (hence its relationship to the carnivalesque, which, Bakhtin tells us, hasno spectators, only participants) in Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel, “[la] parodie...n’apas le sens d’un rejet; elle implique, plutôt une revitalisation, une remise enmouvement...de themes et de personnages figes par la repetition”.The process of re-evaluation is most evident in the ambiguous or contradictorycharacter of Grand-Mere Antoinette, in whom both the traditional ideal of the SaintlyMother and her mirror image meet. Both recognisable and alien, the same and other,Grand-Mere Antoinette is, simultaneously, the cultural icon and her antithesis, therebyundermining the image of the saintly Mother - and with it the institution by which shewas empowered and valorised. Here, the world of the (Earth) Mother has indeedchanged and those changes are made evident by Grand-Mere Antoinette. RepresentativeSee chapter 1.Marcotte, Le Roman a l’imparfait, 178.210of the old world of the habitant tradition, Grand-Mere Antoinette claims to be “contre leprogrès”, and yet, it is she who insists that the children be educated (the sons, at least,the girls are not mentioned), thus contradicting their traditionalist father, to whom“l’essentiel, c’est de pouvoir traire les vaches et couper le bois”(68) and, in effect, pavingthe way for the future. Ahead of herself and of her time, therefore, it is she also whofirst learns to read, thereby breaking into the traditionally masculine world of the writtenword (nonetheless associated with femininity in Québec), and so becoming able to“resurrect” Jean Le Maigre by reading his texts and “breathing life” into his words. It isGrand-Mere Antoinette who will lead her family (at least, those select few who arewilling and able to adapt to the changing present) into the future, by learning from andbuilding on the past, while refusing to be suffocated by it; a phallic mother, she will beresponsible for the survival of her descendants. The very embodiment of the process ofregeneration, in her relationship with the earth of which she is a symbol, opening andclosing the novel in the company of the youngest born, she is “le mouvement par lequell’ancien s’abIme, se transfonne, se régénère dans le nouveau” and so it is that she isinfinite, destined to outlive her children and to die, eventually, as Jean Le Maigrepredicts, of immortality (124).The “revitalisation” which Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel thus provokes isreiterated by the narrative which undermines traditional textual limitation. From themuch cited opening page on, the novel distorts the world of the roman de la terre.Narrated from the perspective of a new-born baby, so challenging all standards ofMarcotte, Le Roman a l’imparfait, 175.211“vraisemblance”, the novel opens with an inversion of traditional narrative order and avertical displacement as, unable to see the whole of his grandmother at any one time,Emmanuel introduces Grand-Mere Antoinette from the floor upwards, endowing herfeet - “des pieds nobles et pieux...des pieds vivants...l’image de l’autorité et de lapatience” (7) - with metonymical or synechdochical significance, while displacing orinverting the traditional location of the “high” qualities. The ambivalence andregeneration which this image suggests, and which Grand-Mere Antoinette in effectincarnates, is reiterated, first in the use of the binary concept on a discursive level in theform of oxymorons, the linguistic structure which embodies the concept ofcarnivalisation. Jean Le Maigre is seen by Frère Théodule as being of a “laideurcharmante”(127), while the hunting expedition, during which the elder brothers findLeopold hanging from a tree, is described as a ‘joviale tuerie”(72).The “unending” quality of the text meanwhile, evident in its circularity(terminating, as it began, with the words of Grand-Mere Antoinette to Emmanuel - nowone season old) is also evoked, Gilles Marcotte suggests, by the choice of the “imparfait”as the principal past tense:L’imparfait...n’implique pas un temps accompli, fermé, mais une durée quise construit et ne cesse pas de se construire dans le cheminement desconsciences...27.The effect is compounded by the long open-ended sentences, contributing to the “streamof-consciousness” impression that drifts from one consciousness to the next, as if the27Marcotte, Le Roman a l’imparfait, 15.212narrator were able to “tune in” one “frequency” after another - from Emmanuel to hisgrandmother, from Pomme to his aunt and uncle, to le Septième.This non-finite quality is maintained further by the constant punctuation of thenarrative by the incorporation of texts written by diverse characters, causing a clash ofdiscourses and levels of language similar to that seen in the other works discussed; theintertextual conflict involves, according to André Belleau, “la “reproduction”, la“restructuration”, et la “transfiguration esthetique” de la multiplicité hétérogène desdiscours en interaction”. The letter from le Septième, for instance, reads almost like anursery rhyme, its repetition of “grand-maman” serving as a refrain:Et la vache Clémentine, grand-maman,Et le petit veau grand-mamanAvec des taches ou sans tachesEt le cochon Marthuroulou quelle couleurGrand-maman (139),while the (grammatically correct) letter from HéloIse to her grandmother is full ofextravagant biblical niceties and sympathy for her brother, Pomme, “pour qui vous mevoyez verser des larmes de desolation et de sympathie” (145). The religiosity expressedin HéloIse’s letter winds its way in and out of the text, meanwhile, when the Curé visitsor when the text focusses on Jean Le Maigre in the novitiate. Elsewhere, finally, the textincorporates the personal advertisements from the out-of-date Saturday newspaper (146-150), as the novel constructs itself out of a variety of intertwined layers, moving from onelevel of language and culture to another.Belleau, 195. Again, however, the violence which this process entails remainsprimarily on the textual level.213The major “insert” in the text, however, is Jean Le Maigre’s writings, addinganother series of dimensions as the text incorporates a character in the process ofcreating his own autobiography - his own “self as text”. This self corresponds clearly tothe clichéd figure of “The Romantic Poet” - tubercular and so destined to die young(martyrdom being both an attestation of aesthetic value and the “existential conditionnecessary for the survival of art”29), with a sickness which he aggrandizes with a play onthe Latin, “tuberculos tuberculorum” (66) and “qu’il [aime] comme une soeur” (41),because it adds the necessary “romantic” edge or legitimacy to his art. The character,Jean Le Maigre, incorporates a wealth of intertextual reference and semantic play whichinvolves both a pattern of regression and an opening of the text, as it breaks up thenarrative flow. Blais’s own text embraces the writings of Jean Le Maigre which, in turn,embraces those of Rimbaud or Nelligan. Jean Le Maigre’s poems, such asCombien funèbre la neigeSous le vol des oiseaux noirs...