Quebec Studies

Forbidden Desire: Shades of Racinian Fatality in Marie Laberge’s Juillet

Quebec Studies (2018), 66, (1), 137–154.


Marie Laberge is widely recognized as a celebrated dramatist but has also written numerous novels that have been well received by readers and critics. Her first novel, Juillet (1989), highlights her theatrical style of writing, as the narrative focuses on the dramatic events that transpire between four members of a bourgeois Québécois family. It is during the oppressive heat of the summer that the family gathers to celebrate the matriarch Charlotte’s birthday. As the plot unfolds, there is little action but the psychological tension between the characters drives the narrative, enabling the reader to study their interior motivations. The strain between the four characters constitutes the locus of the “drama,” revealing an interesting connection to some familiar Racinian themes such as jealously, violence, hatred, and impotence. This article will consider the fatality of forbidden desire that draws the daughter-in-law, Catherine, to her charismatic father-in-law, Simon. To broaden the tragic perspective on Racine, it interpolates the ideas of Mitchell Greenberg and Roland Barthes on seventeenth-century literature to examine the portrayal of immoral desire and fatality, which points to a fascinating link between Racine and Laberge.

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Author details

Arenberg, Nancy M.