Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (2000), 29, (1), 135–149.


135 Book Reviews Cultural Studies, Literature, Film, & Art ANDRES, BERNARD et ZILA BERND. L'Identitaire et le littéraire dans les Amériques. Collection Littérature(s). Québec: Editions Nota Bene, 1999. Pp. 267. L'Identitaire et le littéraire dans les Amériques is the impressive result of a collaborative project which began as a seminar on national identity at the Université du Québec à Montréal in 1997. The present volume, whose approach is described by the editors as exemplifying "le comparatisme littéraire et culturel interaméricain" (12), examines representations of "l'imaginaire collectif" (7) in the young literatures of the Americas. Divided into three parts, it moves from a series of theoretical essays to analyses of individual authors, and finally to a kind of round table discussion on the topic of literature and national identity. The first part opens with an essay on hybridity by Zilà Bernd which provides an interesting analysis of the similarities between the Brazilian concept of cultural anthropophagy (1920s) and more recent theories of postcolonial literature. For Bernd, the emphasis on métissage, plural identities, and interstitial spaces in the works of writers such as Nestor Garcia Canclini, Patrick Chamoiseau, and Régine Robin clearly demonstrates the impossibility and the undesirability of reducing national identity to a single monolithic definition, whether in Brazil, Quebec, or the Caribbean. The three other essays in the section complement Bernd's introduction. Bernard Andres and Jocelyn Létourneau focus on the nature of Quebec's collective identity: while Andres describes what he calls "l'effet-Groulx" (49), the over-simplification of Groulx's work that has made him a convenient scapegoat or alibi used by both nationalists and federalists to legitimate their own discourse, Létourneau discusses historians' recent revisions of the "grand récit collectif des Québécois francophones" (52) and its transformation from a tragic image into "a successful story" (57) that emphasizes pluralism, liberalism, and the urban environment rather than rural values and the influence of the Church. The section concludes, as it began, with a stimulating comparative analysis in which Gérard Bouchard examines the cultural and political evolution of New World societies and the different ways in which they define themselves in relation to ex-colonial centers. The five essays on specific authors have in common their emphasis on the interrelated themes of hybridity, displacement, identity, and the notion of writing from a minor position. Suzanne Crosta's analysis of the female subject in exile in three Caribbean novels forcefully brings out the parallels between the different protagonists' attempts to find an identity as they move between two conflicting poles: the Caribbean islands and Paris (Gisèle Pineau) or the United States (Marie-Thérèse Colimon-Hall and Maryse Condé). Likewise, Marie-Josée Roy's and Hélène Buzelin's essays discuss the themes of exile and identity in the works of Patrick Chamoiseau and Samuel Selvon, focusing in particular on their use of créole as a means of decolonizing identities and literary forms, and their valorization of métissage as a strategy of resistance. The second part of the volume closes with two essays that take up the question of domination from a different perspective. Whereas Barbara Havercroft looks at Louise Bouchard's

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