’Urbs, ’urb girls and Martine Delvaux’s Rose amer
This article considers representations of exurban spaces in Martine Delvaux’s Rose amer (2009), positioning it in relation to a broader take-up of “regional” spaces in Québec fiction. It argues that Delvaux’s novel is prescient in its blurring of distinct spatial categories. Examining how Rose amer parallels setting and characters, the article argues that it offers an intervention in the politics of memorialization. This is achieved through a focus on the standardized and reproducible, so that the vernacular domestic geographies featured within the novel become everyday monuments to the violence which is daily perpetrated against girls and women.
Novelist, essayist, and public intellectual, Martine Delvaux is known for her literary and theoretical engagement with feminism. Not surprisingly, critics tend to focus on the identity politics within her work (Montpetit 2009; Tardif 2017). However, the author is an evocative place-writer. As Chantal Guy points out in a review of Les Cascadeurs de l’amour n’ont pas droit au doublage (Delvaux 2012a), “les lieux, dans les romans de Martine Delvaux […], sont importants” (Guy 2012). In this article, I shall examine how gender and literary geographies come together to particular effect in Delvaux’s Rose amer (Delvaux 2009a), translated into English by David Homel as Bitter Rose (2015a). The novel traces the social mores of white- and blue-collar Québec and Franco-Ontario during the 1970s and 1980s. Its taking up of themes like single-motherhood, domestic labor, and sexual violence is combined with a depiction of everyday middle- and lower-middle-class life in accommodation such as the bungalow and row house. Rose amer can be positioned in relation to broader trends in French-language fiction from Québec, in that, with the exception of the opening section, it is set outside Montréal. The city has tended to dominate Québec prose writing in both of the province’s majority languages since the 1940s, especially since the nationalist assertion of the 1960s known as the Quiet Revolution. However, the last 20 years have seen a growing body of new regional writing in French.
In what follows, I propose that the settings of significant parts of Rose amer can be read as inscriptions of what I term “’urb-anization.” As outlined in the introduction to this dossier, ’urbanization is fostered by global communications technologies and the expansion of housing forms in locations which are not quite rural and not quite urban, but various combinations of both. In claiming that Delvaux’s novel mediates this phenomenon, I demonstrate how places within Rose amer have their parallels in fictional characters. Drawing on Delvaux’s concept of “les filles en série” (Delvaux 2013), I argue that the girls in the novel function as individuals and a collective: given identities of their own, they can nevertheless seem to merge into one. Similarly, the village and suburb are distinctive and everyplaces, offering a model of ’urban life which carries an affective charge like those found in other examples of Québec culture of the period, such as Arcade Fire’s smash nostalgia-fest, The Suburbs (2010). There is a tension in Rose amer, however, between affection and an unease at the gendered violence tacitly underlying everyday routines, which ensures that girls are out of place within the domestic landscapes they inhabit. As a consequence, these landscapes become not only emblems of particular moments in North American housing developments, but also monuments to girls’ and women’s unseen pain.
|Acceptance Date||Aug 16, 2019|
|Publication Date||Dec 1, 2019|
|Publisher||Liverpool University Press|
Urb girls 2019.docx
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