Quebec Studies

Francophone … but not like the others: notes on Quebec studies in the United States

Quebec Studies (2003), 35, (1), 153–162.

Abstract

153 Francophone ... but not like the others: notes on Quebec studies in the United States Katherine Roberts Bowling Green State University When I arrived in the United States in August 1999 to take up a position at Bowling Green State University where I was to teach, along with regular French courses, Quebec literature and culture, I approached my situation with great excitement and confidence. Here was a wonderful opportunity to share with American students both my personal and professional interest in Quebec, a place where I had lived and studied for several years. Suddenly, I realized that in crossing the border from Canada to the United States, I had in effect, and largely unbeknownst to me, changed fields. From a scholarly _ focused on Quebec, I found myself, upon entering 0s aca@ej.@irely d e m ’ working within the framework of the larger, more’TooseIy defined field of francophone studies, wiffr Itsawn to’rstaq and political agenda. This shift in orienEaEotihas forced me to look critically at Quebec studies in the US, which often seems, from my perspective, to be adrift in a sea of shifting priorities; it is perhaps even-I regret to say-at the low point of a wave of popularity that has carried scholars and students to more exotic locales? leaving in its wake a well-established field, benefifitrg€rom substantial government support, yet in ncgd, within the current context, to rethink its specificity. Alas, there was no time for such reflection in the Fall of l-, as I scrambled to prepare introductory courses in francophone literature and culture which would include readings from the four comers of the former French empire-with the addition of Quebec-and to adopt a theoretical model that was applicable to all the texts on the program. Slowly, a certain malaise has begun to set in as Quebec has shifted from the center of my preoccupations to an “add on,” a mere afterthought even, within a postcolonial framework. What follows are some general reflections on the current situation in the field, which constitute both an attempt to address this growing malaise and, more importantly I hope, to re-evaluate the pertinence of postcolonial theory for the understanding of Quebec. z Which postcolonial? Postcolonial studies is a fast-growing and complex field which has been defined in a multitude of ways, sometimes quite obscure. A brief history of the term postcolonial seems to be a necessary step at this point. As Vijay Mishra and Bob Hodge point out, in an article that critiques one of the field’s seminal texts, Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tifin’s The Empire Writes Back: Theory and practice in post-colonial literatures, out of the ruins of the British Empire arrived on the margins of English Departments a new object known as “Commonwealth Literature.” The heavy ideological overtones of this term were soon to force the adoption of another: postcole nialism. The latter term had many advantages over the former: ”it foreQuebec Studies, Volume 35, SpringlSummer 2003

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Roberts, Katherine