Quebec Studies

Tradition Et Modernité: Histoire, Narration Et Récit Dans Les Fous De Bassan D'anne Hébert

Quebec Studies (1989), 9, (1), 121–130.

Abstract

The notions of tradition and modernity can be said to function like Jakobson's shifters, as Jespersen originally defined them: "A class of words … whose meaning varies with the situation." These two terms are a function of 1) a situation in space and time; 2) they are semantically interdependent; and 3) they cannot ignore the notions of tradition and modernity that preceded them. In order to remain, today's modernity must evolve into tomorrow's tradition. In this study, I propose to show how in Anne Hébert's Les Fous de Bassan, the three aspects of the "narrative reality" as Gérard Genette defines them in Figures III-namely, the story (the signified), the text (the signifying) and the narration (the act of telling itself)-are a perfect literary illustration of the mechanisms that condition the notions of tradition and modernity. In Hébert's novel, the story defines a situation where the dialectic between the traditional and the modern is shown to be impossible. It is at the level of the narration that this dialectic takes place as Hébert gives each protagonist a chance to tell his/her own version of the events. It is finally at the level of the text that the dynamics of the process-the exchange between the modern and the traditional-is represented. By allowing the inhabitants of imaginary Griffin Creek to rediscover the genuine purpose of speech (la parole) through the modernity of her writing-enriched with elements of the oral tradition-Hébert liberates her characters from their overbearing traditions and oppressed desire.

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Chevillot, Frédérique