Literary Periodicals in French | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Literary Periodicals in French

Periodicals have always played a leading role in the dissemination and development of Québec literature. In the 19th century, when books were rare, the contributors to periodicals affirmed the need to lay the foundations of a literary identity.

Literary Periodicals in French

Periodicals have always played a leading role in the dissemination and development of Québec literature. In the 19th century, when books were rare, the contributors to periodicals affirmed the need to lay the foundations of a literary identity. Originally patriotic in outlook, the periodicals that coincided with the "Literary Movement of 1860" ( LES SOIRÉES CANADIENNES, 1861-65, Le Foyer canadien, 1863-66 and Nouvelles soirées canadiennes, 1882-88) encouraged the publication of legends and short stories drawn from popular culture, as well as historical facts that had to be rescued from oblivion. L'Opinion publique (1870-83), Le Monde illustré or L'Album universel (1884-1907) and Revue canadienne (1864-1922), despite their more diversified content, expanded this concept of an essentially traditionalist and folkloric literature.

Early 20th-century writers preferred to approach the problem of national literature as a choice between regionalism and universalism. Despite their brief existence, Le Terroir (fd 1909), whose contributors were members of the École littéraire de Montréal, and LE NIGOG (fd 1918) were the 2 poles of a debate waged later by essayists and pamphleteers on the theme of the language of writing. Periodicals such as Idées (1935-39), LA RELÈVE (1934-41) and its successor, La Nouvelle Relève (1941-48), and Gants du ciel (1943-46) sought to stimulate the mind and arouse a spiritual and humanistic renewal. Far from being folkloric, the literary works of La Relève's contributors focused on an expression of the self, the psyche and the spiritual problems that affect modern life. AMÉRIQUE FRANÇAISE (1941-63) extended these reflections by posing the problem facing those who have both French and American backgrounds.

More political than literary, CITÉ LIBRE (1950-66, revived 1998) also had an effect on the ideological climate in which the literature of the 1950s evolved. Opposed to the pervasive conservative trend, contributors encouraged internationalism. This group soon became a target of those writing for PARTI PRIS (1963-68), a political and cultural periodical with 3 objectives: independence, socialism and secularism for Québec. Parti pris gave nationalism a leftist stance and articulated the relationship between the literary and the political. LIBERTÉ (fd 1959) debates current issues ranging from cultural fatigue to the language battle, from cultural policies to literary institutions. Although it has published articles by foreign authors, Liberté gives prominence to young Québec writers, who have often had their first works published there. After a few years, Liberté changed its editorial board and found a new dynamic spirit fueled by concern, humour and vigilant criticism.

While Parti pris countered Cité libre and supported the leftist Liberté, LA BARRE DU JOUR (1965-76) and La Nouvelle Barre du jour (fd 1977) broke with the strictly social concept of literature: the writer is no longer the measure of society's pain. In tune with his own instincts, he translates a writing in gestation in which one sees the encoded writing of modern times - halfway between literary theory and fiction, where even theory becomes fiction and is considered fictitious. Hence an inevitable formalism.

Herbes rouges (fd 1968) chose to publish only one author in each issue. Here, too, there was talk of the materiality of the text as the setting for questioning and strategy. The texts of Herbes rouges are generally more provocative than those of La Barre du jour. Everything is material for prose and poetry, from publicity to comics, from social discourse to political conscience. In another vein, Estuaire (fd 1976) publishes young writers' poetry. The journal at first highlighted the poetry of oral expression, of proclamation, of sharing. This initial orientation was gradually replaced by more diversified poetry which still sought a level of readability.

Between 1960 and 1980 other periodicals had a fairly ephemeral existence. They included Maintenant (1962-75), which published a number of manifestos on Québec language and condition, Mainmise (1970-78), a voice of the counterculture originating in the US, Presqu'Amérique (1970-73), torn between different intellectual attachments, and the Marxist Chroniques (1975-78) and Stratégie (1972-77). Les Têtes de pioche (1976-79) was in the vanguard of radical feminism in Québec.

There are a number of useful surveys of current Québec literary journalism: Livres et Auteurs québécois (1961-82), an annual collection of reviews of Québec's literary production; Lettres québécoises (fd 1976), a systematic review of current publications; and Spirale (fd 1979), a periodical of literary criticism that tries to fight clichés and received ideas. In theatre, the excellent Jeu (fd 1976) links theory and practice, carefully examines productions, interviews troupes and reports on theatrical activity in Québec.

The many university reviews generally devote each issue to the study of a theme or a writer. This is true of Études littéraires at Laval and Études françaises at the Université de Montréal. Voix et images du pays, published by the Presses de l'université du Québec, is the only journal devoted solely to Québec. In Sherbrooke, Ellipse publishes works in translation, while Présence francophone reports on activities in various French-speaking countries. In Ottawa, Incidences and the University of Ottawa Quarterly discuss literary issues.

The most recent journals include Dérives (fd 1975), Possibles (fd 1976), Intervention (fd 1978), Le Temps fou (1978-83) and La Vie en rose (fd 1980). All favour opening up every field of cultural activity and anti-dogmatism. These periodicals integrate creation within a global view of society and question new cultural practices based on co-operative, self-managed and feminist movements. Three of the newer library journals include Arcade (fd 1982), Dixit. 01 (fd 1984) and XYZ (fd 1985). Two are devoted to science fiction: Solaris (fd 1974 as Requiem) and Imagine (fd 1979).

Analysis of cultural periodicals thus reveals a number of co-existing currents struggling for symbolic recognition, whereas Québec's literary history has accustomed us to seeing only one group dominate in any single period. Breaks with established trends are less violent than in the days of the REFUS GLOBAL and Parti pris. Writers no longer oppose, simply transpose and transgress.