(31)are pastiches of the latter’s work. Elsewhere, his language “elevated”, the “sensitive poet”recalls Baudelaire’s famous poem “L’Albatros”, transposed into a totally banalisedcontext:quand tu auras attaché mes has avec des ficelles pour ne pas qu’ilstombent et tramnent derriere moi comme des ailes meurtries, va au secours demes poèmes... (56, my emphasis).Le Septième’s comic yet dreadful attempts at poetry serve as a second level of pastiche,both emphasising the “fraudulent” nature of his brother’s efforts, while parodying the29Jan B. Gordon, “An Incandescence of Suffering: The Fiction of Marie-ClaireBlais”, Modern Fiction Studies, 22 (Autumn 1976) 467-484, 479.214seriousness of his intent. The “grandeur” or “royalty” suggested by the capitalised articleof Jean Le Maigre’s name is undercut by the fact that he was born “le front couronné depoux”(65, my emphasis), while the semantic association of his name with charactersreferred to as “le Brave” or “le Grand” is belied by the rather “puny” adjective used in hiscase3°. Finally, the reference to Jean Le Maigre, “sa tête pleine de poux” (20), is a poorsecond to Rimbaud’s description of “les poètes de sept ans” who had “le front pleind’éminences”31,while the novel’s title itself echoes the poet’s Une saison en enfer32.The process of carnivalisation is once again at work, the parodic characterisationreiterated or enforced on the semantic level. This time the literary institution is targeted,as the concept of “high art” - not the art itself but the self-importance which associatesitself so readily with romantic art and literature in particular33 - is dismantled,deconstructing the established literary hierarchy as the poet’s “Ivory Tower” is razed tothe ground.The Inheritance of Emmanuel.Carnivalesque, parodic, ironic and humorous, and yet at the same time describedas “l’oeuvre la plus forte, la plus violente et la plus noire...de toute la littérature3°See also Ahmed, 380.31Ahmed, 384.32This last example of intertextuality was pointed out by André Lamontagne, inconversation.To complete the process, Jean Le Maigre’s “great works” are secreted under thefloorboards in the latrines to protect them from his father, and later taken to the latrinesby his father, to be used “according to their merits”, as toilet paper.215canadienne-francaise”, Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel weaves tragedy andcomedy together throughout the text as two parallel threads - the “two parallel lines thatmeet in infinity”. Cathartic laughter lies beside a very real pathos, and ironic humour isspliced together with darkness and violence, the same atmosphere of corruption, crueltyand perversion we saw in Un réve quebecois and L’Antiphonaire. Here also thecharacters struggle with the frustrations and the oppressions which the protagonists of somany of the novels of this period live and breathe, their physical and spiritual growthstunted by the suffocating, homogenising and inflexible nature of the dominant ideologiesand by the lack of sustenance and choice. It is this eternal repetition which Emmanuelrecognises as he inherits the “collective unconsciousness” of his culture, coming to himthrough his grandmother in terms of “une longue habitude du froid, de la faim, et peut&re méme du désespoir”, while he realises that “cette misère n’aurait pas de fin” (10-11).How could he turn out other than Grand-Mere Antoinette predicts - ignorant, cruel,bitter and alone, like all the others - when his only options are to tread in his father’sfootsteps and work the barren land or to follow Jean Le Maigre to the equally ‘barren”novitiate?The possibilities open to Emmanuel’s generation are presented in the processionof family members who occupy the parade-ground of the novel. First, having given up oneducation, Pomme and le Septième are sent to try their luck in the city. Following anMichel Pion, “Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel de Marie-Claire Blais”,Aujourd’hui Ouébec (fey. 1967) 47-48. (Of course, Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuelwas written prior to L’Antiphonaire and Un rêve guebecois, both of which could well becontenders for that particular title.)216accident at the factory where they both work (and where workers’ compensation andunions have not yet been heard of), Pomme is left minus three of his fingers and his jobfor which, thus maimed, he is no longer suitable. Intertwined with other stories overseveral pages, the description of the accident is tinted with a dark and vicious humour,thick with an anger which targets the self-interested and inhuman attitude of theemployers, who represent another face of the forces which keep Pomme and his brothers“in their place”: the secretary of the factory, we are told, is not responsible for “des objetsperdus” (165) and literally washes his hands of the incident (171). “Ce sont des chosesqui arrivent”. And yet Pomme will now sell newspapers for a living, and will presumablyremain as poor as the family he left to make his fortune.Meanwhile, despite the parodic nature of his character, Jean Le Maigre exudespathos: flea-ridden and sick, the “country cousin” of the Romantic poets, the child of alarge family, his parents absent (even “dead”), a self-professed orphan to all intents andpurposes, with nothing to expect from the future, Jean Le Maigre (like his many siblings)is the heir of a classic dispossessed French-Canadian habitant family. Reading offers himtemporary solace from the poverty and grime of his reality. He claims: “personne ne mevoit quand je lis...je ne suis pas là” (17), as books take him to other worlds where lifehas more rewards (25). Imagination, meanwhile, coupled with the wider field ofknowledge offered by education, also allows possibilities of escape otherwiseunattainable, as Jean Le Maigre “travels” to warm climates during geography lessons withHis comment recalls Bérénice Einberg from Réjean Ducharme’s novel L’Avaléedes avalés, published that same year.217the Curé (77-78, 86). It is his writing, however, which allows him to “step outside” and to“rewrite the script”, as an observer both of himself and his family, romanticising his lifeand his poetic vocation. The act of writing itself places a gulf between him and thesullen, uneducated men of his family, whose lives revolve around working and eating.Here, as in many Québec novels of the period, writing (particularly introspective writing)is seen as a frivolous and therefore effeminate pastime. This