A good number of Quebec universities —Université de Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal, Université Laval as well as McGill and Concordia universities—offer programs for study and research on medieval French literature. Based on researchers’ most important work and on institutional mutations and scientific meetings, this article provides a glimpse of the rich and eventful history of this discipline in Quebec during the last 30 years and gives insight into its current issues.
Three areas of specialization have attracted the particular attention of sixteenth-century scholars in Quebec, both English-speaking and French-speaking. Rabelaisian and Shakespearean studies have developed at an accelerated pace since 1990. Women’s writings, analyzed from the angle of gender and their rhetorical functioning, have generated numerous works devoted, notably, to demonstrating how the specificity of feminine subjectivity is asserted through writing. Finally, the field of translation and the insights gained from traductology have inspired researchers to approach Renaissance texts from a highly innovative cross-cultural perspective. These researches, characterized by interdisciplinary and often international collaborations, testify to Quebec’s growing interest in the French Renaissance during the last three decades.
Our examination of Quebec researchers’ contribution to literary studies of the Enlightenment is limited to a single case, that of the collections created by the Cercle interuniversitaire d’étude sur la République des Lettres (CIERL). This example represents only a partial perspective, of course, but it is a privileged testimony nevertheless. Indeed, when browsing the catalogue of the Collections, one notes the extent to which numerous authors and works reflect a sensitivity to the vast issue of the genesis of the modern subject, a sensitivity based on new practices, ideas and pathways that enable a redefinition of the “I”. It is precisely these new faces of the “I” that will be examined here. Whether an “I” is meditating on passion and sensitivity, pondering how it fits into a story or, finally, exploring the more intimate avenue of the journal or memoir, each case demonstrates how the various faces assumed by this proteiform “I” in the modern era have been problematized in Quebec.
If Quebec has been successful in exporting its culture in recent
decades, especially since the time of the Quiet Revolution, it is also
true that Quebec researchers have done much to make the province a
research hub for numerous disciplines, particularly French literature
and its key component, the nineteenth century. Accordingly, this
overview is an attempt to newly describe the practice of Quebec
research on nineteenth-century literature. But it also shows the
unexpected and frequently unobserved effect of cultural persistencies
in the choices made by certain researchers. Finally, the article
emphasizes that the key methodological themes of Quebec research on the
nineteenth century in France—themes responsible for some the
liveliest discussions in Quebec universities in recent years—
clearly remain literary history and its various sociological and
Because of obvious critical decompartmentalization and dissemination,it is difficult to trace the outlines of Quebec research ontwentieth-century French literature. It appears, however, that researchin Quebec presents core themes or “tangents”, which emergefrom a careful study of researchers’ backgrounds, the issues theychoose to examine, their key collaborations, and the studies and bodiesof work that attract their attention. Thus, while problematizing therelevance of using the twentieth century as a measure ofinterdisciplinarity, this article proposes a study, both meticulous andsubjective, of research in Quebec with the aim of establishing thepoints of convergence or demarcation that can better define itsspecific contribution. The observation of a very clear division between“twentieth-century literature” and“contemporary” literature (1980 to the present) allows us,moreover, to compare and contrast not only “two” readingsof the twentieth century, but also “two” relativelydistinct literatures, each with its own critical issues.
What can we conclude about the evolution of Quebec studies, both abroad and in Quebec, in terms of their organization, promising projects, professors and post-graduate students? Should we worry, or merely take note of the normal changes that have occurred in recent decades, particularly in support of the multiple bodies of work studied and taught that, however, include Quebec? This article recalls the institutional development of the study of French Canada, and then of Quebec from the time of the Quiet Revolution, based on the area studies approach as it was then conceived in the United States. It also presents the state of the organization of Quebec research and some new findings obtained from a study on the place of Quebec in academic programs. This allows for the observation that the recent evolution of Quebec studies does not indicate decline; it reveals, instead, a vitality in the teaching of subject areas and in interdisciplinary integrated projects.
What is the state of research on theatre studies? This review proposes to highlight the successive developments of a relatively new field of study in Quebec by considering questions regarding the delimitations of the study of theatre and presenting the knowledge on theatre that has been produced over a period of thirty years. Our article focuses on the mediations and networks by which this knowledge circulates and helps modify, as needed, the understanding that emerges from stage and dramaturgical practices and their evolution in the particular context of Quebec. Beginning with the case of the Annuaire théâtral, the only scholarly journal in the field in Quebec, we move on to consider the international framework of Quebec research on theatre. This will be discussed in depth when evaluating research impacts and identifying trends and possible pathways for renewal.
The history of the French-speaking world clearly intersects with that
of Quebec during the decade of the 1960s, when the first appeals were
heard for a French-language “Civilization of the Universal”
at the very time of the Quiet Revolution. This intersection colours the
first Quebec contributions to the francophone cause with an ideological
hue that is easily identified. Research on literature then took on
various inflections, and Quebec became distinct for its pioneer role in
the implementation of new methods or concerns, leading to a
globally-oriented paradigm of French studies: the language of writing,
the relationship with France, the social inscription of the literary.
Finally, Quebec research demonstrates a particular interest in the
literary canon. This focus often has a critical aim but testifies as
well to a concern with articulating new and more local scales of
values. Here too, Quebec could constitute a model with the potential to
influence the latest developments in French studies.
With six published volumes of La vie littéraire au Québec, three for the Histoire de l’édition littéraire au Québec au xxe siècle and three others for the Histoire du livre et de l’imprimé au Canada, not to mention the eight available volumes of the Dictionnaire des oeuvres littéraires du Québec and the Dictionnaire de la censure au Québec, the local production of books and print is impressive. Organized around teams formed in the province’s major universities, notably, Laval, Montreal and Sherbrooke, research has expanded through its refusal to conform to a conventional definition of literature. Sensitive to the flourishing of writing in almanacs or in the press, in libraries or in popular circles, researchers have generated a wealth of approaches based on history or sociology and have thus helped renew literary studies in Quebec. Because they form an integral part of international research networks, book and print specialists have substantially increased the seminars and meetings that can shed new light on reading and writing practices. Whether it’s detective fiction or Harlequin romances, best sellers or contemporary plays, all forms of cultural consumption retain the attention of Quebec researchers, which explains the broad diversity of the works reviewed here.