Canada and the World / Canada dans le monde
“The people of Canada understand me”: Václav Havel’s Drama of Language on the Canadian Stage
In October 2016 the Czech Republic commemorated the 80th anniversary of the birth of former playwright-turned president Václav Havel, whom the Canadian National Post called “the Czech who unleashed the tides of history.” On the occasion, the public debate reflected surprisingly little upon Havel’s work as a dramatist, and the signification of his plays in the context of international theatre. However, it is, among other places, in Canada where Václav Havel’s dramas and reflections on theatre have found a welcoming home and understanding – implied in his own appreciative remark to Governor General David Johnston after being named an honorary Companion to the Order of Canada in 2004, saying that: “The people of Canada understand me.”
Despite the obvious differences between the cultural contexts of Central Europe and Canada, Havel’s plays, typically formally humble, small-scale dramas evading the standard genre categories, have resonated on Canadian theatre stages with gratifying efficacy, and appealed thanks not only to their complex moral force, but also with their use of language, marked with a sense of dispassionate humour, self-irony and absurdity. The paper proposes to analyse the translations of Havel’s plays by his prominent translator, Canadian Paul Wilson, demonstrate the intricate process of cultural transfer within them, and discuss the impact of their theatre productions upon Canadian audiences, with the aim to identify Havel’s place in Canadian theatre, and his possible influence upon its contemporary characteristics.
Klára Kolinská teaches at the Department of Anglophone Studies of Metropolitan University, Prague, Czech Republic, and at the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures of Charles University, Prague. Her main areas of teaching and research include early and contemporary Canadian fiction, theatre and drama, multiculturalism, and Aboriginal literature and theatre.
Au-delà des « Deux Solitudes » : La Ground Zero Fiction canadienne dans le contexte international
Le Canada a profondément été touché par les événements du 11 septembre 2001, et ce, autant dans les sphères politique et économique que sociale et culturelle. Néanmoins, l’étude des réactions littéraires canadiennes — anglophones et francophones — suite à ce que l’on a surnommé le 9/11, semble avoir été plutôt négligée par la recherche scientifique. Dans une perspective comparative, le but de ma recherche est d’abord de cerner et d’analyser ces réactions littéraires au Canada francophone et anglophone, puis, dans une perspective transnationale, de les comparer à la littérature sur le 11 septembre aux États-Unis. Mon projet prend en considération deux corpus de textes : un premier corpus comprenant les écrits qui ont suivi immédiatement les événements du 11 septembre, puis un deuxième corpus comprenant ceux qui sont parus à partir de 2006 jusqu’à aujourd’hui.
Après une brève présentation du corpus canadien, le but sera d’examiner et de comparer certains éléments dans les productions littéraires québécoises de langue française (entre autre, Roch Carrier et Annie Dulong) et canadiennes de langue anglaise (Margaret Atwood et Shauna Singh Baldwin) en explorant, d’une part, les particularités de la fictionalisation du 9/11, et, de l’autre, la façon dont le trauma collectif (et individuel) lié au 11 septembre est reflété dans la représentation esthétique des œuvres étudiées. La dernière partie de cette analyse aura pour but de situer ces productions littéraires canadiennes dans un cadre plus large : de quelle façon s’inscrivent-elles dans un contexte international, 15 ans après les attentats du onze septembre ?
Diane Bélisle-Wolf: Born in Canada. McGill University, B Ed. Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, M.A., and PhD project: “Literary Reactions to 9/11 in Francophone and Anglophone Canadian and American Literature”, adviser, Univ. Prof. Dr. Alfred Hornung. Other areas of interest: French and Francophone Literature (Quebec), Comparative North American Studies, U.S. – Canada Border Studies. Member Deutsch-Französisches Doktorandenkolleg Mainz-Dijon.
In the Eyes of the Chinese: Translating Canada through Japanese Mediation (1906-1919)
A large body of knowledge about the ‘West’ in modern China was translated from Japanese works into Chinese during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This paper studies the implications of Japanese mediation on the imagined journeys about Canada in two works published in twentieth-century Shanghai. Studying a novel by Jules Verne (1828-1905) and a travelogue by Masaharu Anesaki (1873-1949) in Chinese translation, the author examines how the distorted portrayal of Canada was formed in the Chinese literary space at the expense of ignoring the historical and material reality of Chinese ethnic individuals in Canada in the same era. This paper thus asks: How was “Canada” in Chinese textual culture rendered and affected by Japanese mediation? And how can these multi-cultural minor texts redefine the boundaries of “Canadian literature”?
