Quebec Studies

Presentation

Quebec Studies (2009), 48, (1), 3–8.

Abstract

3 Presentation 1 Erin Hurley McGill University This summer, Robert L e p a g e staged an unusual s h o w for only 720 spectators: a procession of dancing canoes on the waters of St-Charles river. In L e p a g e ' s description, " C ' e s t un spectacle impressionniste et poétique qui racontera le dernier siècle de l'histoire de la rivière Saint-Charles. J'essaierai aussi d'évoquer l'époque de la construction du château d'eau" (quoted in Bussières). T h e canoe choreography, described as something b e tween art and sport and also called "flatwater freestyle canoeing," w a s acc o m p a n i e d b y the circus arts, dance, a n d puppetry, and boasted an original musical score transmitted via head-sets so as to minimize the sound impact on the surrounding area (Boisvert). This "Pageant de canotgraphie" (for canot + chorégraphie) served as the " c l o u " of the second annual Festival du canotgraphie de la Haute-Saint-Charles (Berthou). B u t it w a s not merely the challenge of staging an aquatic spectacle that drew one of Q u e b e c ' s most widely-known cultural producers to the festival. According to Le Soleil's Richard Boisvert, " L e metteur en scène y voit également l'occasion d'une rencontre entre les c o m m u n a u t é s française, anglaise et autochtone qui, au cours des derniers siècles, ont occupé le secteur et joui de ses charmes naturels." Lepage's interest in First Nations culture and its contact with English and French settler culture m a y also inform a rumored, upcoming collaboration b e t w e e n L e p a g e and the Cirque du Soleil "to feature First Nations culture" (White). These recent endeavors b y L e p a g e highlight s o m e of the changing dimensions of Q u e b e c ' s américanité, evident not only in cultural production but also in shifting scholarly discourse. In recent work, S i m o n Harel locates the ground of québécité in this s a m e mix of First Nations, English, and French settlers, in a w a y that acknowledges the fundamental role of First Nations peoples and cultures in affording the sense of continental connection s u m m o n e d in the word, "américanité." This is a significant shift, as "américanité" in the Q u é b e c context has generally expressed itself as and in French, tracing a pattern of French settlement in North America. For instance, as Frédéric L e s e m a n n has defined it, américanité is a conscious sense of continental attachment and identification rooted in a francophone identity that is "suffisament forte p o u r être à la fois ouverte au continent (au libre-échange é c o n o m i q u e ) , sans être pour autant soumise aux valeurs des États-Unis" (43). Referencing shared historical and cultural formations of North A m e r i c a n (non-indigenous) peoples, derived from their transplantation to the N e w World, the concept of "américanité" has contributed to articulating Q u é b é c o i s identity in the context of continental e c o n o m i c integration — while retaining the history of that identity in its former (more broadly continental) iterations as canadien-français and, earlier still, as " N e w France." T h e w o r k of literary scholar Maurizio Gatti on la littérature amé- Québec Studies, Volume 48, Fall 2009/Winter 2010

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Hurley, Erin