Quebec Studies

Rereading Québécois Literature in a Postcolonial Context

Quebec Studies (2003), 35, (1), 31–44.

Abstract

31 Rereading Quebecois Literature in a Postcolonial Context Amaryll Chanady Universite de Montreal The title of my paper may seem surprising. Has Quebecois literature not been interpreted very frequently, a t least since the 1960s, in a postcolonial context, if we accept Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tifin's very general definition of postcolonialism as the study of all cultures affected by imperialism (in short, present or former colonies)? If we include within the definition of "postcolonial" the "resistance to colonialism" (or, in other words, anticolonialism), as many critics do, Quebkois critical discourse has very explicitly depicted the francophone province in this way. It has portrayed it as a colony of anglophone Canada and established a parallel between the political, social, economic, and cultural situation of Quebec and other "colonized" societies in the Third World. Whether Quebec really is postcolonial is of course a complex question. How does one define "postcolonial"? In what sense can Quebec be considered postcolonial (as a former French colony, or as a society colonized by anglophone Canada in 1760)? Should one even talk about postcoloniality in the case of a predominantly white settler society which is itself seen as a colonizer by the marginalized native peoples, many of whom do not consider themselves as Quebkois, or even as Canadians? What interests me, however, is not so much postcolonialism as a historical category, but as a discourse that depicts and usually condemns c o b nialism (however it may be defined) in Quebec. And in this sense, a postcolonial reading of Quebecois literature is hardly new, as the following widely-known texts remind us: Andre d'Allemagne's Le colonialisme au QuC bec (1966), Pierre Valli&res'sLes N2gres blancs d'Amirique (1968), Max Dorsinville's Caliban Without Prospero: Essay on Quebec and Black Literature (1974), as well as more recent studies such as Maurice Arguin's Le Roman quibkcois de 1944 d 1965. SymptBmes du colonialisme et signes de libe'ration (1989) and Sylvia Siiderlind's Margin/Alias: Language and Colonization in Canadian and Qukbicois Fiction (1991). Influenced by anticolonial writers from former French colonies in the Caribbean and North Africa (especially Frantz Fanon and Albert Memmi), Quebecois writers and critics of the 1960s such as Hubert Aquin and Pierre Maheu depicted their society as debilitated by AngleCanadian domination, which prevented the emergence of a fullfledged nation. According to Maheu, who explicitly describes the condition of his compatriots as one of colonization (he refers to the "colonis15 quebdcois" [35]), the Quebecois are a "peuple conquis, domine, et presque totalement exclu de la vie economique du pays" (29), whose only refuge is clericalism and traditional values. Would a postcolonial rereading of Quebecois literature thus simply entail a return to a paradigm that is considered by many contemporary Quebecois as outdated? And have more recent Quebecois critics not devel- Quebec Studies, Volume 35, SpringlSummer 2003

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Chanady, Amaryll