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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Subject and text in Réjean Ducharme’s L’Avalée des avalés and Le Nez qui voque Wagg, Heather


Although Réjean Ducharme is a major literary figure in Quebec, he is virtually unknown to English Canada. His novels L'Avalée des avalés and Le Nez qui vogue are important in the evolving literary tradition of Quebec because they foreground the functioning of language, but this tendency also explains why translation of Ducharme is a difficult undertaking. Thus, as of 1985, Le Nez qui vogue has not been published in English. The purpose of this study is to examine L'Avalée des avalés and Le Nez qui vogue from two complementary points of view: traditional and metafictional. Both of these novels diverge substantially from the norms of verisimilitude while presenting a wealth of psychological motifs. The psychological coherence of the first-person represented in these texts points out the individual subject's dependence vis-à-vis social and cultural values, the relativity of the concept "subject," and its status as a social construct or "text" in its own right. In other words, the psychological representation of subject evokes the latter's status as fictional or constructed, within the text, as character, and outside of the text, as writer/reader. At the same time, the divergence of the novels from the norms of verisimilitude constitutes an interpretation and critique of those norms and of literary and expository discourse in general. L'Avalée and Le Nez are metafictions, or novels about fiction. The image of subject in L'Avalée des avalés repeats the myth of schizoid deterioration presented in Laing's The Divided Self, while the subject in Le Nez qui vogue repeats Freud's obsessive self. In Part I, I discuss these rapprochements in the light of a traditional interpretation of character. The description of the subject assumes the first-person narrator to be the origin of the discourse which becomes the novel. In Parts II and III of my discussion I reverse this point of view. In Part II, I show how the language and structure of L'Avalée reveal the text as constituting a parody of the psychological novel, by using Linda Hutcheon's concept of parody as repetition with a difference. Semantic incongruity defines the parameters of the text, pointing to meaning as a complex or non-univocal structure, just as the schizoid subject caricatures the non-schizoid subject by never being at one with itself. The subject emerges as an image of the text as realized in the act of reading. Part III of my discussion addresses the relations of subject and text in Le Nez qui vogue, which conforms to verisimilitude more than L'Avalée, by representing its own inscription as the narrator's practise of keeping a journal. Passages of nonsense and word play in the journal gradually give way to a narrative account of the subject's cure and separation from his alter ego. The discourse which produces the cure also performs a critique of discourse itself as tautological, a critique outlined in Patrick Imbert's discussions of Ducharme. This discourse can be displaced only by a récit which is ultimately included within the closed conceptual universe critiqued. The narrative of the alter ego's endangerment and death displaces the narrative of the subject's cure. Instead of reaffirming his cure, the narrator's neglect of textual practise in favour of narrative constitutes his entrapment within a closed conceptual universe; and specifically within the ethos of castration which interprets the other as a degraded version of the same, the unknown as the already known. The possibility of this reversal of interpretation in Le Nez qui vogue accords a high-profile role to the reader by making overt the latter's responsibility in imposing closure on a text. The reduplicating of the narrator's conscious discourse by the unconscious discourse representing castration makes explicit his status as result rather than origin of discourse. The pursuit of psychological subject in L'Avalée des avalés and in Le Nez qui vogue leads one to appreciate subject as text, that is, as an interpreted plurality. It also leads one to recognize text as subject, that is, as realized by the reading process.

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