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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Anne Hebert's Le tombeau des rois McNairn, Laura Jean


During the forties, when Anne Hubert was writing the poems of Le Tombeau des rois Quebec writers and critics (most of whom were male) were consumed by the oppression of the Duplessis era. Hubert's cousin, Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau felt so greatly the pressure to live a life defined by the Other, that his pain not only produced great anguish, but inspired very notable poetry. His metaphor of the French Canadian as a caged bird resurfaces in Hubert's work. In fact, the motif of the bird appears throughout Le Tombeau des rois. The bird as a guide, although blinded, leads the heroine to the place where she must confront death: the tomb. The tomb or cave is, however, not only the place of death, but also of rebirth. The tomb becomes the "womb" of the Mother where sisters and brothers are reborn. Images of sacrifice, of rebirth, reappear constantly in women's literature and mythology. The aim of this thesis is to reinterpret these motifs and others found in Anne Hubert's poetry. It is part of the feminist project to revise the mythology of Patriarchy so that women and women's writing might be 'read' authentically. This approach is an attempt to break down the critical walls which have defined Anne Hubert in a closed, patriarchal way. Anne Hubert was writing while the oppressive forces of the Catholic Church suffocated women and men who were desperately searching out their own identity. Women were defined as either "mothers" or "virgins". Mothers had the responsability to maintain the French language and culture, while unmarried women, were burdened with the guilt of their "evil sex"; women were metaphorically stripped of their flesh so as not to be "temptresses". In Le Tombeau des rois, the heroine is torn between being the "good girl" and breaking free from the "house" which has confined her. Other women writers express the same struggle in their texts. I have attempted to search out some of the images and motifs which connect Anne Hubert to modern women writers, to pick up an intertextual thread which weaves through these texts and connects Hubert's own texts. By making these connections, I have attempted to highlight a hidden subtext, an "ucriture au fuminin" which has been concealed by the dominant criticism of of her work. Traditional critics of Anne Hubert's poems and prose have agreed that this woman has played an important role in the struggle for national identity. That is one interpretation. I have emphasized that women have been doubly exploited, and that Hubert's struggle towards the "feminine" has been hidden beneath the surface of traditional criticism. To crack the calm surface of the status quo, to dive down into the deep, unmapped waters, to follow the thread back to the "womb", is to accompany this author on her quest in Le Tombeau des rois.

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