Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (1990), 10, (1), 169–190.

Abstract

BOOK REVIEWS LITERATURE DUPRÉ, LOUISE. Stratégies du vertige. Montréal: Remue-ménage, 1989. Pp. 265. While the literary reputations of Nicole Brassard, France Théoret, and Madeleine Gagnon are by now well established in Quebec, and while their texts are frequently cited as important examples of an emerging feminist writing practice that spans nearly two decades, relatively few critical works have appeared in French in Quebec to assess the remarkable contributions of these three writers and their very different poetic visions. Given the crucial roles Brossard, Gagnon, and Théoret have played in remapping the contours and content of women's writing in Quebec, this lacuna in critical scholarship may have more to do with the position of feminist theory and criticism inside Quebec's universities than with anything else. The publication of Louise Dupré's Strategies du venige is, therefore, a significant addition to the study of their work. Along with occasional essays and special journal issues that have appeared in Quebec over the past ten years, a few important contributions have prepared the way for Dupré's own excellent study, such as Suzanne Lamy's groundbreaking work in d'elles (L'Hexagone, 1979), Quand je Us je m'invente (L'Hexagone, 1984), and Féminité, Subversion, Ecriture with Irène Pages (Remue-ménage, 1983), as well as Renée-Berthe Drapeau's semiotic study, Féminins singuliers, pratiques d'écriture: Brossard, Théoret (Triptyque, 1986), and Patricia Smart's discussion of France Théoret in her award-winning Écrire dans la maison du père (Québec/Amérique, 1988). A published poet, feminist critic, and Quebec academic, Dupré enters the works of Théoret, Brossard, and Gagnon with sensitivity and skill. As a poet, she pays close attention to the texts in question, working painstakingly on the levels of syntax, rhythm, lexicon, and symbol formation in order to highlight the subversive techniques of feminist composition and to uncover the distinctive style of each writer. And since the question of women's place in language has been a central concern in the wotks of these three writers, Dupré links her close poetic readings to many of the broader feminist issues associated with "writing in the feminine" (écriture au féminin) as it has been articulated in Quebec. She is particularly interested in exploring how Théoret, Brossard, and Gagnon have approached the inscription of female subjectivity through the invention of new poetic forms. Dupré examines the ways in which Quebec's literary modernity has influenced feminist theories of writing and also discusses the particular roles postmodern aesthetics have played in selected texts by these three authots. As her title indicates, Dupré adopts the image of le vertige (a sense of vertigo or disorienting dizziness) as a privileged spatial metaphor that evokes the dynamic tensions and sense of movement found in each writer's literary works. For Gagnon, le vertige is the site of contradiction and aquatic descent toward a prelinguistic mother/womb; for Théoret, it is a site of de-centered identity in a language of painful approximation; for Brossard, it is a place of nostalgia and Utopian elevation. Yet Dupré's study suggests that the far more crucial tie that binds together the writings of Théoret, Brossard, and Gagnon is the disruptive power of feminist-inspired poetry and poetic texts. Since each of these writers has theorized at considerable length on feminist notions of the poetic, and since they have each published a number of poetry collections and poetic works, this emphasis is both défend­ able and fruitful. Dupré is persuasive and thorough in her analyses of feminist poetic strategies and in het conclusions, especially when explaining how these writers have engendered a new poetic realm based

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Gould, Karen