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Comparative Critical Studies 4.2 (2007) 283-296

Writing the Heartland II:
Monique LaRue and la Côte Nord
Ceri Morgan

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This article comes out of a project entitled Heartlands/Pays de cœur, which looks at representations of places outside of Montreal in contemporary francophone Québécois and Canadian fiction. Although the last ten years or so have seen an increase in examinations of the spatial in francophone Québécois fiction, apart from a few exceptions, analyses of representations of the rural tend to be limited to specific book chapters, or else focus on le roman du terroir (the novel of the land).1 This was a major literary genre from the middle of the nineteenth century to the 1940s, and celebrated the French-Canadian nationalist ideologies of Catholicism, an attachment to the land, and la revanche des berceaux (literally 'the revenge of the cradles', that is, maintaining a high birth rate). These were considered vital to the survival of French-Canadian culture and society. Largely because Montreal is the economic and cultural centre of the province, francophone – and anglophone – Québécois literature is primarily identified with this city. The prevalence of Montreal in francophone cultural production is also attributable to its particular significance within the Québécois imaginary. By virtue of its historical association with an anglophone – primarily Anglo-Scots – business and social elite, Montreal has been seen as both home and yet not home for francophone Quebeckers. [End Page 283]

An examination of the rural and/or provincial is contained in the English title of my project, which a conference chair once translated as 'le Canada profond'.2 However, the French title points to my second use of 'heartland' to suggest an attachment to place. Whereas 'heartland' most often refers to places where there is a strength of feeling, such as nationalist sentiment, the term also helps me think about the mapping of emotions. This is carried out in the context both of the literature I am looking at and in my own writing, since I juxtapose critical readings of novels with my bilingual (French and English) travel writing. In so doing, I am conforming to the conventions of the travel genre that, as Alison Blunt points out, is highly autobiographical.3 The project also engages with a number of the concerns that have come to occupy what has been termed geography's 'emotional turn'.4 This seeks to acknowledge the importance of emotions in the discipline, as well as to articulate theories around the ways in which emotions inform our research as academics as well as the everyday lives of all individuals. So, for example, in their early contribution to the debate, in an editorial published in 2001, Kay Anderson and Susan J. Smith call for emotions to be taken into account in geography's intervention in policy formation, arguing that the way people feel about their working and daily lives is an important, yet unacknowledged, factor in our understanding of these: 'our concern […] is that as the policy-relevant movement increasingly distances itself from the ostensibly narcissistic extremes of cultural studies, a concept at the heart of the latter, yet (in our view) crucial to the former, will fall by the wayside'.5

More recently, in another key contribution to the field, Nigel Thrift highlights the importance of taking account of affect in a culture in which this is being increasingly manipulated as a political tool.6 Thrift's adoption of the term 'affect' is motivated by a desire to move beyond 'a notion of individualised emotions' (p. 60). His position is informed by theoretical traditions that adopt an '"inhuman" or "transhuman" framework in which individuals are generally understood as effects of the events to which their body parts (broadly understood) respond and in which they participate' (p. 60). Thrift's stance has been criticised by Deborah Thien for returning to a gendered division that relegates emotion to a feminine, and therefore, secondary position: 'the jettisoning of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-0109
Print ISSN
1744-1854
Pages
pp. 283-296
Launched on MUSE
2007-12-03
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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