prejudgment isunderlined by the fact that Jean Le Maigre has considerable sexual experience with hisbrothers, as well as with most of the boys in the novitiate and even with Frère Théodule.His sexual activities are not limited to homosexual encounters however, since he has hadexperience with Marthe “la petite bossue”, among others, again linking him with manyother protagonist-writers in novels of the time37.More than this, in (re-)writing his ownstory, Jean Le Maigre is able to create an identity for himse1f to create himself for thereader, through a process of narcissistic “self-parturition”: a “god”, and so of a racesuperior to the rest of his family and peers. At the same time, the process of writing, of“giving birth” to the text, allows Jean Le Maigre, along with Pauline Archange and thevarious other adolescent writers of Marie-Claire Blais’s world, a means of laying claim tosomething, of “possessing” - or, as Jan Gordon writes, “a way of saying “mine” in a worldRaoul, 148-9.Raoul, 135-140 etc.Jean Le Maigre would therefore seem to exhibit the classic characteristics of thenarcissistic bisexual for whom the ultimate dream, according to Valerie Raoul, is “selfengenderment and self-perpetuation: reproduction or resurrection of the self,phoenixlike, without the contribution of an other” (137). See also her discussion ofnarcissism, 21 and following.218where too many children, too omnipresent a God, and too much suffering creates (sic)an absence of difference”39.(The fact that Jean Le Maigre’s work is so derivative of hisFrench ancestors, however, might well seem to call into question the success of his questfor individuality!) Writing his oeuvre posthume in order to be read - at least by hisgrandmother, for whose benefit he includes the occasional “aside” (53) - Jean Le Maigreis also attempting to establish his own “immortality”, to ensure his eternal existence, likePauline Archange, who writes:Ce qui me désolait le plus, c’était de penser qu’il était si long, si dur pourmoi de vivre, et que dans un livre, cela ne prendrait que quelques pages, etque sans ces quelques pages, je risquais de n’avoir existé pour personne4°.The destruction of his work by his father thus takes on an almost “homicidal” callousness.The constant threat of discovery and the necessity for secrecy in order to protect hiswritings from his father, meanwhile, accords the process of writing itself a “transgressive”,anarchic edge, as the writer attempts to break through, to have his voice heard above thesuffocating silence of the society represented by the paternal figure. He does succeed, ofcourse, in finding a way out - but it is through death.HéloIse, similar to Jean Le Maigre in many ways, seeks “salvation” through thereligion into which she was born. Constantly offering herself to God in an ecstasy ofromanticised self-sacrifice and self-mutilation, searching for the “favour” and theimmortality of martyrdom, Hélolse looks for escape from the poverty of daily life, aswell as acceptance and affirmation through the mysticism of Catholicism. Her desire is toGordon, 477.°Blais, Les Manuscrits de Pauline Archange, 127.219be different and - in a family of surplus children - to be given some reason for being.Her search for the most pathetic among the newspaper advertisements as she seekssomeone to serve is both a somewhat farcical exaggeration of the Catholic duty of self-sacrifice (“le don de soi”), and an expression of that desperate need to be needed.It is in the convent, where HéloIse is sent during puberty, that she becomes awareof her sexuality, while at the same time being taught to be ashamed of her body and torepress all sexual impulses. That lesson is reinforced in her dream, during which “SoeurHélolse des Martyres et du Sang verse” suffers the sadistic humiliation of the publicexposure of her private (and never-sent) letters; her writings are thus abused in a similarway to those of her poet brother.It is here, also, that she discovers the dual affirmation and momentary loss of selfin orgasm through masturbation - itself a significant act of rebellion in the repressiveeyes of convent law. Taking up residence and employment at the brothel would indeed atfirst sight appear to be a continuation of that rebellion, as Karen Gould suggests41,arejection of the patriarchal law which attempts, through religion, to desexualise and todefeminise women. The fact that she feels more loved in the brothel - where she isostensibly singled out and chosen - than in the uniformity of a convent where the “laSupérieure...n’aimait pas que l’on derange l’ordre établi par des élans personnels”, iscertainly a damning comment on the institution and its ability to provide sustenance toits members. Yet despite her relative contentment in the brothel and her apparent sexual41Karen Gould, “The Censored Word and the Body Politic: Reconsidering the fictionof Marie-Claire Blais”, Journal of Popular Culture, 15.3 (Winter 1981) 14-27, 16.220fulfilment (153-4), the love and need that she believes she senses for the first time in herlife are merely the lusts of men old enough to be her grandfather and boys as young asherself their “love” and “need” - along with Hélolse herself - forgotten, as soon as theirbusiness has been concluded:Et sans se soucier d’elle, M. le Notaire...emprisonnait la bouche de la jeuneflue de ses lèvres mouseuses de tabac et de sueur...(la jeune file seplaignait si doucement que le vieilard ne l’entendait pas, ale, monsieur leNotaire, ale...)(...)Rejetée sur un rivage sterile par le notaire...[il] sefélicitait d’avoir Pu terminer les choses sans trop prendre son temps, ainsifrais et dispos du bordel, il pouvait aller visiter le maire, le curé...(160-1,my emphasis).Sacrificing herself for the benefit of a man “[qui] piétinait sa jeunesse, sans égard pourla misère de son corps et la solitude de son désir” (160), HéloIse is a partner to thestereotypical males of Québec literature, playing both mother and lover in the incestuoustype of union present in a number of novels of the time:elle voyait en l’homme...l’enfant, le gros enfant des premiers appétits,suspendu a son sein, exploitant sous toutes sortes de gestes etd’emportements...la soif la grande soif du premier jour, maiheureusementinassouvie, et qui faisait que l’homme venu pour goilter la caresse d’uneamante désirait en méme temps celle d’une mere capable de le corrompre(160-1).In effect, therefore, despite her attempts to avoid her mother’s fate and despite herchallenge to the “system” through her “reclaiming” of her sexual body, Hélolse is unableto break out of the age-old triptych - Virgin/Mother/Whore -, succeeding only in playingall three roles at once42.Finally, while HéloIse, in her somewhat desperate optimism, isperhaps a more willing “participant” in sexual