Welcome to Lux Lingua's blog! Come read about my thoughts on language, writing, literature, its translation and being an ABD PhD candidate in the English department of a huge French-language university situated in Montreal, Quebec, Canada's only French province.

What is Anglo-Québécois Literature? (WASM talk)

The Women's Art Society of Montreal , an institution that has been around since 1894, honoured me with an invitation to come and speak to their members and the public at large about a topic very dear to my heart, Anglo-Québécois literature. I had the privilege to outline the topic and discuss its impact on Québécois literature today to a wonderful and welcoming crowd.

Promise held, here are a few links to several publishers, groups, authors, associations, posts, videos and events that I mentioned during my talk.

Sherry Simon and her books Translating Montreal. Episodes in the Life of a Divided City and Cities in Translation: Intersections of Language and Memory

"Pre-Anglo-Québécois" authors mentioned were:

  • A. M. Klein (The Rocking Chair Collection)
  • Mavis Gallant (Montreal Stories)
  • Gwethelyn Graham (Earth and High Heaven)
  • Hugh MacLennan (Two Solitudes)
  • F. R. Scott (and his conversation with Anne Hébert about his translation of her poem Le tombeau des rois)

The Flow of Languages, the Grace of Cultures .. and although this talk was given back in 2010, it is still relevant.

In this article, Neil Smith gives us a humorous look at translation in Quebec : Translating Montreal: Where Blueberries are not Myrtilles

Quebec publishing houses translating Anglo-Québécois works, among other English-language works originating in the rest of Canada.

Alto is a publisher worth looking into as it has published many translated works. Here are just the latest.

And here is the link to Mordecai Richler published by Boréal

Alto and Marchand de feuilles are two French-language Quebec publishers. Many Anglo-Québécois authors have their books published in Toronto as English-language publishers in Quebec are not large outfits. One that was mentioned (in the short video of Guillaume Morissette) is Vehicule Press. It has been around since 1973, and today is run by poet Simon Dardick and Archivist Emerita Nancy Marrelli.

Part of the publishing English-language puzzle is the Association of English-language Publishers of Quebec, an organization that "advances the publication, distribution, and promotion of English-language books from Quebec." They also publish the Montreal Review of Books, "a free, nationally distributed journal of reviews, features, and essays on English-language books by Quebec writers and publishers." English-language publishers in Quebec, a topic that merits further study and discussion.

Another important subject I did not have time to broach is about the translators themselves... do not forget to look at who is translating these Anglo-Québécois authors. Most are Québécois authors in their own right.

The Blue Metropolis Festival will be going on from April 20 to 29 this year. Here is this year's program

The Quebec Writers' Federation is an important institutional organisation that not only helps out English-language authors but also creates and funds a number of community programs, events and workshops involving literature. Their yearly literary awards have been around for decades.

The English Language Arts Network "connects, supports, and creates opportunities for Quebec’s English-speaking artists and arts communities."

The Quebec Drama Federation is Anglophone theatre's version of the QWF.

Don't hesitate to comment if I have forgotten to mention anything. All quoted passages are not my own words and come from the related linked websites.

Enjoy!

 


A New Journal Specialized in Translation and Interpreting!

Transletters. International Journal of Translation and Interpreting is a brand spanking new journal that is looking for submissions for its first issue. Deadline is April 30, 2018. María del Mar Ogea from the Universidad de Córdoba and Christiane Nord from Universität Heidelberg are its chief editors, and its advisory board is full of linguistics and translation studies super stars. Don't miss this opportunity to appear in their first issue.


Middle Density of a PhD Thesis

  Skyline 008

How thick should the middle be? Thickness in terms of pages is not the issue here. Thickness in terms of time is my problem. I feel like I'm wading in a forever ocean, with no shoreline in site. And I hate it. 

I have the perfect office, the perfect computer set-up, the best window, the most time ever... and it's all at a stand still. But isn't that typical?

I keep pushing the work sideways in the name of "errands", "children" and such. Can you imagine? 

Analyzing my texts. Now on 148. By Friday, I want to be on 200.

 


Re-inventing the Wheel

Beijing

From the top of my very short blogging soap box, I tooted my horn yesterday. But what was perhaps less clear was the lack of original thought behind my rant. I am not alone in thinking the agrandisement of CanLit’s purview necessary, nor am I one of the first to think of it.

