- Les Infortunes du roman dans le Québec du XIXe Siècle by Yves Dostaler, and: Les Personnages dans le roman canadien-français (1837–1862) by Jeanne La France, and: Jean Rivard, le défricheur ... suivi de Jean Rivard, économiste by Antoine Gérin-Lajoie, and: Présence de Paul Bourget au Canada by Gilles Dorion (review)
- University of Toronto Quarterly
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 47, Number 4, Summer 1978
- pp. 455-458
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- Additional Information
HUMANITIES 455 his province all modern literature, and why he finds Canadians in the vanguard of the avant-garde of modern thought. The essay is most competent in its literary analysis. Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid presents a 'horrific moral vision' of destructive modern consciousness adrift in a value-free 'earth' that threatens yet attracts man with its instinctual energy. It charts our existential dilemma without giving 'imaginative access to any different way of being.' This project is found in Beautiful Losers, which tries but fails to engineer a jailbreak into a 'dionysiac ontology' that affirms the sacred unity of world and earth. And at that moment, a man ejects from history into the Isis continuum. It becomes a moment of earth-and-world-asIsis , dissolving the very experience of savage fields which generated it. Cohen's is an erratic, brilliant, pompous novel, and Lee handles it well because his essay, for all its earnestness, cannot help being erratic, pompous, and occasionally brilliant. Certainly he captures the spirit of Beautiful Losers, and works his way perceptively through its mysteries. But when he then speculates philosophically, he becomes eloquently vague about the need to rediscover a planet 'donating itself to men in luminous value.' After the fine analysis of Beautiful Losers, the essay falls off, and ends with a combination of confession, sermon, and pep talk. (J. M. KERTZER) Yves Dostaler. Les Irlfortunes du TOffIan dans Ie Quebec dll XIXesiecie HurtubiseHMH. 175. $6.25 Jeanne La France. Les Personnages dans Ie roman canadiell -fran~ais (1837 - 1862) Editions Naaman. 248. $10.00 Antoine Gerin~Lajoie . Jean Rivard, Ie defricheur ... 5uivi de Jean Rivard, economiste. Postface de Rene Dionne Hurtubise HMH. 400. $7.95 Gilles Dorion. Presence de Paul Bourget au Canada Les Presses de l'universite LavaL 241. $12.00 The 1960s and early 1970S saw an unprecedented increase in both the volume and the quality of Quebec literature in French. This upsurge in creative writing was accompanied by a notable expansion of bibliographical and critical interest in Quebec literature, most of which was then confined to immediately contemporary authors and works. The 456 LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 calmer perspective of the late 1970S is now giving rise to a more leisurely concern with the whole development of Quebec literature since its emergence a century and a half ago. As a result several recent studies have been concerned with French-Canadian literary activity in the nineteenth century, a period previously repudiated or simply neglected. In Les Infortunes du roman dans Ie Quebec du XIX' sieele, Abbe Yves Dostaler examines one aspect of the intellectual life of the past century: its attitude towards prose fiction, in particular the novels being imported from France and England. An introductory chapter summarizes the extent to which the reading public of Lower Canada and Quebec knew and read the French and English novelists of their century. Early Quebec criticism of the genre is then reviewed and found to be preoccupied with moral considerations. Outright opposition to the novel as an immoral force in Quebec society is amply documented, although Dostaler demonstrates that nineteenth-century denunciation of fiction on moral grounds is neither as all-embracing nor as obsessed with love and sexuality as has sometimes been asserted. He also reminds us (pp 108-9) that Quebec readers were not alone in condemning fiction, and that nineteenth-century Quebec attitudes may have been derived from eighteenth-century French ones. A final chapter examines the accusation of frivolity levelled at fiction, and shows that the preponderance of historical and didactic novels in nineteenth-century Quebec was probably an effort to justify a genre in disrepute. Although a good part of its material is already available in articles by Seraphin Marion and others, Dostaler's well-informed study adds many new references to those already cited by his predecessors and presents a complete and coherent view of the subject. Originally submitted to Laval University as a thesis in "965, the text has apparently not been revised, and the bibliography is therefore a dozen years out of date. One regrets also the lack of an index in a book that includes hundreds of names of authors...