activity than her mother, the42HéloIse’s youth, naïveté and innocence are so clearly and repeatedly drawn as tomake the comparison to the “Virgin” legitimate, despite her profession.221objectification, or even the “irrelevance” of the woman in each case, from the maleperspective, is remarkably similar.Her mother is the nightly victim of “legalised” or “institutionalised rape”. Amarried woman and so, at that time, still considered as much her husband’s property asthe land he farms, she is obliged to succumb to her husband’s desires. That obligation isencoded within social structures, as well as in Church teachings which made procreationa religious duty, as Grand-Mere Antoinette comments, “c’était la volonté du Seigneurd’avoir des enfants” (108) and a patriotic obligation, in the form of the “revanche desberceaux”, while intercourse itself was considered a husband’s right43.Not surprisingly,then, Emmanuel sees his father as “la silhouette brutale...l’etranger, l’ennemi géant quiviolait sa mere chaque nuit” (133-4), his mother’s quiet protests unheard or simplyignored like those of her daughter HéloIse. Meanwhile, in her time as much a victimof the nightly rapes as her daughter, Grand-Mere Antoinette regained a degree ofcontrol by hiding her body from her husband45:In his triumphant objection to Marie-Claire Blais’s presentation and criticism ofreligion, “Elle a pourtant cela de bon, la vie religieuse, d’arrêter le deluge desnaissances!” (“Les Prix Medicis”, 12), Paul Gay, prtre, c.s.sp, seems to have forgotten boththat the “production” of children was encouraged, if not required, by the Church andState for many years in Québec, and that birth control is disallowed by the CatholicChurch.The similarities drawn between HéloIse and her mother may also suggest aparallel between the roles of wife and prostitute - and a damning comment on theinstitution of marriage: both figures are seen to be “giving up” their sexual bodies to menin return for some compensation, be it direct financial reward or the supposed securityand status of marriage.‘One wonders if her daughter, apparently so much weaker than she, will everacquire the older woman’s strength and so be able to take over the role of matriarch.222son man n’avait jamais vu son corps dans la lumière du jour...lui qui avaitcherché a la conquérir dans l’épouvante et la tendresse, a traversl’épaisseur raidie de ses jupons, de ses chemises, de mule prisons subtilesqu’elle avait inventées pour se mettre a l’abri des caresses (108).Once again, her preservation of integrity and dignity, that “reclaiming of self’ is at a cost.Her victory - her “punishment of man’s desire” (9)’ - is described as “un triomphesecret et ame?’ (108, my emphasis), and it seems that, in order to maintain that distancebetween herself and her husband, Grand-Mere Antoinette was forced to create a gulfbetween her self (her mind) and her body, a vital part of herself being repressed in thedenial of her own sexual desires and emotions.That self remains hidden, it seems, to all but Emmanuel (and perhaps Jean LeMaigre), who recognises her vulnerability - suggested in part by her thinness beneath themountains of clothes still used as a shield: Emmanuel realises that those “noble feetdominating the room” are also “des pieds meurtris par de longues années de travail auxchamps”, while noticing “la blessure secrete a la jambe...la cheville gonflee sous la prisonde lacets et de cuir”. Trapped within a refuge which has become a prison, “son corpsétouffé” (9), Grand-Mere Antoinette has spent a lifetime behind the barrier raisedbetween herself and the world. Repressing her “self’ and her sexuality in order to protectherself, Grand-Mere Antoinette also twists reality, denying those facets of its harshness46In the light of her somewhat antagonistic relationship with her spouse, I wonder ifthe fact that Grand-Mere Antoinette was so zealously attentive to her dying husband(108) was not a form of revenge - either a deliberately delayed revelation of heraffection for him or, perhaps more likely, a tacit enjoyment of his suffering and of herapproaching liberation... At the same time, she may have seen her husband’s suffering asan affirmation of God’s love, once again recalling the curé’s words on the death of oneof the grandchildren: “Dieu vous aime pour vous punir comme ca”(67).223which even she is powerless to change. Jean Le Maigre’s revelations of corruption in thenovitiate, for instance, are passed off as “les creatures de l’imagination” (125), while thetrue nature of HéloIse’s employment is never discussed, although one suspects hergrandmother is surely aware of it, if only because of Jean Le Maigre’s predictions. Sheveils the truth in order to escape its sting, just as she shrouded her body to escape herhusband and persecutor. Despite the fact that Hélolse is working in a brothel, thatPonime has lost his job along with his three fingers, that Jean Le Maigre is dead, thather daughter is very probably pregnant again by now, and that le Septième has beenassaulted by le Frère Théodule (although she is not yet aware of that), Grand-MereAntoinette is able to close the novel with her questionable optimism, combining peasantwisdom with religious fatalism: “Tout va bien...il ne faut pas perdre courage. L’hiver aété dur, mais le printemps sera mieux” (175).The Vicious Circle: Hereditary Violence and the Eternal Victim.The text thus evokes an atmosphere of repression which leaves the majority of itscharacters either openly abused and physically scarred or spiritually and emotionallystunted and in a perpetual state of denial. This repression, enforced by the religioussystem and coupled with the injustice of a society ruled by a self-serving (capitalist) elite,is here shown to create unnatural characters surviving in equally unnatural situations,fighting against, or coping with, the poverty in which they are required to live with littleor no hope of release. The frustrations of life in such a world and its apparentlyinescapable patterns of violence are illustrated by le Septieme (in many ways Jean Le224Maigre’s somewhat less talented “soulmate”), who is thwarted in his attempts to “moveup” by working diligently, because of the aloof dismissiveness of his employers, who areinterested only in production running smoothly47:Le Septième...arrivait le premier pour mériter les éloges du patron. Maisle patron n’avait pas le temps de le voir, bien sür. Comme Dieu, dans soncatéchisme, il était inaccessible aux petits. Mais heureusement, ii y avait lesecrétaire.(...)Le Septième collait a la hate sa1200Cpaire de semelles, lenez et les yeux envahis par les étincelles noires de la poussière. Dommage,M. le secrétaire ne pouvait pas le voir a la tâche, ii était myope...