Quebec Studies

Editor's Note

Quebec Studies (2003), 36, (1), 1–2.


1 Editor's Note Terrorist attacks, the globalization of trade, and new waves of large-scale immigration (legal and illegal) into North America and the European Union and elsewhere have made us aware in different ways of just how porous national borders have become, for better and for worse. The very idea of a "national" border is also under pressure as provinces and peoples from Catalonia to Kurdistan redefine their status within state boundaries. Such redefinition may fall short of the creation of new states (as it seems to have done, at least for the moment, in Quebec), but at the same time the definitiveness of borders between states that still think of themselves as sovereign entities, such as Canada and the United States, is now open to question at the level of economic or cultural relations. Indeed, it seems that we must think of borders, not as absolute distinctions, but as matters of degree with variable impact on the flow of people, goods, and ideas within and between what used to be called nation-states. This issue of Québec Studies opens with two searching examinations of what the border between the U.S. and Canada means for Quebec. Louis Balthazar presents a sweeping historical survey whose premise is that Canada's distinctiveness has always de­ pended on the allowance of enough elbow room for Quebec to develop and express the distinctive vitality of its francophone majority. He also ad­ dresses a number of contemporary cross-border issues from this perspec­ tive. Gilbert Gagné's article complements Balthazar's with an in-depth examination of the problem of cultural sovereignty and the tension be­ tween free trade and the fostering of local cultural institutions (film and magazine industries, for example) in a world dominated by American cul­ tural productions. In this area, Quebec's concerns largely parallel those of the rest of Canada, although the language difference makes for some inter­ esting variations in the way these concerns are articulated. These two important essays offer a comprehensive introduction to the meaning of North American borders for Quebec. The next section of the issue focuses on intergenerational relationships in two very different Quebec novels. François Ouellet revisits a long-forgot­ ten novel by Damase Potvin, La Rivière-à-Mars (1934), offering a subtle psy­ choanalytic reading of the father-son dynamic it dramatizes. The great merit of the essay is that it looks beyond character-portrayal as such to oddities of nomenclature and plot-construction readers might easily overlook or dis­ miss as mere awkwardness of craft. Ouellet shows how such elements can themselves be suggestive of important cultural contradictions. The novel may not be a masterpiece — indeed, it certainly isn't one — but this is no reason not to read it with attention. Even a weak book may provoke thoughts worth pursuing. Anne Hébert's Les Fous de Bassan, on the other hand, is an established and much-studied classic. Edith Vandevoort's article proves, however, that its suggestiveness is far from being exhausted. Her study brings to bear theories of adolescent initiation on the stories of Olivia and Nora to cast them in a new light. The poetics of different literary genres is the concern of the next group of essays. Emile Talbot's insightful comparison of the two versions of Ying Chen's well-known epistolary novel, Les Lettres chinoises, offers us a glimpse of the author's changing aesthetic. While many readers are aware of Chen's

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