Quebec Studies

Book Reviews

Quebec Studies (2017), 63, (1), 163–181.


Book Reviews Edited by Amy J. Ransom Book Reviews Literary and Film Studies ROBERT, JULIE. Curative Illness: Medico-National Allegory in Québécois Fiction. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016. Pp. 234. ISBN 978-0-7735-4705-6. In this study of what she calls “illness narratives” in Québec fiction from the 1940s through the first decade of the twenty-first century, Julie Robert explores changing representations of national identity through close readings of novels about illness, disease, doctors, and sick characters. In her “Introduction: Sick Readings/Reading Sickness,” Robert points to the “rhetorical epidemic” which, beginning in the 1940s, depicted Québec society as ailing, and presents the two hypotheses set forth by literary critics in the 1970s and 1980s to explain the prevalence of the theme. In his study, Social Realism in the French-Canadian Novel (1977), Ben-Z. Shek saw fictional signs of disease as part of the realist trend beginning in the late 1930s. My own 1980 article, “Pathological Images in the Quebec Novel” (republished as “The Morbid World of the Quebec Novel” in 1984), and Maurice Arguin’s 1985 study, Le roman québécois de 1944 à 1965: symptômes du colonialisme et signes de libération, suggested that the illness motif could be read as a commentary on the nation, that is that sick characters embodied the unhealthy nation. Robert acknowledges the poor public health record for French Canada that made its way into realist literature prior to mid-twentieth century and she accepts the metaphorical value of equating sick characters with the sick nation, but she argues that both explanations are problematic and insufficient, especially in light of the radical changes that have taken place in Québec in the past few decades. Robert’s central thesis is that “illness narratives are a response to change, particularly the kinds of change that occasion collective anxieties about the social, political, and cultural status of the nation” Québec Studies, 63

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Author details

Moss, Jane

Luczenbacher, Julia E. Morris-von

Ransom, Amy J.

del Re, Ariane Brun

Boudreau, Nicole

Carr, Thomas M.

Trépanier, Anne