Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (1991), 13, (1), 103–115.

Abstract

Québec Studies, No. 13, 1991/92 BOOK REVIEWS LITERATURE PATERSON, JANET M. Moments postmodemes dans le roman québécois. Ottawa: Presses de l'Université d'Ottawa, 1990. Pp. 126. This concise introduction to postmodernism in contemporary Québécois fiction is long overdue and there simply is no critic better suited to the undertaking than Janet Paterson. A number of essays on the postmodern in the works of Aquin, Bessette, Hébert, Villemaire, along with a book on Hébert (Anne Hébert: architexture romanesque, 1985), have already established Paterson as a leading critic of postmodernist writing in Quebec. In Moments postmodemes dans le roman québécois, Paterson integrates previously published essays on Aquin's Trou de mémoire and Villemaire's La Vie en prose with new commentary on Bessette's Le Semestre, Ouellette-Michalska's La Maison Trestler, and Godbout's D'amour P.Q.. The mix of discrete textual readings, combined with broader theoretical discussions on the nature of the postmodernist enterprise, is fascinating. Paterson offers a succinct and useful overview of postmodernism and postmodernist techniques in the two theoretical chapters that introduce her study. Her critical approach is clearly delineated and compelling, moving from a rather broad introductory discussion of the term, "le postmoderne," to a brief, but illuminating discussion of the postmodern critiques of Kristeva, Lyotard, Habermas, Rorty, Graff, Hassan, Huyssen, and Kroker and Cook. In so doing, she establishes the transcontinental interest in postmodernism, while preparing the way for its distinctively Québécois features. For those unfamiliar with the postmodern debate, Paterson's first chapter on "Le roman postmoderne: mise au point et perspectives" will be a salutary beginning. The second chapter on "L'autoreprésentation: formes et discours" moves quickly to the heart of Paterson's discussion, focusing on the thematics and narrative forms of self-representation (autoreprésentation) and self-reftexivity which, according to the author, seem to characterize the process of enunciation in postmodern discourse. Other textual strategies dear to postmodernists — both within and outside Quebec — also come under close scrutiny in this book (i.e. intertextuality, mise en abyme, parody, fragmentation, narrative rupture, the blurring of genres, etc.). Paterson is to be congratulated for pushing back the traditional gender boundaries ofpostmodernist critiques to include the discussion of two contemporary women writers: Yolande Villemaire and Madeleine Ouellette-Michalska. Moreover, she has wisely chosen two of the most interesting and most readable texts by these writers, La Vie en prose and La Maison Tresder respectively, to make her case that postmodernism and feminism can cohabit the same text with stunning results. Rather than codify literary postmodernism in too strict a fashion, Paterson highlights the increasing variety of postmodernist forms of expression in contemporary Québécois fiction. In her chapters on representative postmodernist texts, she stresses the diversity of discursive strategies employed by writers who, often for quite different reasons, have explored and promoted a postmodernist poetics. In summary, Paterson is well-deserving of the "Prix Gabrielle Roy 1990" awarded her by the Association for Canadian and Québec Literatures for the best critical work written in French. Moments postmodemes dans le roman québécois is essential reading for students and scholars of the contemporary Quebec novel as well as for those interested more generally in the evolution of literary postmodemity across cultural boundaries. Happily, we can look forward to an English translation of Paterson's provocative study which will contain an additional chapter on Brossard's Le Désert mauve. Bowling Green State University Karen Gould PURDY, ANTHONY. A Certain Difficulty of Being: Essays on the Quebec Novel. Montréal-Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990. Pp. 176.

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