Jennifer Lau studied English Literature and East Asian Studies as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto (2009) and went on to pursue her Master’s degree at the National Taiwan University in 2010. Following her interest in issues of translation and travel, her dissertation focuses on Chinese and Canadian interactions of the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Canada(s): Diaspora and Hybridity / Diaspora et hybridité
Montréal, carrefour identitaire : hybridité linguistique et culturelle dans les œuvres de Heather O’Neill et d’Alexandre Soublière
Ma présentation consistera en l’analyse des traces linguistiques de l’identité montréalaise hybride dans les romans de deux auteurs montréalais contemporains : le francophone Alexandre Soublière (Amanita Virosa, 2016) et l’anglophone Heather O’Neill (The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, 2014). Tous deux font fréquemment appel aux ressources de leur deuxième langue pour exprimer une identité complexe et métissée qui repose sur les rapports entre l’anglais et le français à Montréal. Ma présentation montrera comment, en faisant recours à une langue hybride, les deux auteurs offrent une représentation de la réalité identitaire montréalaise actuelle et proposent un rapprochement des soi-disant solitudes canadiennes en juxtaposant l’anglais et le français. Mon analyse aura pour assises théoriques les écrits de Homi Bhabha sur l’hybridité culturelle (1994), ceux de Sherry Simon sur la ville de Montréal (2006), ainsi que l’ouvrage de Catherine Leclerc, Des langues en partage : Cohabitation du français et de l’anglais en littérature contemporaine (2010).
Étudiante en littérature comparée à l’Université de Toronto, Arianne Des Rochers détient un baccalauréat en traduction de l’Université Concordia et une maîtrise en traduction littéraire de l’Université d’Ottawa. Elle s’intéresse au métissage linguistique en littérature ainsi qu’à la façon dont il apparaît en traduction.
At the Cusp of a Literary Revolution: “Vlogging” and the Canadian Diasporic Experience
Youtube performer Lilly Singh’s “vlogs” are short, humorous videos in which she explores the highs and lows of her daily experience as a South-Asian Canadian diasporic subject in Toronto. My paper uses these virtual literary objects as entry points into broader questions of identity, belonging, and the impact of technology on contemporary human experience. From a narrative point of view, Singh’s videos consist of three distinct roles (Singh herself, her mother and her father); however, the visual and auditory dimensions of the media make it clear that the person enacting them is one and the same. What is the significance of Singh’s use of the same person (herself) to enact the daily life of a first-generation Torontonian, as well as that of her immigrant parents from Punjab? How do these “vlogs” complicate South Asian-Canadian diasporic experience in a way unique to the medium? In what ways can we think of Singh’s performance as nourishing new conceptualizations of the “accent” as a way of problematizing linguistic belonging? How do considerations of gender, sexuality, religion and race intersect within these works, especially when juxtaposed to other South Asian-Canadian “vlogs” in the same vein, for example those by vloggers Sham Idrees and Zaid Ali? How does the distinct experience of time and space inherent to the social-media diffused video, compounded by Singh’s seamless context- and code-switching, create a narrative that (aspires to) belongs to multiple words at once but suffers none of the limits imposed upon each of them individually?
Nikhita Obeegadoo is a doctoral student in French in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. Her research focuses on contemporary diaspora and migration, theories of hybridity and interculturality, and the digital humanities. She holds a B.S in Computer Science and a B.A in Comparative Literature from Stanford University.
Canada as Kanata: Indigeneity and Decolonization
Absent Indian: Revisiting Asian-Indigenous Relations
Rita Wong’s 2008 essay, “Decolonizasian,” raises the possibility of reading Canadian literature for decolonial alliances between Indigenous peoples and those marked as Asian Canadian. More recently, Larissa Lai has theorized this approach as “epistemologies of respect,” which aim to restore balance to relationships between peoples and with the land. Both writers draw on the example of relationships between Chinese Canadian characters and the Indigenous woman narrator of “Yin Chin,” a short story by Stó:lō author Lee Maracle. Neither, however, examines the moment in the story when the narrator is misrecognized as a South Asian woman. I will take up this moment of misrecognition to explore what emerging conversations about Asian-Indigenous relations might gain through attention to South Asian and South Asian Canadian histories. Alongside “Yin Chin,” I will read descriptions of South Asian spices and Indian buffets in Birdie, the first novel of Cree writer Tracey Lindberg. My reading of these two texts will foreground their allusions to the intertwined origins of colonial rule in South Asia and the land we know as Canada, a history underlying the use of “Indian” as a legal category in Canada. In the context of renewed calls for Canada to reckon with its enduring colonial realities, I will consider what it might look like to read Asian-Indigenous relations transnationally, beyond the boundaries of the Canadian nation-state.
