Quebec Studies

Conceptual Rhetoric and Poetic Language in Le Surveillant by Gaétan Brulotte

Quebec Studies (1985), 3, (1), 184–202.


Conceptual Rhetoric and Poetic Language In Le Surveillant by Gaétan Brulotte Ruth Matilde Mésavage "We are constantly beset by temptation to become sheer automata." Kenneth Burke Le Surveillant, winner of the Prix Adrienne-Choquette in 1981, finalist for the Prix du Gouverneur général du Canada in 1982, and winner of the Prix France-Québec in 1983, has attracted much critical attention in Québec. Noël Audet, Gilles Marcotte, Reginald Martel, and Madeleine Ouellette-Michalska, to name only a very few, have commented on the irony and "suspicious clearness" of Gaétan Brulotte's language, as well as on the themes of absurdity, alienation, and liberty versus the Law, which inform the conceptual structure of this fascinat­ ing and sometimes frightening collection of stories. The present study proposes to examine the stream of language that embodies authority—the authoritative word of the Other—which stifles liberty and creativity, as well as the opposing current which, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, resists and prevails over the omniscient, omni­ present, institutional voice of "Big Brother." In exploring these two antagonistic, linguistic forces, Northrop Frye's theory of the rhetoric of non-literary prose, which opposes "concep­ tual rhetoric" and "tantrum prose," clarifies the tension and conflict present in many of the stories. Conceptual rhetoric has its source in the innocently deceptive field of philosophy whose discourse "at least in part endeavors to purify verbal communication of the emotional content of rhetoric." The implications contained in this intention partly reveal the struc­ ture of official or professional jargon, which is an intermediate step on the road to the voice of the computer and the Orwellian "duckspeak" of "Newspeak." The obverse of conceptual rhetoric 1 2

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Author details

Mésavage, Ruth