Quebec Studies

Recent Nature Writing, Relinquishment, and Rhizomes in Monique Proulx's Champagne

Quebec Studies (2012), 54, (1), 65–76.

Abstract

65 Recent Nature Writing, Relinquishment, and Rhizomes in Monique Proulx's Champagne Juliette Rogers Macalester College Roseanna Dufault Ohio Northern University Monique Proulx's 2008 novel Champagne is one of her first forays into nature writing. Most of her previous texts, such as the short stories in Les Aurores montréales and her novels L'homme invisible à la fenêtre and Le Cœur est un muscle involontaire, focus on the urban, and specifically on the city of Montreal. In various interviews, Proulx has commented on her turn to nature in Champagne. Explaining that nature has always been a primary source of inspiration for her, she stated, "Si je n'avais pas eu un endroit à la campagne [...] je n'aurais pas eu envie d'écrire" (McPherson, Santoro, and Bascom 629). But her reasons for choosing to write this particular novel in praise of nature at this time are also grounded in her belief in the impor­ tance of the natural world as a vital place of healing and creative stimula­ tion in contemporary life: "Je trouve qu'on est dans une période de détresse collective, pas seulement au Québec, et ce milieu-là [la forêt] pour moi, est un lieu de guérison et d'émerveillement" (Desmeules). The aim of this essay is to situate Champagne in relation to the tradi­ tion of nature writing in Québec and to examine the ways in which Proulx's work conforms to and deviates from conventions in the genre. Of partic­ ular interest, as we shall see, is Proulx's original take on Lawrence Buell's concept of "the plot of relinquishment" and his notion of "nature's personhood," as well as Proulx's evocation of the rhizome — as defined by Deleuze and Guattari — as a leitmotif and a narrative strategy. The theme of nature has long been a dominant element in Québécois literature. Nature assumed a prominent role in the Québécois roman de la terre, or rather, "roman de la Terre," as geographer Luc Bureau described it in his book Entre l'Éden et l'utopie: fondements imaginaires de l'espace québécois. Québec authors over the past century have sketched some dramatically dif­ ferent representations of nature — from Damase Potvin's cultivated farm in Restons chez nous (1908) to the stifling homestead in Ringuet's Trente arpents (1938) — yet the natural world has remained a constant theme throughout. In addition, "l'appel des grands espaces" has been identified as an impor­ tant influence on the French-Canadian imagination (Lemire 91) and we see this call to wide open spaces in texts such as Jacques Poulin's Volkswagen Blues (1984), which retraces the North-American routes of the great French explorers as seen through the twentieth-century eyes of a métisse woman and a white man. In the specific context of the forest, Robert Harrison's 1992 study Forêts: Essai sur l'imaginaire occidental explains the centrality that the sylvan Québec Studies, Volume 54, Fall 2012/Winter 2013

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Author details

Rogers, Juliette

Dufault, Roseanna