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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Two generations of modern French-Canadian poets : a study in contrasts Dyer, Sheila Josephine


In this thesis I have attempted to show the differences in themes, attitudes, subjects, and poetic techniques that exist between two succeeding generations of modern French Canadian poets. Alain Grandbois and Anne Hebert (born in 1900 and 1916), respectively) constitute, in my study, the elder generation, while Gatien Lapointe , Fernand Ouellette, and Paul Chamberland (born in 1931, 1930, and 1939, respectively) are the more youthful poets. I have divided my thesis into chapters corresponding to the areas of comparison that were mentioned above and within every chapter I consider, as much as possible, each one of the five poets. I have found that, with regard to "subject," the older poets are especially concerned, in their poetry, with the "je" and its rare pleasures and its more frequent woes while the younger poets move away from this restricted concern with the "self" and its private and difficultly penetrated world towards a. wider involvement in the affairs of all men. Seeing and experiencing reality with the eyes and the sensibilities of all men, of whom they consider themselves to be the brothers, they speak less of "me" and more of "us" and "you." Their subject is no longer the private and highly personal "je" but is instead, the more universal and objective "we" or "them." Attitude evolves between the two generations as well. The classical despair and the defeatism of the elder writers stiffens into optimism and challenge among the more recent poets. The two themes considered, love and nature, are treated in dramatically varied fashion by the two sets of writers. Alain Grandbois and Anne Hebert see nature as antagonistic and menacing and love as either impossible or deceiving while Gatien Lapointe, Fernand Ouellette, and Paul Chamberland glory in the solace and comfort of a peaceful natural order and sing praises of the marvels and the promises of love and the loving and loved woman. Technical practices also change considerably from one generation to the next, ranging from the conservatism of the elder poets to the creative daring of the more recent poets. The poetic works examined in this thesis are Grandbois’ Les lies de la Nuit (1944), Rivages de l'Homme (1948), and L'Etoile Pourpre (1957), all of which are collected together in the compound edition Poèmes of 1963, Les Songes en Equilibre (1942), Le Tombeau des Rois (1953), and Poèmes (1960)* of Anne Hebert, Le Temps Premier (1962) , Ode au Saint-Laurent (1963), and Le Premier Mot (1967) of Gatien Lapointe, Ces Anges de Sang (1955), Séquences de l'Aile (1958), and Le Solell Sous la Mort (1965) of Fernand Ouellette and Paul Chamberland’s Terre Quebec (1964) and L'Afficheur Hurle (1964). I do not study Lapointe's Jour Malaisé (1953) nor his Otages de la Joie (1955) because in them the poet expresses with much less skill the same general ideas that he voices in his later volumes. Genèses (1962) of Paul Chamberland could not be examined because its predominately religious bent keeps it outside of the thematic area that I have restricted myself to. *Poemes contains a re-edition of Le Tombeau des Rois (1953) as well as the most recent collection of Anne Hebert’s poetry, Mystère de la Parole (1960).

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