This article undertakes to study the reception of the work of André Belleau, marked by his gradual acquisition of writer’s status. The work of theorizing the essay undertaken by Belleau himself obviously changes the way his works are read, authorizing an aesthetic evaluation of them that has gained legitimacy over time without ever becoming completely dominant.
This article attempts to deepen our understanding of André Belleau’s ideas about essays through a detailed reading of three texts: “Approches et situation de l’essai québécois”, “Petite essayistique” and “La passion de l’essai”. The author studies both Belleau’s conception of the essay and the arguments he uses to define it. Adopting a prospective approach, he analyzes Belleau’s most frequently cited hypotheses (associated with narrativity and the ideal universe), while looking for relevant elements that might have escaped critics’ notice. He seeks to gain a better understanding of Belleau’s manner, which consists, among other things, in reformulating the thought of certain authors (especially Barthes); this leads him to embody the world of ideas in a series of original expressions. The article concludes by opening onto other interesting propositions put forward by Belleau that do not seem to have been taken up in works on the essay.
Roland Barthes often appears in the essays and notebooks of André Belleau. Focusing on the semiologist, the Tel quel critic and the structuralist thinker, Belleau finds inspiration in the writings of Barthes (and Jean Marcel) to develop his “essayistics”, but also, no doubt, to give himself legitimacy as a writer. Belleau thinks that “the writer is … the one who works on social discourse” (“Approches et situation de l’essai québécois”, Y a-t-il un intellectuel dans la salle?), and he, like Barthes, is primarily drawn to the “signs of the real”. Barthes and Belleau also share a passion for short forms (essay, short story, song). Beyond these resemblances, however, we are chiefly interested in their relationship to politics, which would seem to be indissociable from their conception of writing. For André Belleau, writing demands a kind of withdrawal, a putting into perspective, and the expression of a singularity that takes shape around the following question: “How can one be manifestly in solidarity with a group while at a distance?” (“ Petite grammaire de la solidarité avec le peuple”, Y a-t-il un intellectuel dans la salle?). A similar question is raised by Barthes when he develops the ideas of “the impersonal” or the “neutral”. This article will seek to draw parallels between the politics put forward by these authors and the importance they assign to style, and to a certain kind of “pleasure of the text” and suppleness of thought.
With Le romancier fictif, André Belleau developed a framework for thought that helps us understand the ways in which literature, in the Quebec context, puts the writer’s figure on stage. This article starts from the interpretative possibilities outlined by Belleau himself in order to study the small number of essays in Surprendre les voix in which the essayist provides his own self-representation. Rather than succumb to the dissociation frequently imposed on fictitious writers by the “conflict of codes” characteristic of Quebec’s literary institution, the Belleau of the mimetic essays is able to handle the twofold demand to be both scholarly and popular. The result is a hybrid, Silenic being who finds in the carnival tradition a form of representation that can counterbalance the heights of essayistic thinking.
Why does André Belleau claim that “What’s obscene for us is culture”? What is the meaning of this surprising and paradoxical idea that is the crux of a short essay, “Culture populaire et culture ‘sérieuse’ dans le roman québécois”, published in Liberté in 1977? The article attempts to answer these questions by focusing on the shameful and conflictual quality which, according to Belleau, is assigned to culture in Quebec “as distance and as depth”.
An early introducer of the work of Mikhail Bakhtin into the world of Western
literary studies, André Belleau had a curious, greedy, passionate relation with literary
theory, one that was always oriented towards what interested him most: transforming the
literary text to make it able to shed some light on the world as it was known at the time
when the text appeared in it. But his relation to the theoretical was also a complex one
that sometimes included dissatisfaction, an unrealized desire to go further, and unease.
This article looks for the origin of this relation and finds it both in politics and in the
emergence of a problematic that fate did not allow him to develop: the relations between
popular culture and scholarly culture. There can be no doubt that he would have developed
his own concepts to handle this issue.
Three of André Belleau’s “Cahiers de lecture” (“Reading Notebooks”) are preserved in the Archives and Document Management Department of the Université du Québec à Montréal, where he taught from 1969 until his death in 1986. Except for excerpts published in 1995, these texts, amounting to slightly over sixty thousand words, are unpublished. A few weeks or months before he died, Belleau reread the notes he had been taking since 1963. He did not reorganize, rewrite or transform them deeply, but he wanted to immerse himself in them again and, with difficulty, leave a trace of his (re)reading. Correcting, clarifying, cross-referencing – the author/reader was taking one last look at his text. For himself? For others? What are these “Cahiers”? What is their place in relation to André Belleau’s published studies or essays? What do they tell us about the writer’s workshop? These are the questions that the article seeks to answer.
This study examines the presence of Louis-Joseph Papineau in Quebec textbooks and essays on literary history, and the ideological effects of his representation as a writer. It focuses on various texts including Mgr Camille Roy’s Manuel d’histoire de la littérature canadienne-française (1918 and 1939) and Histoire de la littérature canadienne (1930); Histoire de la littérature canadienne-française (1957) by Samuel Baillargeon; Manuel de littérature canadienne-française (1967) by Roger Duhamel; Histoire de la littérature française du Québec, in four volumes (Beauchemin: 1967-1969), edited by Pierre de Grandpré; La littérature québécoise depuis ses origines (1974-1997) by Laurent Mailhot; La vie littéraire au Québec (of which the first volume appeared in 1991); and Histoire de la littérature québécoise by Michel Biron, François Dumont and Élisabeth Nardout-Lafarge (2007). In these texts, we will see alternative strategies involving refusal or incorporation of Papineau the “writer” and his symbolic and political impact. This will allow us better to understand why these strategies have had such a surprising tendency to recur throughout literary history, in spite of the ideological and historiographical twists and turns of the 20th century.