Quebec Studies

Dossier: Feminist Readings of Contemporary Male Writers

Quebec Studies (2000), 30, (1), 3–6.


3 Dossier: Feminist Readings of Contemporary Male Writers Presentation By Lori Saint-Martin Université du Québec à Montréal and Katherine Roberts Bowling Green State University Everyone, it seems, is suddenly talking about masculinity. The Winter 2000 issue of Lettres québécoises features an interesting article by Francine Bordeleau, "L'écrit du masculin"; a recent issue of Jeu, Cahiers du théâtre (2000.4) is devoted to "Figures masculines de la scène québécoise"; in November 2000, Liberté asked an age-old question: "Masculin/Féminin: quelle différence?" Of course, talking about men is nothing new. Indeed, some feminists have argued that what is com­ monly called "Western Civilization" is simply "Men's Accomplishments" by another name. What is new, over the past 25 years or so, is an interest in "mas­ culinity" as a subject for academic study by both men and women. There are obviously various ways of looking at masculinity: some claim that men have lost their legitimate privileges and need to unearth their "authentic," buried man­ hood, thereby putting uppity feminists in their place; others see masculinity, like stereotypical femininity, not as a manifestation of biology but as a social con­ struction produced by the sex-gender system and therefore subject to criticism and change. This dossier is an example of the latter type of investigation into contem­ porary masculinity. It began as a session presented in November 1999 at the ACSUS conference in Pittsburgh, entitled "Women Writing about Men Writing about Women." The intent was both to return to an early focus of feminist criti­ cism and to rethink that approach for today's environment. Feminist literary crit­ icism began in the 1970s with the "images of women" approach to classic male texts, then moved on for the most part to the search for an alternate female canon, and to detailed readings of women's writing. We feel that, with the many new textual approaches available to the feminist critic, including a more dynamic emphasis on social constructions of gender rather than a static "image of woman" approach, the time has come to focus again on men's texts and the way they con­ struct power, desire, writing, and gender. The critical sense and the practice of reading across the grain of "idées reçues" evidenced in the best of that early fem­ inist criticism are worth recapturing today. Our dossier looks at two canonical writers, Jacques Godbout and Hubert Aquin, often studied but rarely from a fem­ inist perspective, before moving on to new male writers of the 1990s whose work has generated considerable public interest but little critical notice so far. In the first article, Mary Jean Green looks at Jacques Godbout and the "texte national," examining the ways in which the emerging figure of the young 1960s Quebec writer was constructed and defined in entirely masculine terms. Focusing on both non-fictional writing and fictional representations, Green argues that the literary culture of the period rests on gendered metaphors of cre­ ativity as a male-active/female-passive dynamic where women (readers and muses) nurture and "receive" men's attempts to write. Jacques Godbout's fiction Québec Studies, Volume 30, Fall/Winter 2000

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Author details

Saint-Martin, Lori

Roberts, Katherine