Rusaba Alam is an M.A. candidate in English at the University of British Columbia. She completed her B.A. at Victoria College (University of Toronto).
E. Pauline Johnson’s “Canada”
E. Pauline Johnson, born shortly before Canadian Confederation in 1861 in Ontario, performed onstage throughout Canada and the United Kingdom for many years as Tekahionwake. Her mother was English, and her father a Mohawk chief; as such, Johnson was qualified for neither Mohawk status nor English citizenship. Johnson’s poetry, where she skilfully employed classical European techniques to depict rural Canadian and Indigenous experiences, was successful both onstage and in print. On stage, Johnson would transform from the epitome of a fashionable Victorian lady to a buckskin-wearing poet while her audiences revelled in the display. Her poetry enabled her to achieve fiscal stability for her family, and valuable political connections. The “Canadian” space(s) of Johnson’s poetry and performance encompass violence and beauty. I will be considering questions of “Canadian-ness” vis-à-vis Johnson’s legal status and publishing status, given that the term “Canadian” in itself tends to obscure colonial history.
Arathana Bowes, born in Alberta and raised in Nova Scotia, is a Ph.D. candidate studying at the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto. Devoted to studies of 18th-century literature, specifically J.G. Herder’s writings, Arathana enjoys reading in English, German, Spanish, and attempting to read in other languages.
“Moi, femme innue”: Indigenous Women Writing in Quebec
Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux states: “For generations, First Nations women’s voices were silenced in historical narratives that sidestepped their influence and power. Today, First Nations women are increasingly using their voice to reclaim lost stories and narratives” (2009, 20). Settler scholar Sarah Henzi supports this vision by pointing out that “the last fifteen years have seen an artistic and literary surge, and Aboriginal women have been at the forefront, maintaining storytelling traditions while providing the necessary ‘update’ to engage in dialogue with the contemporary world” (2015, 87). This presentation seeks to explore how Indigenous women writers in Quebec use literary writing not only as a strategy of resistance against ongoing forms of colonialism and the inherent patriarchal structures, but more importantly as a strategy of empowerment of Indigenous women and communities/nations. In light of the double marginalization of Indigenous women in Canada and the ongoing inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, it focuses on representations of the female Indigenous body, identity, and land in order to unveil the connection between violence against Indigenous women, land grabbing, and misogynistic settler colonialism. Works that will be studied include An Antane Kapesh’s Eukuan nin matshimanitu innu-iskueu / Je suis une maudite Sauvagesse (1975), Natasha Kanapé Fontaine’s Manifeste Assi (2014), and Manon Nolin’s Ma peau aime le Nord (2016). Academic perspectives of female Indigenous scholars will be foregrounded in order to ethically engage these texts, to highlight Indigenous methodologies, and to reflect the shift towards anti-oppressive, decolonizing research methods.
Jessica Janssen is a PhD candidate in Comparative Canadian Literature at Université de Sherbrooke. Her project “Language, Body, and Land: Indigenous Women Writers in Quebec” involves a detailed comparative study of contemporary Indigenous women’s literature in Quebec through the critical interpretation of spoken, written, and visual texts in dialogue with theories of Indigenous feminism and decolonization.
Adolescent Goals and Protests: The Role of Canadian Regionalism in a Coming-of-Age Drama New Waterford Girl
In my presentation on Adolescent Goals and Protests and the Role of Canadian Regionalism in a Coming-of-Age Drama New Waterford Girl I strive to produce a nuanced and compelling account on the relationship between the fluctuating notion of Canadian identity and the turbulent stage of adolescence. To support my discussion I will be relying primarily on Frye, Rummens, Leach and Kaye’s arguments, as well as the themes that director Allan Moyle explored in the film itself. Although the narrative of this fifteen year old protagonist Mooney is quite conventional for most North American audiences, namely a small-town girl wishing to pursue a career in New York against her family’s wishes, I hope to highlight its uniqueness that pertains to the Maritimes environment. The role of the marine landscape is crucial not only to the film’s general setting and mise-en-scene, but to the discourse of Canadian regional identity politics as discussed by Alexander Macleod. In this presentation I will be aiming at exposing new perspectives on individual and collective experiences in this Nova-Scotian community, as depicted in the film, rather than attempting to compare it with similar American productions. Finally, although the film was released eighteen years ago in 1999, I hope to generate insightful points on Canadian regionalism relevant today in both cinematic and other cultural texts.
Lola Borissenko is a fourth year student Double-Majoring in Cinema studies and English and Minoring in History. Her scholarly passions constitute an interest in post-modernism, 20th Century World History and the role of formal structure in literary and cinematic texts. She also plays tennis on the Varsity Blues team and enjoys painting.
