Literature and Cultural Studies
PATERSON, JANET M. Figures de l'autre dans le roman quÃ©bÃ©cois.
(Collection LittÃ©ratures.) QuÃ©bec: Ã‰ditions Nota bene, 2004. Pp.
238. ISBN 2-89518-161-6.
In her incisive introduction to this timely and thought-provoking study,
Paterson defines the point of departure and parameters of the analyses to
follow through a series of fundamental questions: What strategies are operational in the creation of a discourse of "otherness"? What are the conceptual bases for perceptions of "otherness"? Is alterity a determinant and
recurring factor in the QuÃ©bÃ©cois novel? Who, in fact, is the "other" in the
QuÃ©bÃ©cois novel and how is alterity indicative of sociocultural change?
Before reflecting on these and other related issues in conjunction with specific works, Paterson provides, in the preliminary chapter, the theoretical
groundwork for her examination, stressing the relativity and volatility of all
visions of alterity. "Otherness," she posits, generally presupposes the existence of a reference group, which confers semantic content to that which is
perceived as different.
Chapter two presents an examination of Philippe Aubert de GaspÃ©'s
Les anciens Canadiens. Paterson sees irony in the fact that the protagonist, of
what is considered by many as the first noteworthy QuÃ©bÃ©cois novel, is a
foreigner â€” the Scotsman Archibald Cameron of Locheill. At once detested
and revered as a hero, he is neither entirely akin to the novel's other characters nor completely dissimilar to them. His identity is one marked by profound ambiguity. According to Paterson, he is the prototype of such later
anglophone characters as Stephen Peabody in AndrÃ© Langevin's L'Ã‰lan
d'AmÃ©rique and Frank Archibald Campbell in Jacques Ferron's La Charrette.
Chapter three is devoted to an exploration of marginality, as personified by the legendary protagonist of Germaine GuÃ¨vremont's Le Survenant. Building on notions put forth by Landowski, Kristeva, and Harel,
Paterson shows that the dual reaction of fear and fascination with the
figure of the stranger constitutes the underlying semantic thrust of GuÃ¨vremont's novel. It is his extraordinary ability to convey these two opposing attitudes that places Le Survenant in a key position regarding the
evolution of the novel in QuÃ©bec.
In the fourth chapter, manifestations of the Other within the Self form
the basis of a study of the characters George Nelson and AurÃ©lie Caron in
Anne HÃ©bert's KamourasLÂ·. After assessing the spatial and linguistic network that sets these characters apart from the norm, Paterson argues persuasively that they represent the societal and sexual freedom for which
Elisabeth passionately yearns, and which is only attainable in a state of
alterity. Hence, Elisabeth's deep-rooted desire to become the "other." In the
context of Quebec's literary tradition, this "other," embedded as it is so
strongly in the spirit of a feminine character, is replete with threatening, if