Quebec Studies

Reading the Multimedia Archive Surrounding Montreal’s Post-War LGBTQ Bars: A Genealogical Return to Madame Arthur and Il était une fois dans l’Est

Quebec Studies (2015), 60, (1), 35–66.

Abstract

This article proposes a genealogical meditation on the changing meanings and “eventfulness” of Montreal’s post-war LGBTQ bars read through a multimedia archive. Bars are understood here as material and discursive chronotopes or articulations of space-time (Bakhtin) frequently understood as metonymic to LGBTQ experience and historical struggle. I analyze an archive (social histories, photographs and drawings, journalism, fiction, and memoirs) associated with two “events” from 1974: a raid on the lesbian bar Madame Arthur, and the release of a feature film Il était une fois dans l’Est based on Michel Tremblay’s œuvre. I set in dialogue a genealogical historiography with a “cartographic” tendency in foundational Montreal lesbian and gay histories, where the historical significance of LGBTQ bars is collapsed into struggles for public space; these spatial struggles are embedded in a progressive discourse of liberation that articulates problematically with sexual and Quebec national liberation. With a particular attention to gender differences, I read the archive for conflictual lesbian, gay, and transsexual traces of historical experience and subjectivity. Highlighting methodological approaches to a multimedia LGBTQ archive, I explore how different media and genres of discourse contribute to dissonant accounts of Montréal LGBTQ bars of the 1970s.

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Pidduck, Julianne