Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (2003), 35, (1), 163–176.

Abstract

163 Book Reviews Literature SANTORO, MILgNA. Mothers of Invention: Feminist Authors and Experimental Fiction in France and Quebec. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2002. Pp.348. To some degree, Milena Santoro’s comparative study of selected works by Helene Cixous, Madeleine Gagnon, Nicole Brossard, and Jeanne Hyvrard covers existing critical ground. The contributions of Nicole Brossard and Madeleine Gagnon to the theory and practice of gender-marked writing in Quebec, and to the politically inspired project of icriture au f h i n i n , have already been well documented and analyzed from a number of critical viewpoints (Duprk; Gould; Parker; Saint-Martin; and others). Suzanne Lamy’s groundbreaking essays on Quebec and French women writers and Karen McPherson’s work on Nicole Brossard have also offered comparative perspectives on gender-marked writing, highlighting political and poetic alignments as well as important theoretical differences. Santoro’s book stands out, nonetheless, as a persuasive study of the primary and more subtle points of comparison among the experimental texts of French and Quebec women writers in dialogue with one another and the reader. The organization of Mothers of Invention is deceptively simple: an introduction that traces the contexts of feminist-inspired writing in France and Quebec, followed by four chapters with close readings of Cixous’s La (1976), Gagnon’s Lueur (1979), Brossard’s L’Am2r (1977), and Hyvrard’s trilogy, Les Prunes de Cyth2re (1975), Mere la mort (1976), and La Meurtritude (1977). This discretely segmented structure does not, however, preclude Santoro from making transatlantic connections throughout her study. Santoro is, moreover, clear about her intention to focus on the creative product (writing) of feminist thinking in France and Quebec in the 1970s, rather than to examine the theoretical disputes and conceptual impasses that might be found in comparing the works of the four authors studied. Her topic is thus the common ground of allied feminist goals and experimental textual praxis. Indeed, for Santoro, the works discussed reveal a “shared community of thought” (4) linking women authors in France and Quebec through their shared theoretical assumptions and experimental feminist approaches to writing. Santoro’s contemporary critical vocabulary and references are extensive. Her study is therefore “transatlantic” in the best sense of the wordbringing together authors and texts for more than simple comparative purposes. Her intention is to tease out crucial points of intersection that are grounded in the theoretical, political, and creative debates of the period on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition, Santoro’s critical understanding of the French avant-garde of the late 1960s and 70s, and the Tel Quel group in particular, allows her to bring pertinent perspectives to bear on the subject at hand. Lndeed, she argues convincingly that the subversive strategies of the French avant-garde are fully embodied in the project of ”writing in the feminine. ”

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