Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Body image/s: Representations of the body in the novel of French Canada and Quebec

Susan Katherine Kevra, University of Massachusetts Amherst


More than poetry and theatre which were traditionally designed for public presentation, the novel is meant for private consumption by a solitary reader. It is also concerned with the stuff of private life, taking the reader to intimate settings, behind closed doors where unclothed or partially clothed bodies are revealed. The novel exposes the privileged space of the boudoir, the deathbed, the bath and the toilet, where scenes of passion, physical suffering, birth and death are played out. Quebec literature, and the novel, in particular, present an interesting site for a corporeally based study because of patriotic and religious roots of this literature. Is the body a taboo subject? When does it emerge as a central concern? It would seem logical to assume that the development of realism would bring with it an increased concern for the body. Indeed, if we look at the writings of nineteenth century early Quebec literature through the post-Quiet Revolution writings of Michel Tremblay, one might argue for a kind of literary striptease across two centuries in which more and more of the body is exposed as yet another layer of inhibitions is lifted. This is not to suggest that the aim of any national literature is titillation, but that a discussion of the body has at its core the ultimate question of identity. Beginning with Angeline de Montbrun (1881), which contains at its dramatic core the staging of a vital corporeal scene, I will demonstrate how Marie Calumet (1904), Bonheur d'occasion (1945), Une saison dans la vie d'Emmanuel (1965) and La Grosse femme d'a cote est enceinte (1978) depict different moments in the constitution of the body in its movement from object to subject. The variety of approaches I adopt for getting at the body, through discussions of food, clothing, sickness and pregnancy, speak to the body's amazing mutability and its particular usefulness as a means for understanding the novel of French Canada and Quebec.

Subject Area

French Canadian literature

Recommended Citation

Kevra, Susan Katherine, "Body image/s: Representations of the body in the novel of French Canada and Quebec" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9841884.