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Narratology and Text

Narratology and Text: Subjectivity and Identity in New France and Québécois Literature

  • Book Info
    Narratology and Text
    Book Description:

    InNarratology and Text, Paul Perron examines the role that literature plays in the formation of French Canadian identity. Perron presents a narratological and semiotic analysis of canonical non-fictional and fictional texts from New France and Quebec, and illustrates how citizens of French Catholic origins living in Canada have constructed their identity by defining the self as part of a closed community founded in race, language, and religion, and as radically opposed to the other, constituted as an omnipresent heterogeneous threat to the homogenous group.

    The first section of Perron's study is devoted to an historico-notional overview of some of the major contributors to the theory of narrative, especially that of A.J. Greimas. The second and third parts initially examine the primary and founding texts of first encounters, Jacques Cartier'sVoyagesof 1534 and 1535, and theJesuit Relations, and then turn to discussions of six representative Québécois novels from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of the Duplessis era. Each work is examined in terms of its definitions of the self, the other, the group, the nation, language, race, and religion, as well as its treatment of the idea of place ? the utopianhereas opposed to a dystopianthereorelsewhere. Fusing semiotics, narratology, stylistics, and literary and cultural theory with one of the only English-language studies on Greimas, this important work offers an original and thought-provoking contribution to studies of literature and semiotics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7756-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xviii)
  4. Part I. Narratology

    • CHAPTER ONE Introduction to Narratology
      (pp. 3-17)

      The purpose of this introductory chapter is to give an account of some of the major figures and key concepts that have shaped the field of narratology during the twentieth century, from both a historical and a notional perspective. The definition of narratology as ‘the science of narrative’ (Todorov 1969:10) seemingly restricts the objects of study to a certain type of discourse, ‘narrative,’ which has been in turn defined by Ducrot and Todorov (1972: 378) as ‘a referential text with represented temporality,’ and then by Greimas and Courtés (1982: 203) as ‘a discourse of figurative character (involving personages which accomplish...

    • CHAPTER TWO A.J. Greimas and Narratology
      (pp. 18-38)

      The intention of this chapter is neither to retrace the development of semiotics in Europe nor to situate in every detail all of Algirdas Julien Greimas’s works within the intellectual tradition of his times. J.C. Coquet, in his lengthy and informative introductory chapter inSémiotique – L’École de Paris(1982) and his ‘Éléments de bio-bibliographie’ (1985), provides us with a detailed overview of the fundamental role played by Greimas in the history of semiotics as well as an up-to-date bibliography of his seminal works. In addition, Herman Parret and Hans George Ruprecht in their perceptive introduction toRecueil d’hommages pour...

  5. Part II. Discovery, Conversion, and Colonization

    • CHAPTER THREE First Encounters and Myth Making: Jacques Cartier’s Voyages to New France
      (pp. 41-56)

      Jacques Cartier’sVoyagesare considered by modern-day historians and ethnohistorians as the most reliable and accurate account of the northern coast and the St Lawrence region of North America written in the sixteenth century.¹ Indeed, hisVoyagesof 1534, 1535, and 1541, but especially the first two, can be considered as the founding texts of all subsequent historiographical narratives on the French presence in the northernmost regions of this part of the New World. TheVoyagesof 1534 and 1535 give complete accounts of the beginning of the quest, the various discoveries and obstacles or tests encountered along the way...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Settlement and Conversion: Jean de Brébeuf’s Jesuit Relations of 1635 and 1636
      (pp. 57-76)

      In the next three chapters I turn to a different series of texts than those of first encounters or discovery narratives such as Cartier’sVoyages. I have chosen to examine three facets of ethnohistorical discourse as exemplified in theJesuit Relations, the most detailed and complete texts available to us regarding the social, religious, political, and cultural organization of Amerindian society as it existed in seventeenth-century New France. Although theRelationsdeal mainly with Jesuit missionary attempts to convert the indigenous people, they abound in descriptions, comparisons, and commentaries on the life of the early inhabitants of the New World....

    • CHAPTER FIVE Founding Nations: Jesuit–Huron Relations in Seventeenth-Century New France
      (pp. 77-102)

      The above quotations illustrate, in an exemplary fashion, both the problems encountered by the French missionaries in their attempts to convert the Huron Nation to Christianity, and the ensuing disarray and hostility experienced by the latter after coming into contact with European cultural values and objects. On the one hand, spoken and written languages are identified by the first narrator (Jérôme Lalemant) as the primary means of communicating with others, and subsequently of influencing them. Yet, in order to do so, it is necessary to learn the Huron language in all its subtleties, so that imported religious books and Scriptures...

