A Feminine Context in Quebecois Poetry:
Rina Lasnier, Anne Hebert and Celyne Fortin
Caroline A. LeBlanc

INTRODUCTION: The poetry of French Canada—more specifically Quebec—is a dark poetry full of white and snow and cold; of the deprivation and despair, anger and nationalist longing of people historically oppressed by the Roman Catholic church of their ancestors and the state organ and population of their English conquerors. From 1608, New France, including Acadia and Quebec, was settled. Their mother country neglected them and finally forfeited the provinces to England in 1863. By then, third generation colonials populated the province (Jack, 59). In his 1970 anthology, The Poetry of French Canada in Translation, John Glassco writes that “the poetry of French Canada is a poetry of exile—from France and North America alike….[T]he note of desertion, of nostalgia, of the dépayé [displacement]…forms …a ground-bass to themes of avoidance, retreat and escape.” Glassco describes the population as proud and conservative, religious and restless, sentimental and neurotic. French Canada’s poets, “rather than her religious and political leaders have always been the true spokesmen of her reality.” The “uniformity [of] her literary attitudes” grows out of “the defensive armour generally assumed by people whose normal evolution has been checked and stifled…Nature, the Self and Death [are] the three constant sources of poetic inspiration (xvii-iii).” The history of French-Canadian literature is pocked with conflict over what constitutes the “appropriate language…in which to write a national literature,” the debate over centuries gravitating toward the central magnet of Quebec City and later, the Quebec dialect of Joual. As Jack notes, “contemporary writing… [celebrates] language(s) and [is] playfully self-conscious in terms of register” (58). French-Canadian literature was subject to severe censorship until the twentieth century and, as Jack observes, “the practical utility …of the writing…discouraged experimentation… [and] encouraged orthodoxy.” The two poets who were exceptions were both “exiled from Quebec society (one abroad and the other in a mental institution)” (72). The succes de scandale of Refus global—a 1948 manifesto by “Paul-Emile Borduas and fifteen co-signatories—is now referred to …as the single event marking the beginning of ‘modern’ Quebec (Jack 61).”

To read the entire paper, please go to the following link:


Do not reproduce without the permission of the author:
©Caroline A. LeBlanc

Caroline A LeBlanc, MS, RN
Candidate, MFA, Creative Writing
Wilderness Heart Workshops
Adams, NY 13605
"Caroline LeBlanc"