Identity Creation in the Age of Political Expediency: Muslim, Canadian, or Muslim Canadian?
In 1965, the Muslim Students’ Association at the University of Toronto was the first MSA established in Canada. Growing to serve over 4000 students and community members around the city, it is the largest and most active student club on campus. Half a century later, MSAs provide an alternative social scene at almost every major university across the country, fostering a community of active and educated youth, while acting as the bedrock for further activism within the Muslim community.
At the intersection of spirituality and civic engagement, academia and entertainment, MSAs seek to foster a sense of belonging for students who identify as Muslim and Canadian. Bridging the divide between political body and individual experience, these organizations protect, encourage, de-politicize, and humanize the Muslim presence on university campuses, and through their alumni, within the larger Canadian context.
This paper seeks to unpack the complexities of immigration, diaspora, language barrier, and political trauma within the fabric of the Muslim community through MSAs, and the ways in which Canadian spaces, safe though they may be, pose the same threat to Muslims as Portia and the Venetian judicial system did to Shylock: to see them as “alien/that by direct, or indirect, attempts [seek] the life of any citizen” (4.1.345-347). By analyzing socio-political landscape in “The Merchant of Venice,” we seek to underline the various factors that created the anger that exudes Shylock’s character and point to a larger and more cyclical pattern of victimhood and political subjugation portrayed as divinely justified punishment. Through these avenues we strive to create a platform to discuss the same patters of socio-political manipulation and subjugation to separate and other the Muslim body and discuss the ways in which Muslim social groups strive to normalize themselves. We ask three questions: When do Muslims cease to be politicized others? When do Canadian citizens of the Muslim faith become Canadian first? What role do MSAs play in that endeavour?
Amina Mohamed is a Muslim writer, poet and researcher investigating the ties between political terminology and subsequent individual identity creation.
A Sorry State
My discussion of the “Canadian Sorry” pertains to the (ab)use of the word “sorry” as a sort of shibboleth vital to the consolidation of Canadian identity. After considering its features, ironies, impasses, and so on, I consider the unapologetic and the apologized-to: indigenous Canadians, as well as what I term “the inconvenient immigrant” with reference to the work of Rawi Hage. I explicate the work of Derrida (Avouer – l’impossible; On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness) and Rebecca Comay (“Terrors of the Tabula Rasa” in Mourning Sickness) on the (im)possibility of forgiveness and the Nachträglichkeit of apology. I examine several essays by Barbara Cassin in her book Sophistical Practice which discuss stasis and her work on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and discuss the relation and parallels between South African apartheid and the Canadian Native Reserve system. I return to Patrick Wolfe and critique Erin Manning’s book Ephemeral Territories as paradigmatic of liberal ideology (with recourse to Zizek). I then move to a discussion of Glen Coulthard’s Red Skin, White Masks, and the ongoing debate between Barbara Cassin and Alain Badiou. I question Badiou’s diminution of evental status of the Oka Crisis in his book Being and Event II: Logics of Worlds, and suggest that indigenous resurgence in Canada constitutes an event. I conclude by suggesting that if the event makes the impossible possible then it it may suggest the (im)possibility of reconciliation lies in the end of Canada.
Taylor Ableman is an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, specializing in Literature and Critical Theory and majoring in Philosophy.
Performing (in) Canada
Can an insistent act of “quixotism” build public sphere?: Tony Nardi’s “Two Letters… And Counting!”
In my paper I will analyze Tony Nardi’s critique of Canadian culture industry through his series of performances, which he acted live from 2005 to 2012. His performances found stages in Toronto and Montreal and he evolved the text through Q&A sessions that took place after each performance. Content of the performance was withdrawn from the real cases that offended Nardi as a professional actor in Canada. He actually wrote these letters to the people who offended him, but since he can got no answer back, he decided to make the issues public. The first letter he wrote is directed towards a middle-person who is offering an offensive Italian role to Nardi; the other to the art critique who wrote a criticism for a Comedia dell’Arte play staged in Toronto, who picked up the only actress who knew what she was doing to label as “unrealistic” (when Comedia dell’Arte and realism can only be an oxymoron). Finally the third letter is written to the bureaucrats who hold (and distribute) the arts’ funding resources in Canada. Performance of the letters are stylized as semi-reading, semi-acting that has the gist of slam poetry/spoken poetry. In my paper I will look deeper into how Nardi’s work created a public and how this public engaged (or disengaged) with the letters based on the analysis of some of the debates that are documented in the printed version of “Two Letters… And Counting!”.