    • CHAPTER SIX Narrating and Reading the Body: The Martyrdom of Isaac Jogues
      (pp. 103-128)

      Isaac Jogues was one of eight Jesuit missionaries, beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1930, who lost their lives during the Iroquois–Huron wars of 1642–9.¹ Accounts of their execution, along with their biographies, are related in print for the first time in theJesuit Relations, where each death, beginning with René Goupil’s, is narrated by the Jesuit in charge of the mission in Huronia or in Quebec City, in theRelationcovering the year in which it occurs. Yet the account of Isaac Jogues’s capture, torture, hiding, release, and escape to France; his return to New France one...

  6. Part III. Historiography and the Novel:: Nation and Identity

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Before and after the Fall – The Historical Novel: Les Anciens Canadiens (The Canadians of Old)
      (pp. 131-151)

      Part two of this volume has been devoted to the elaboration of a semionarratological theory and methodology that permits us to analyse the discovery texts – Carder’sVoyages– and parts of a vast corpus of writings on colonization – theJesuit Relations– that provide some of the major themes of historiographical and literary production in nineteenth and twentieth-century Quebec. In that section, I stressed that these narratives are founding texts which set the parameters and established the discursive representations of encounters between the Old World and the New. I attempted to show that Cartier’sVoyagesare, indeed, symbolical...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Family, Group, and Nation in the Nineteenth-Century Agrarian Novel: La Terre paternelle (The Paternal Farm)
      (pp. 152-165)

      In chapter 7, 1 examinedLes Anciens Canadiens, an exemplary nineteenth-century historical novel that has remained extremely popular, even until today. I now focus on a less obvious and more subtle inscription of historicity in the agrarian novel, the most widely published genre of the first century of literary production in Quebec. I begin once again by proposing a simple semio-narrative framework for the historiconarratological study of a type of text that circumscribes the subject’s activity within the confines of a clearly defined homogeneous topography or territory. Positively invested agents can realize and fulfil their destiny from a social, political,...

    • CHAPTER NINE Nationalism and the Novel of Colonization: Maria Chapdelaine
      (pp. 166-191)

      Maria Chapdelainewas written in 1913 by Louis Hémon, a Frenchman from metropolitan France who had arrived in Quebec two years earlier. It appeared in serial form in 1914 and was subsequently published in 1916, several years after Hémon’s accidental death, on 8 July 1913, in Chapleau, northern Ontario, where he was hit by a train. In this chapter, 1 continue to discuss some of the theoretical issues encountered in the elaboration of a socio-semiotics of the novel. In so doing I concentrate now on Hémon’s text, the most important in a long line of novels dealing with colonization and...

    • CHAPTER TEN On the Margins of Nation – The Realist Novel: La Scouine
      (pp. 192-207)

      From the time of its publication in 1918, the novelLa Scouine² has given rise to very different reactions from critics of all persuasions. These go from outright condemnation by, for example, Camille Roy, who considers the author as ‘le père de la pornographie au Canad’ (the father of pornography in Canada)³ to the mitigated enthusiasm of Gérard Bessette (1972): ‘Son roman est ou trop long ou trop court. II lui manque une idéologie générale et explicite, des tableaux collectifs, des retours en arrière qui en assureraient l’unité, la plausibilité’ (His novel is too long or too short. It lacks...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN History and the Urban Novel: Bonheur d’occasion (The Tin Flute)
      (pp. 208-229)

      In chapter 9, I attempted to show the various hypothetical solutions to the question of the identity of the subject raised inMaria Chapdelaineand suggested that this narrative explored a number of options and, in the end, proposed and endorsed an ‘ideal’ one that would guarantee collective or national distinctiveness. In this novel of colonization, much as inLa Terre paternellebefore it, andTrente arpents² twenty years later, the wilderness and the city are considered as forbidden and dangerous spaces that lead to tribalism and sexuality, as well as to cosmopolitanism and the isolated couple. They are mapped...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Utopia, Family, and Nation – The Wilderness Novel: Agaguk
      (pp. 230-254)

      In the previous chapter, I stressed the fact that the imaginary subject of the urban novel is represented as a fractured, decentred being, driven by global socio-economic and historical forces beyond his or her control. Indeed, until the beginning of the 1960s, urban subjects generally continue to be buffeted to and fro, disenfranchized because they can function only in terms of traditional rural value systems. They have not yet learned to objectify, contest, and come to grips with their past, and the city still remains a diabolical space where forces of good and evil physically and morally assail individuals who...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Conclusion
      (pp. 255-258)

      I would like to address a number of issues that follow from this study, and comment briefly on what can be learned from the examination not only of exploratory and ethnohistorical writings of first and early encounters and conversion, but also of founding or best-selling novels over the first hundred years of the production of indigenous French-Canadian literature in Quebec. I have argued that these representative texts all articulate a problematic of identity, of self and otherness, whether written before the fall of Quebec in 1759, or after it. In exploration and conversion texts of New France, the writing self...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 259-312)
  8. Glossary
    (pp. 313-316)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 317-328)
  10. Index
    (pp. 329-338)