My dissertation explores print and digital correspondence produced in Québec between 1945-2015, drawing upon theories of psychoanalysis, feminism, deconstruction and genetic criticism to interrogate the epistolary imaginary of contemporary Québec. Each chapter considers a different constellation of texts from diverse bodies of correspondence (including personal correspondence, letter fiction and digital forms of exchange) as they converse across corpuses of epistolary expression and engage with the imaginary of the corporeal. My first chapter, “Post(e) Mélina: Reading After Gabrielle Roy’s Letter(s),” challenges the premise that archival writings are of interest only inasmuch as they precede a published work from which they are excluded, and advocates for genetic and epistolary approaches that read letters ‘beyond the before.’ Through a close reading of the author Gabrielle Roy’s personal and published, fictional and “real” letters side by side, I reflect upon the place and the power of the epistolary form for the author ever since a momentous missive to her mother penned at the start of her career. Chapter two, “When the ‘After’ is ‘Already’: Philosophical Fiction of the Postal,” considers Jacques Derrida’s reading of the epistolary as “le postal”– that is, as open and undecidable, destined in only the most dubious sense, and always already conditioned by the after. Derrida’s La carte postale provides a critical framework for my reading of the epistolary in Québec as it moves from the postcard and the postman to an epistolary afterlife in philosophical letter fiction from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s, especially Madeleine Gagnon’s La lettre infinie and Denis Thériault’s Le facteur émotif. My final chapter, “Yetis and Trolls: The Monstrum horrendum of Epistolary Fetishism,” seizes upon epistolary theorist Vincent Kaufmann’s suggestion that the letter writer is the “yéti de la littérature” (literature’s yeti), and places this fantastic formulation alongside the more recent imagining of the internet mischief-maker as “troll.” I analyze the recourse to the monstrum horrendum of the yeti and the troll in bodies of correspondence from Québec that are beholden to the masculine imaginary of epistolary fetishism.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. SEptember 2016. Major: French. Advisor: Eileen Sivert. 1 computer file (PDF); i, 201 pages.
Bodies of Correspondence in Contemporary Quebec: from Gabrielle Roy to le vrai Gab Roy.
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