Deniz Başar is a doctoral student at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies. She has a Master’s Degree in Modern Turkish History from Boğaziçi University with her graduation thesis named “Performative Publicness: Alternative Theater in Turkey After 2000s”, and she had her Bachelor’s Degree in Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Urban Planning.
Besides Experience: Affinity & Maternity
Besides Experience: Affinity & Maternity is a poetic performance in which I reflect on two notions of what I call “unexperienced belonging” (a term which gives experience back to what’s unexperienced through the phantasmatic channels of cinematically mediated belonging). This performance works alongside two films: What Time Is It There? by the Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai-Ming Liang and Mommy by the Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan. It first writes through the difficult passage of ostensibly “being” Chinese-Canadian—my unchosen identity—while becoming, through the fascination of spectatorship, Taiwanese-Quebecois—a hyphenation with which I can hold an affinity without the burden of identity. Secondly, the performance sits with the scenes of motherhood depicted on screen. Without getting too Freudian about it, it suggests that, for the son, being-with the mother always means a transposition of mother onto child. What the performance will be fixated upon is how the son translates the mother’s behaviours—habits, vices, neuroses—into his own idiom by reading a scene from What Time Is It There? in which the son and mother argue over superstitions of ghosts and a scene form Mommy in which son and mother argue over the son’s delinquency alongside the endings of both films, in which mother and son merge into one another through cinematic palimpsest. I will be drawing on theories of queer motherhood by Roland Barthes and his critics. Against the notion of an essence of “Canadian-ness,” I will posit “being Canadian” as a contingent adjacency that follows from both affinity and maternity.
Fan Wu is a translator, workshop facilitator, poet, an academic with one eyebrow raised, and a whirling dervish. He lives somewhere between Toronto and the ship of dreams full of rosy-cheeked seamen in Jean Genet’s Querelle.
“Contributing to Canadians’ understanding of themselves”: Imperial Oil’s Newcomers and the national narrative
To mark its centennial anniversary in 1980, Imperial Oil commissioned a series of short stories by prominent Canadian literary figures to be featured in a national project titled The Newcomers: Inhabiting A New Land. Newcomers was primarily a CBC miniseries and a book published by McClelland and Stewart, but it was also a ballet by the National Ballet of Canada, and a series of accompanying classroom guides, instructing teachers on how to best incorporate the stories in their curriculums.
In this paper I examine the story of Canada contained within the many bodies of the Newcomers text. But in addition, I investigate the story Imperial Oil is telling about itself and Canada by creating this sweeping project.
Surrounding the Canadian centennial and its own 100 year anniversary, Imperial Oil spent an enormous amount of time and money telling stories about land and people in Canada. Imperial Oil’s stories are opportunities for corporate ideologies to be considered amongst the varieties of literature set forth when we discuss Canadian narratives. These stories complicate the soundscape of Canadian voices by being spoken by a corporate citizen. With the Newcomers miniseries and book, as well as archival documents collected at the Glenbow Archives in Calgary, this paper investigates the values and boundaries of the Canadian national narrative when oil culture speaks for multiculturalism.
Judith Ellen Brunton is a PhD student at the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto and co-facilitator of the Jackman Humanities Institute working group Imagining and Inhabiting Resource Landscapes. Her doctoral work focuses on Alberta’s oil public and the moral category of “the good life”.
“They think it’s their game”: Hockey as Canadian Nationalism and Reconciliation in Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse
Michael Buma writes that “hockey works to unite, but we need to recognize that it also works to divide” (Refereeing Identity 38), and in his novel, Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese explores the problems of hockey as Canadian identity, and how this identity often excludes the indigenous from the Anglo-Canadian. Richard Wagamese uses hockey as a central metaphor in his novel to examine who is included and excluded in the hegemony of Canadian national identity. Moreover, Wagamese not only establishes the ideological split of indigeneity outside of the Canadian identity, but he also proposes an alternative notion of reconciliation between indigenous and Anglo-Canadian cultures that moves away from ideas of victimhood and instead focuses on the self and community engagement within the indigenous culture. The novel posits that hockey should be an inclusive community for sharing, creativity, and joy; but that the community of the game is threatened when politics and unnecessary competition become involved. Wagamese illustrates the historic break between indigenous and settler communities, and through the Canadian symbol of hockey presents both the dangers of a settler mentality as well as the redemptive nature of the game when it is apolitical and lead by notions of play rather than sport; this is reflective of a potential reconciliation Wagamese presents between Canada and indigenous cultures.
Jamieson Ryan is a Ph.D candidate at Queen’s University, where he is studying North American Contemporary Literature. His research interests include: Canadian literature, hockey, masculinity, trauma, and bereavement.