Edited by Amy J. Ransom
SMART, PATRICIA. De Marie de lâ€™Incarnation Ã Nelly Arcan:
Se dire, se faire par lâ€™Ã©criture intime. MontrÃ©al: BorÃ©al, 2014.
Pp. 430. ISBN 978-2-7646-2345-9.
If the title De Marie de lâ€™Incarnation Ã Nelly Arcan signposts the breadth
of this book, which focuses on autobiographies penned by QuÃ©bec
women from 1654 to 2011, its subtitle, Se dire, se faire par lâ€™Ã©criture
intime, suggests the depth and complexity of this fascinating analysis.
As Smart explains, a book devoted to QuÃ©bec womenâ€™s autobiographies, if narrowly defined, would have been very limited; there
were few veritable autobiographers hence the need to refocus the
lens in order to discern the autobiographical qualities in writing
that usually falls outside the category. How else to discover the links
between, for example, the spiritual diaries of Marie de lâ€™Incarnation,
Claire Martinâ€™s seething condemnation and revelation of a girl`s life
during â€œla grande noirceur,â€ and Nelly Arcanâ€™s haunting autobiographical fiction in which she portrays living with, through, and by
the female body? As the subtitle suggests, QuÃ©bec women, while not
penning conventional autobiographies, nonetheless expressed, shaped,
transformed, and unmasked themselves through private and personal
writing in literary forms as varied as diaries, memoirs, letters, and
autobiographical fiction that enhance our understanding of their social
and historical reality.
Divided into four sections, the book covers the mystical, spiritual
writings of the female founders of QuÃ©bec, the private correspondence
of influential women in QuÃ©bec society (1748â€“1862), the personal
diaries of women searching for their social role (1843â€“1964), and
the autobiographies, including autobiographical fiction, of the Quiet
QuÃ©bec Studies, 60