(165-166).Denied the possibility of promotion and yet still hoping to rise above the anonymity offactory life, le Septième turns first to religion, trying through fanatical excess to make upfor lost time, and next to education. As elsewhere in the novel, religion offers nothingbut the illusion and frustrations of hope, while the motivations of his instructor, the“defrocked” Frère Théodule (or Théo Crapula, as he is now known) soon becomeapparent. Le Septième’s reward for attempting to get his “head above water” is a violent,almost vampiristic assault at the hands of his sado-masochistic, paedophiliac teacher. Theexact nature of the assault is not revealed: we know only that, on his attempt to escape,having been propositioned by Crapula:deux mains violentes s’accrochèrent a lui, le Septième sentit qu’il étaitperdu. Ii se laissa mollement retomber sur le sable.Le Septième se réveilla a l’aube...Il n’était pas mort, comme iil’avait cm. Ses vêtements étaient a peine déchirés. Mais passant la main ason cou, il sentit une marque qui brillait encore...(174).The assault takes place in the time lost between le Septième’s passing out and regainingconsciousness. While the loss of consciousness and the pain on waking are sufficient toAnd so recall the attitude of the Mother Superior at HéloIse’s convent.225suggest the violence of the attack, once again the violence itself is omitted - graphicdetail evidently considered superfluous - as there has been enough detail in theforeshadowing of the incident to allow the reader to second-guess the nature of theassault. Enough has been said about Crapula’s history, for example, to indicate that thechild has been raped. The rape here, however, unlike the attacks in Un rêve quebecoisand L’Antiphonaire, is restricted to the level of the diegesis, to the incident itself withinthe narrative. Without forgetting that this is, of course, a fictional character, one couldsay that le Septième is not subjected to a second degree of rape through the graphicexposure of his humiliation - the text does not “exploit” his victimisation. The focushere, it seems, is not the incident itself but the fact that it took place at all.The attack on le Septième is presented almost as an extreme but inevitableconsequence of the system in which a lack of possibilities and an apparent dearth ofaffection and warmth within the family, as elsewhere, create a stark, unforgiving world,where life is propagated but not nurtured. Children are thrown out into a frozen, barrenlandscape and are expected to conform to the impossible standards set by an ideologicalelite. Most of those unable or unwilling to conform are casualties, as we have seen. Inaddition to Jean Le Maigre, le Septième, Hélolse, even Grand-Mere Antoinette, there isalso Leopold, the brother who came home from the seminary only to hang himself. Thissuicide passes unexplained and all but unnoticed, as if such an event were to beWe saw earlier, during the “confessions” of Jean Le Maigre and le Septième in thecellar, that the text acknowledges the titillating power of the discussion of sexual acts: aconscious choice seems to have been made not to exploit that power.226expected, and his remaining family (save perhaps his ever-mourning mother) have lostthe ability to love or to show love.The sexual and emotional repression embodied in the religious institution whichpresumably drove Leopold to suicide, and which hangs like a thick winter fog overBlais’s landscape, along with the inflexibility of the social class system, is shown to be aform of implicit violence, which, when it fails to create its preferred and docileautomatons (like the “Grandes A” and the “Petites A”), creates violent and self-destructive people. Herein lie the similarities between the various victims in this world ofsuffering. For girls and women, the continued victimisation and repression is, as we haveseen, inscribed within cultural and religious dictates. Their self-esteem stifled, their rolesare defined according to traditional gender prejudice and in relation to malerequirements, women are necessary (and necessarily) victims. Similarly, although thereare many male victims in the text, suffering both natural and unnatural ills, andexperiencing both physical and mental violence, their status as victims seems to bedependent on certain “feminine” qualities which they all exhibit. First, the majority ofmale characters are children, and so are in a position of dependence and vulnerabilitynormally associated with femininity. The “effeminacy” of childhood is underlined, as wehave already seen in part, by the homosexual tendencies of the four boys, Jean LeMaigre, le Septième, Pomnie and Alex49,while the violation of le Septième also placesFreudian theory suggests that male homosexuality may arise from an “overidentification” with the (perhaps dominant) mother, while other theorists suggest the(non)influence of an absent or weak father. See Raoul, 136. Both such parents areinvolved in this text, as in many other novels of the period.227the boy in a traditionally “feminine” position. This aspect is reiterated as Leopold, thesuicide, was a member of the seminary and so a “man in skirts”. The loss of Pomme’s twofingers could well be seen as a symbolic castration, by which he will be prevented fromattaining higher status within the masculine business world, while on another level,finally, their father, rendered ineffective by poverty and his position within the colonisedsociety of Québec, is portrayed as powerless or temporarily “emasculated”. In each case,the male victims are feminised, either in terms of characterisation or in terms of theviolence they endure: once again it seems that to be a victim is to be feminine or as ifthere can be no other victim but the feminine. This gendered power-structure isreiterated on the macrocosmic level, as Québec itself is generally seen as feminine.Often referred to as the ungrateful francophone “wife” in the Canadian federal marriage,within the colonial balance the province is seen as the colonised other50,again drawinga parallel between the repressive loss of subjectivity and femininity.The patterns of repression can be traced back to the figure of the Mother,because in the absence or impotence of the father, it is she who (de)forms the children.It is she also who has often borne the blame both for the repression of children and theabsence of the father, and has been repeatedly treated as a scapegoat, as we haveseen51.And yet she too is the product of the same system. The object of sexualvictimisation in her required function as baby-maker, she is also incarcerated within the50Raoul, 38-39. Also in Memmi, Portrait du colonisé précédé de Les Canadiensfrancais sont-ils des colonisés? (Montréal: L’Etincelle, 1972).See chapters 2 and 3, for example.228role of “putative