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Écritures migrantes et mémoire sensorielle dans le roman québécois contemporain : Ying Chen, Sergio Kokis, Dany Laferrière et Kim Thúy Bolen, Liza

Abstract

This dissertation examines the role of the five primary senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste) in the works for four ‘migrant’ authors in Québec: Ying Chen, Sergio Kokis, Dany Laferrière and Kim Thúy. We elected to base our research within this specific literary field – les écritures migrantes – as movement, identity and transformation characterize it. In addition to this, the four authors in our corpus discuss childhood memories and post-exilic adulthood, and use the senses as a bridge between past and present. Thus, using both quantitative and qualitative methods, we have begun answering questions such as: how does sensory remembrance influence the description of space, time and people? Why are some senses used more explicitly than others? What are existing connections between the sensory, affective and cognitive fields? Although these texts show bountiful examples of visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory or olfactory memories, and despite there being many other examples of the evocative use of the senses in French-language literatures (Marcel Proust’s madeleine, for one, held within its flavour the key to the remembrance of the personal past), we have come to the realization that sensory memory in literature has attracted very little scholarly interest to date. However, uncovering this topic has enabled us to dialogue with findings pertaining to the fields of cognitive science, psychology, philosophy and sociology. This research therefore proposes a different perspective and provides a more holistic understanding of the migrant experience in narrative forms, and reconnects the text with the ineffably intimate, yet absolutely universal, act of being and of feeling.

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