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CULTURE IN QUEBEC TODAY I Jean-Charles Bonenfant At the outset, it is essential to define precisely the words which in the above title delimit the subject of this article. By "culture" we understand all the manifestations of the life of the mind, but we shall insist on its written manifestations without however limiting ourselves to creative writing, too often considered to be the sale literature worthy of the name. Along with belles lettres we shall not forget the arts, nor the social sciences, but we do not feel obliged to discuss the natural sciences despite their great importance, in this age especially. They are in fact more impersonal; they disregard linguistic barriers and are therefore less closely identified with a people's spiritual life. As for the geographical and political entity known as "Quebec," it is more and more erroneous to think of it simply as French Canada, even if it does constitute French Canada's base and focal point. Let us not forget that almost 14 per cent of the population of Quebec has English as its mother tongue, which is spoken in the home and is its cultural idiom. English Canadians in Quebec possess firmly established institutions , ranging from a well-organized system of elementary education right up to a great university such as McGill, not to mention two other flourishing centres of higher education, the University of Bishop's College and Sir George Williams College. Quebec has its own English-Canadian writers who are annually eligible to win provincial government awards. Thus it is interesting to note that it was a proponent of English-Canadian culture, Hugh MacLennan, who in 1952 was awarded the top prize for literature given by the government of the province of Quebec for his three works The Precipice, Each Man's Son, and Cross-Country. The third prize was won by one of the best Canadian poets, A. M. Klein, for The Rocking Chair. In short, Quebec contributes its share to the country-wide blossoming of EnglishCanadian culture. 386 CULTURE IN QUEBEC TODAY 387 The converse, unfortunately, is not true. Other provinces have their French element: French Canadians form more than 10 per cent of the population of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. They have the merit of having survived as ethnic groups, but have not contributed notably to French-Canadian culture. True, they have produced one of the best French-Canadian writers, Gabrielle Roy, who, although at present living in the province of Quebec, was born and raised in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, and is a living proof that the French culture of Canada is not confined within the borders of Quebec; it is a fact, nevertheless, that French Canadians in the other provinces, and Franco-Americans as well, look towards the great French province of Canada. The mother in Gabrielle Roy's Where Nests the Water Hen expresses this when she says, "Could they even have suspected, in the days when they heard about Frontenac at the Water Hen, that Edmond would one day with his own eyes see the Citadel of French resistance." Under the title of "Culture in Quebec Today," we have chosen to speak of French culture in the province where it has developed especially , without forgetting that French-speaking people can be found throughout the length and breadth of Canada, and even in the United States; indeed the latter has produced the best critic of Canada's French literature, Louis Dantin. It is hardly necessary to emphasize that in using the word "today" we are limiting ourselves to passing judgment on the last fifteen years ouly, but this will not prevent us from trying to find historical explanations for present-day cultural manifestations. This subject of culture in Quebec is rarely treated with objectivity. For years, a number of French Canadians, through a subconscious feeling of belonging to a minority, have felt the need to affirm that, crushed by the material power of surrounding Anglo-Saxons, they themselves at least have triumphed in tqeir spiritual mission. Others, taking the opposite tack, often as a result of discouragement or chagrin, have held in disdain or derided all their compatriots' efforts, bestowing admiration ouly...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 386-397
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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