father”52,precisely because her mate is unable to fulfil that rolehimself. While she supposedly wields considerable power within this role, all power isbestowed (or forced) upon her temporarily, until such time as man should deem himselfready to repossess his “rightful” position of authority; at such a time, the Mother wouldbe restored once more to her position of “other” within the traditional gender balance.The matriarchy which Québec was seen to be at one time, endorsed by thehypervalorised Mother, would therefore seem to have been a façade behind which hidthe temporarily powerless male - “un patriarcat déguisé” - as Patricia Smart describes itin Ecrire dans la maison du père53.Woman is here voiceless unless speaking the “wordof the father” and in servitude even when giving commands. Thus restrained within thesystem represented in the microcosmic world of Marie-Claire Blais, how could theMother, in the figure of Grand-Mere Antoinette, raise anything other than a newgeneration of victims and impotents?Recalling the “nature vs nurture” dichotomy, this pattern of violence (both realand implicit) breeding violence, and victims breeding only victims, is illustrated first bythe fact that le Frère Théodule, the paedophiliac abuser and murderer of young boys isshown to be a “product” of this quasi-disfunctional society: motherless, shuttled fromorphanage to novitiate, from one institution of uniformity to the next, his only available“distinction” was “la mauvaise image que l’on avait de lui” (130) and his only source ofwarmth, the other abandoned young boys. Elsewhere, the pattern occurs on a more52The expression is Valerie Raoul’s (37).Smart, Ecrire dans la maison du père, 29.229concrete level, in the experiences of Jean Le Maigre and le Septième in the “Maison deCorrection” which exemplify the system of hereditary violence within the text.Incarcerated for three days, denied even the most basic sustenance by a “Directeur”, whoclaims to believe in rehabilitation rather than punishment, while beating them half todeath, the inhabitants quickly become desperate and sadistic, as Jean Le Maigre relates:La nuit, je l’imaginais [le Directeur] entrant dans le dortoir, une hache a lamain...et tranchant une a une ces tétes pouilleuses qui se renversaient dejadans le vide, par les barreaux du lit. Le jour, je ne quittais pas mon frère.De grands dangers nous guettaient partout, ou bien c’etait notre voisin detable qui parlait de nous faire sauter les yeux du bout de sa fourchette, oubien, le soir, une grappe de pervertis qui nous poursuivaient dans lescorridors pour nous violer (94).Transferred from this establishment to another, less frightening institution, Jean LeMaigre and le Septième attempt to put into action the example learned from theDirecteur, becoming “des bourreaux d’erifants”, intending to perform “de grandsmassacres” (96), as they establish their superiority over those younger and weaker.Later, having reached the ceiling as far as social climbing is concerned and leftwith no other legitimate choice, le Septième turns to crime, a path which he hopes willlead him out of the morass to an almost Genetien “salvation”. Uneducated and poor,having barely reached puberty, there is no room for le Septième except at the bottom ofthe conservative ladder: he “belongs” in the violent world which greets him as he leavesthe factory and where he will fight to take control over his life, so as not to be a facelessvictim:Le Septième errait dans les rues...l’oeil polisson, encourage par lamaigreur de ses joues qui lui prêtait cet air dur dont il avait besoin pouraifronter les grands de la bande de la terreur, qui le guettaient a sa droite,et les petits de l’armée de la rue des champs, qui l’epiaient a sa sortie de230manufacture, le soir...la paupière marquee par l’étoile de la bataffle, lefront enivré de piqüres de couteaux...Ah! Oui, II était un homme, déjà(164-165).Again, as in the earlier example from Les Manuscrits de Pauline Archange, the violenceis intimated, the bruises and scars which here serve as trophies or “status symbols”, aswell as marks of individuality, also function as narrative signs within the text, taking on ametonymical significance and leaving the reader to make the connections, to fill in thespace between the gangs and the scars, the pervasive threat of violence being as powerfuland menacing as a description of an all-out battle.Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel is indeed one of the most dark and violentnovels to come from Québec. Picking up where Ringuet’s Trente arpents left off, Blais’snovel paints a picture of a rural Québec in decline. Although a specific date is not givenfor the narrative, adding an air of timelessness, certain references place it at thebeginning of the Second World War, during the last days of the DepressionTM,somaking it contemporary to the Montréal of Bonheur d’occasion, for example. Emmanueland his family are therefore suffering within a colonised society, oppressed by an extremematerial poverty which is perpetuated by a reluctance or an inability to “move on”; thosewho do try to escape or to improve their situation are frustrated at every turn.Dispossessed, they suffer the spiritual poverty of a culture whose roots have been all butdestroyed and then “resuscitated” or replaced by a nostalgic facsimile of the original. Thetoken of that facsimile, the roman de la terre, imbued with messianism and its promise ofsalvation through a return to the origins of the habitant culture, along with its demandsSee Marcotte, Le Roman a l’imparfait, 165.231of faith and obedience from its Catholic flock, is usurped by Blais’s text, its model’spreoccupations serving as a skeletal structure. Those preoccupations are dissected, first,by the extreme darkness and pessimism of the novel, which recounts so many deaths andso much abuse. The fate of the more “maverick” characters, meanwhile, along with its“exaggerated realism” - the extreme misery and poverty - serve as an antidote to theromantic nostalgia of the littérature terrienne, exposing the implicit violence of an orderedstructure required by a dominant and domineering ideology. The world of “les Enfants deGrand-Mere Antoinette”55thus serves as an anti-image, a distorted vision of messianicliterature because, as André Major comments, Marie-Claire Blais “a accepté d’affronterla pauvreté, qui est notre marque nationale”56.The traditional novel is further distortedby a dark and subversive humour which contrasts with the misery of the diegesis andholds up a mirror to the conventional, conservative literature so that it may see its ownimage and fallacies. The simultaneous use of both comedy and tragedy provides adisruptive challenge both to traditional narrative technique and to the accepted ideology,as