QuÃ©bec Studies, No. 13, 1991/92
PATERSON, JANET M. Moments postmodemes dans le roman quÃ©bÃ©cois.
Ottawa: Presses de l'UniversitÃ© d'Ottawa, 1990. Pp. 126.
This concise introduction to postmodernism in contemporary QuÃ©bÃ©cois 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, HÃ©bert, Villemaire, along with a book on HÃ©bert
(Anne HÃ©bert: architexture romanesque, 1985), have already established Paterson as a leading critic of
postmodernist writing in Quebec. In Moments postmodemes dans le roman quÃ©bÃ©cois, Paterson integrates
previously published essays on Aquin's Trou de mÃ©moire 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 QuÃ©bÃ©cois 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'autoreprÃ©sentation: formes et discours" moves quickly to the heart
of Paterson's discussion, focusing on the thematics and narrative forms of self-representation
(autoreprÃ©sentation) and self-reftexivity which, according to the author, seem to characterize the process
of enunciation in postmodern discourse. Other textual strategies dear to postmodernists â€” both within
and outside Quebec â€” 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 QuÃ©bÃ©cois 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
In summary, Paterson is well-deserving of the "Prix Gabrielle Roy 1990" awarded her by the
Association for Canadian and QuÃ©bec Literatures for the best critical work written in French. Moments
postmodemes dans le roman quÃ©bÃ©cois 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 DÃ©sert mauve.
Bowling Green State University
PURDY, ANTHONY. A Certain Difficulty of Being: Essays on the Quebec
Novel. MontrÃ©al-Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990. Pp. 176.