La querelle du regionisme au Quebec (1904-1931)

My sister, Annette Hayward, has recently published a book whose title is above.  So for a little change of pace, I thought I would tell you a little about the book.  My sister is an expert in French Canadian literature and teaches in the French department at Queen’s University in Kingston.  This book arose out of doctoral dissertation at McGill.  I will try to summarize my understanding of this very learned presentation.

The basic theme is that early in the 20th century a conflict arose in literary circles in Quebec.  The issue was what was good Quebec literature.  The controversy arose between the regionalists and the "exotics."  If the writer or poet wrote about anything except maple syrup and life on the farm, was it Quebec literature?  The issue became quite political issue.   The big issue I think was Quebec authors developing a style independent of French literature. 

Some authors I understand "went into exile in France" in protest.  Because of the rather constrained
cultural climate, where most of the important critics considered that literature in particular should serve the interests of the nationalist aspirations and of the Catholic Church (defense of the French language
and the Catholic faith was seen as synonymous at the time), some of the writers  ended up living in France and has been called the "Lost Generation" by some literary historians.

Annette’s book traces the stages of the controversy and documents carefully all the key publications and the key figures.  During the research she uncovered much of the material that led to the Quebecers or Quebecois understanding who they were and developing a unique style.  I think she may trace some of seeds of the understanding of Quebec and its unique place in the Canadian fabric.  Annette’s conclusion I think was that there was a synthesis of the two camps into a uniquely Quebec literature. 

It is a remarkable piece of original work that took thirty some years to create.  No bad for a woman who went to high school in a small town in Newfoundland.  I am very proud of my kid sister.

At the Annual Congress of the Federation of the Humanities and the Social Sciences in May 2007, she just
received the Gabrielle Roy prize for the best book of literary criticism on Canadian literature published in French in 2006. Quite a big honour.

My summary does not do justice to this great piece on Canadiana.  Congratulations, Annette.

  1. Annette Hayward Reply

    Wow! I am very impressed to have had my book mentioned on a blog read mainly by business consultants! And perhaps even more impressed at how well Jim managed to summarize the book, even though it is far outside his field. He didn’t mention, however, that the organization of the conclusion to that book came in part from a telephone conversation I had with him quite a long time ago, where I tried to summarize the whole literary quarrel for him, thus obliging myself to organize the information.
    Perhaps the moral to this story, then, is that it is sometimes very useful to talk to people outside our own little field of expertise in order to see things more clearly.
    I felt that very strongly again today, when I opened this blog and came upon the article about “Synchronizing”. I just attended a very difficult departmental meeting (another field of definite expertise for academics!), and that article did me a world of good. I have yet to figure out whether there is anything I can do about the situation, but in the meantime I’m going to concentrate on the positive, of which there is certainly lots in my life at the moment. But it’s so easy to lose focus, and concentrate only on the negative. So double thanks, Jim, for your support and your wisdom.
    (P.S.: Funny, I never thought of myself as having gone to school in a small town in Newfoundland. Guess that’s because it’s one of the biggest towns in Newfoundland, although I guess it’s a small town from an outside perspective. Just goes to show! 🙂 )

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