the text vacillates between humour and despair, constantly inverting and questioningthe values of the messianic and patriarchal establishment and offering, finally, a sense ofrenewal and regeneration.The violence of Blais’s text can therefore be read on two levels, as in the work ofAquin and Beaulieu: on the textual level, the carnivalisation or “conflict of codes” isFrom Gilles Marcotte’s essay “Les Enfants de Grand-Mere Antoinette”, inLRoman a l’imparfait, 123-183.56André Major, “Notre Matriarcat”, Le Petit Journal, (25 juillet 1965) 30.232equivalent to a violation of boundaries and of genres, a deconstruction and a reorganisation of the novel itself as a genre. The fact that the novel in question is so codedand so valued within a particular system, suggests, at the same time, a “revolutionary” reorganisation of that system itself. On another level, the text relates numerous incidents ofphysical and sexual violence, but, unlike the anger and violence of the other textsdiscussed, when violence is directed towards or suffered by members of “Blais’s family”, itis very much as a clearly established pattern of “cause and effect”. Here, there is nosingle scapegoat, female or otherwise, but rather an entire family (the microcosm of aculture) who, even while they inflict pain on one another, are shown to be victims ofanother form of violence - the repression of natural development and of libertyrepresented by and embodied in the “Mother”. For here, while life may change with theseasons, it is unable to escape the never-ending (and vicious) circularity, for which themechanisms in place behind the hypervalorisation of the Mother and the façade of thematriarchy are responsible.UOTSflpUO3234This study has examined the different treatments and functions of violence inliterature, focussing on the image of the female victim as she has been incorporated intothe literary discourses of Western culture and its narrative of violence. I have tried toshow how woman’s reality (her self) has been “negated” so that her often idealised bodymight serve as the symbol or fetich of a masculine order. This role has been assigned toWoman, the shapely and pure white page on which man may sketch or write his desire,his fear, his pain and his seif-actualisation. Visible in the European tradition wheresexual violence has become an apparently integral aspect of textual sophistication andinnovation, this process is also conspicuous in the literature of Québec; here, during therevolutionary 1960’s and 70’s, however, Woman’s traditionally encoded status asscapegoat takes on a new political and cultural specificity as she becomes the target forthe frustrations of the colonised (and temporarily emasculated) male, thus building onthe earlier, more subtle foundation of matricide. It is not surprising that the literature ofthis period should incorporate extreme violence, for anger at the injustice of colonialismreached a climax at this time; nor is it surprising that that violence should be directed atWoman, given women’s culturally encoded pre-definition and status as victims and theirperceived status as both the potential impediment to man’s full subjectivity (as castrator)and the guarantor of that subjectivity, as its necessary object.Within both the modern European and modern Québec literary canons,traditional narrative strategies are subverted, the authoritative discourses of “realist”235fiction are shown to be inauthentic and themselves (castrating) impositions, and thevarious “truths” or standards of what is perceived to be an objective reality (time, history,order and gender) are exposed as (phal)logocentric constructs. Yet the one constructwhich is challenged in neither case, it seems, is Woman, the representative emblem ofpatriarchy. Indeed, as I have attempted to show, her artifice and her ab-use arefundamental to the functioning of the masculine-orientated system and its creativeproductions. We have seen this in terms of the Surrealist movement, where highlyexperimental art often involves the brutalising objectification of the female body, and inthe radical textual experimentation of the new novelists, for instance. InQuébec,meanwhile, writers such as Victor-Levy Beaulieu and Hubert Aquin, along with ClaudeJasmin, André Giroux and Jacques Godbout, among others, exploited sexual violence intheir fictions, both as a parallel to textual experimentation and as a response to theoppressions of colonial rule - as an expression of frustration - despite the socialist (andfeminist) pretentions of the revolution in which they were closely and personallyimplicated. Here, anger at the oppressive influence of colonisation coupled with therepressive response of a messianic ideology is directed at the Mother, the unwittingsymbol of both the ideology itse1f and of the repression it infers. It is therefore with a“renewed” and culturally specific sense of purpose, that male violence and frustration aredirected towards the Québec Mother or her substitute, her status as victim previouslyestablished or encoded within a broader cultural context.236Nevertheless, the violence of which so many female figures are victim has beensanitised, in the sense that however graphic the violence, it is “unreal” because Womanhas herself been derealised within masculine art and discourse. As Jane Caputi writes:Ceaseless violence can be directed against female flesh because the realityof women is nowhere felt nor believed in, precisely because women areconstructed as the symbolic sex’.The eroticisation of that violence meanwhile, adds to the aesthetic “acceptability” ofgendered violence as it becomes “sexy”, its reality blurred, pain pleasurable, and thescreams muted. The act of rape, for instance, is transformed into a mythified seduction(as in L’Antiphonaire) or a game (as in Un rêve quebecois). Of the novels discussedhere, only Marie-Claire Blais’s Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel seems to considerviolence “unspeakable” in its horror and pain.There are, of course, a number of (perhaps unanswerable) questions which ariseout of this study, some of which have been raised in previous feminist studies of violencein the Québec novel2.First, where does this pattern of textual and eroticised sexualviolence leave women, both as readers or spectators and as the implicit victims? Doesthe innovation evident in so much modern literature and art, which seems to open somany doors, actually open anything to women, or is it - as it would certainly seem to be -just a new dance around their glass cage? In Québec, is there hope that women might1Caputi, The Age of Sex Crime (Bowling Green, Ohio, Bowling Green StateUniversity Popular Press, 1987) 156. Rosalind Krauss also comments that: “Woman, inbeing a fetish, is nowhere in nature”. Quoted in