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Aesthetic violence : the victimisation of women in the Quebec novel

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Title: Aesthetic violence : the victimisation of women in the Quebec novel
Author: Tilley, Jane Lucinda
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program French
Copyright Date: 1995
Abstract: The latent (androcentric) eroticism of rape has been exploited in Western culture, from mythology through to a contemporary entertainment industry founded on a cultural predilection for the representation of violence against women. In literature the figure of Woman as Victim has evolved according to shifting fashions and (male) desires until, in contemporary avant-garde writings, themes of sexual violence perform an intrinsic role in sophisticated textual praxis, Woman’s body becoming the playground for male artistic expression and textual experimentation. These themes are encoded in particular ways in Québec literature, where for many years the saintly Mother-figure served as both valorising icon and sacrificial victim of the conservative, messianic refuge values adopted following colonisation. The tacit matricide of the ideological literature is replaced, however, in the textually and linguistically subversive novels of the “quiet revolutionary” period by more explicit patterns of violence. Here, in place of quietly fading Mothers, female characters die screaming, victims of overt, sexual abuse at the hands of their male counterparts. Now frequently presented as voracious, oppressive and castrating, Woman must be destroyed if the “emasculated”, colonised male is to be liberated and become a “Man” once again. The relationship between colonisation and (sexual) violence is explicitly addressed in three novels of the period. Victor-Levy Beaulieu’s Un rêve québécois offers a model for the study of this connection, as the “shattering” of the text is reflected in the frenzy of frustration and sadistic (fantasised) violence directed at the unsympathetic, provocative wife of a colonised protagonist. Hubert Aquin’s L’Antiphonaire expands on the textual/sexual parallel, eroding the distinction between the body of the female protagonist/narrator and “her” text, as both are subject to repeated “violations”. Both novels subvert “realist” conceptualisations of time, identity, order etc., but rely on the continued and graphic victimisation of Woman to convey both a political and an aesthetic message. Marie-Claire Blais’s Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel, subverts the roman de la terre, exposing its ideology as the perpetuation of a cycle of implicit violence and victimisation, in which the ostensibly powerful and valorising Mother is the primary victim.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/7482
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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