Rudolf E. Kuenzli, “Surrealism andMisogyny”, Dada/Surrealism, 18 (1990) 17-26, 21.2See Saint-Martin, Raoul and Smart (Ecrire dans la maison du Dère).237one day become “decolonised”, as there is for the male, or is his liberation necessarilydependent on her continued subjugation? Or, as Marie-Claire Blais’s text could be seento ask, is liberation dependent on another’s repression actually a real liberation at all3?Secondly, is the increased sexual violence of the revolutionary period inQuébecunique to Québec, or is the violent misogyny evident in many of the fictions writtenduring this time and under this specific political situation typical of any similarlysubordinated society? A comparative study of Québec and African and Caribbeanliteratures at comparable stages in the decolonisation process, in conjunction with recentpost-colonial literary theory would serve to illuminate this point, as does Valerie Raoul’sstudy in its incorporation of Albert Memmi’s essays.Meanwhile, can men and women be said to “write violence” differently? How fardoes the fact that women live with the threat of sexual violence affect a woman’srepresentation of that violence? Or are women so indoctrinated and shaped by therepresentations and structures of violence which play such a significant role in Westernculture, that they have adopted male discourses as their own? By the same token, howfar does the sex of the reader affect the reception of a text? Are women necessarily moresensitive to violence represented in literature and art, or have we learned to read “asmen” those many texts apparently encoded for male readers? Under what circumstances,finally, is it possible for a text which exploits sexual violence against women for aestheticor political effect to be “feminist”? Aquin’s three novels Trou de mémoire,See also Anne-Marie Dardigna, Les Châteaux d’Eros ou les infortunes du sexe desfemmes (Paris, Maspéro, 1980) 3 12-313, cited in chapter 1.238L’Antiphonaire and Neige noire, for example, have each been seen as feminist at somepoint, in spite of their exploitation of sexual violence: such a classification is, as I haveshown, problematic. How different would this be if these same texts or at least theviolence described in them, had been written by a woman?Although in this study I considered works by both male and female writers, thetexts were chosen as much because they were contemporary to certain political events, asfor their parallel acts of violence - although the similarities between events related ineach of the novels were essential. While there certainly appear to be differences in therepresentation of violence in Aquin and Beaulieu’s novels compared to Marie-ClaireBlais’s text, the gender-specificity of the representation of violence was not the initialfocus of the study. This does however suggest a logical and fascinating sequel to thisresearch project, based on the representation of violence in texts by women. Marie-Claire Blais’s La Belle Bête and Anne Hébert’s Le Torrent offer perhaps the firstincidences of violent matricide in Québec literature, for instance, bringing into play theadded factor of inter-gendered and inter-generational violence in writings by women4.Elsewhere, both writers have incorporated the act of rape into their fictions, as hasGabrielle Roy in her novel La Rivière sans repos; a comparative study of therepresentation of rape in the works of these three very different writers could shed new‘The issue of the relationships between mothers and daughters in Marie-ClaireBlais’s writing has been addressed by Mary Jean Green, in her article “Redefining theMaternal: Women’s Relationships in the Fiction of Marie-Claire Blais”, Traditionalism.Nationalism and Feminism: Women Writers of Ouébec, ed. Paula Gilbert Lewis(Westport, Greenwood Press, 1985) 125-139.239light on the “feminine” writing of violence. In Hébert’s Les Fous de Bassan5,meanwhile,the author’s polyphonic and often very “feminine” text (in the sense of écriture feminine)also brings into play the highly misogynist attitudes of Stevens Brown and the murderand rape-murder of two young, beautiful and virginal adolescents, thereby adopting anestablished, apparently “masculine” scenario and a discourse of eroticised violence. Itwould be interesting to examine how this “Sadean intertext”6(which seems to have beenexploited in Yves Simoneau’s film version of the novel), functions both within this noveland in other writings by women. The discourse of rape fantasy has long been exploited infictions by (and for) women, in particular the extremely popular “romance” industry,while elsewhere writers such as the nineteenth-century French libertine Rachilde andAnaïs Nm would certainly appear to have adopted a “male” erotic discourse for their ownpurposes. A detailed study of these texts might reveal more on the functionings of theseelements, in relation to gendered pre-conceptions.On another level, there is the question of the relationship of eroticised violence inliterary texts such as L’Antiphonaire and Un rêve quebecois to pornography (therebyrecalling the debates regarding the writings of Sade and Bataille, among others), as wellas of the blurred distinction between pornography and erotic literature. Although I wouldnot suggest that this is the case in the novels discussed in this study, at what point doesthe aesthetic discourse and representation of sexual violence become “simply”Hébert, Les Fous de Bassan (Paris, Seuil, 1982).6The expression is from Susan Rubin Suleiman, Subversive Intent: Gender. Politicsand the Avant-Garde (Cambridge, MA and London, Harvard University Press, 1990) 65.240pornographic? How far does or should the proclaimed aesthetic or political intentionalityof the writer affect the reception and categorisation of the text? To what extent is itreliable? Again, as we saw in chapter 4, despite Aquin’s claim of the feminism ofL’Antiphonaire, the text appears to be fundamentally reactionary, even hostile withregard to women.While there is obviously much more work to be done in this field, and otherquestions to consider, I have tried to expose here some of the subtle and not so subtleways in which the reality of sexual violence against women has been woven into thefabric of literature and culture, so as to become, as de Palma put it, a simple “genreconvention”7.I hope that this study may provoke further reflection on ways to re-readand re-evaluate violent texts, so that the reader, whether male or female, might seethrough the glamorisation and banalisation of violence (sexual violence in particular), inorder to recognise and deconstruct the myths around which it revolves, so that Womanmight finally be released from her trans-culturally encoded status as victim. 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