Thinkers and researchers like Smaro Kamboureli, who have tirelessly pushed this literature beyond its own frontiers, hemispheric researchers like Winfried Siemerling, global connectors of the likes of Michael Cronin, all strive to look outward, rather than inward, to define literature. Those are the footsteps into which I insert my own awkward feet.

The translation studies researcher in me adds a keen sensitivity to language, and its transfer, use, and misuse. A bit like a linguist, I like to follow the path of works, see where their surprising circulation leads. And this leads me to national, linguistic, cultural and sociological barriers and frontiers of literature that erect themselves naturally in front of certain literary scholars who sometimes do not see past them (or see them at all, for that matter). This is conceivably where I differ from several CanLit scholars, I bring the translatory dimension to literary works, in their textual existence, and their circulatory existence, as published works.

Two dimensions — the text and what happens to the text once it is published. The connection between these two dimensions is not one made off the cuff. Researchers like John Guillory make that amply clear. Canonization has nothing to do with the intrinsic nature of the text. So what is it about the text that “speaks” to the instances that canonize them, and why do we follow them like sheep? The connection between text, translation and circulation, how is it forged? A triangulation to be investigated within the confines of CanLit. How does one end of the triangle shed light on the other? Is there any rhyme of reason to the connections?

 

 


CanLit.

CanLit_books

Canadian literature is wide, large and extremely beautiful when inclusiveness is the word of order. It is composed of different languages, many of them indigenous. It is open to a wide variety of influences, often contradictory. And it is understudied.

I am not interested in going down that path, the one of why it isn’t taken as seriously as other major literatures, at least not now. Others before me have gone this route, brandishing various very thought provoking reasons, not the least being our lack of a strong (global/national?) identity. It is this ceaseless inward looking eye that bothers me, the need to streamline, categorize, catalogue and label works, so that they fit in a very narrow understanding of what constitutes CanLit. (What a great abbreviation, just think about it: “can” like the verb, a literature that “can.”)

I consider any work that is produced by anyone who has at one point in time identified with, was born, lived, touched or died on Canadian soil, to be a part of CanLit. Indigenous productions, Québécois literature, being contentious members, are for me, works of Canadian literature. They all participate in the complex conversation that is Canada. The idea is not to exclude, but to include more voices, more works, more authors, in order to open this exclusive club. The idea is to trace links between these different works and stand far back enough to see an outline of what CanLit really is.

History has its part to play in this grand piece, but not just Canadian history. What is Canadian history if European and American history (and by extension their literatures with their authors and works) are not included in this structure? Not much. We were not constituted in a vacuum, and we do not operate in one either. No one does. I’m thinking of Jack Kerouac, for example. Why isn’t he considered a part of CanLit? Yann Martel is claimed by CanLit, how is Kerouac any different? Parental filiation in both cases. Martel retains a certain Canadianness, whereas Kerouac had his completely erased.

And translation also has its place. And not just French and English translations. Here, I have in mind Joséphine Bacon’s poetry, in Innu and French, side by side, translated by Phyllis Aranoff, from French into English. And think about works by English-language Quebec authors, translated into French in Quebec. These are all works of CanLit, albeit from minority literatures.

Works to be included in minority (or perhaps minor) literatures, all under the umbrella of CanLit, works that belong to movements, rather than strictly regions. Poets like W. W. E. Ross could finally trully inhabit the Modernist space it deserves. Why couldn’t regional and literary currents intersect, juxtaposed one upon the other, and not be considered contradictory? And what of chronology? Other than being uselful to find out publication and circulation information, it should not constitute a barrier to belonging. Here, Sherry Simon’s three Montreal Modernities comes to mind, parallel currents that did not intersect, but reflected an era much larger than themselves.

And I could go on. And I will go on. I promise.


So you're teaching this semester...

<untitled> 004

This will be a quick and practical blog entry. The point is to provide links to a few pieces of literature that can help PhD students organize their first teaching gig here in Université de Montréal's Département d'études anglaises (ÉTANG).

Having been in this position not too long ago, I know only too well how daunting this can feel. The mountain of information available out there in the cyber world is almost as disorienting as being on the other side of the desk on that first day of class. A few choice pieces of information can go a long way in supporting you through this situation. After all, teaching will most likely become an integral part of your life if you’re a doctoral student.

The Contract

To apply to teach one of the courses "soustraits à l'affichage" that you are interested in, you simply follow the instructions that Mélissa Grenier sends you in the email that advertises these courses. We get them at the beginning of each semester. If you are selected to teach, Ms. Marianne Gallo will ask you to come in to sign a "Contract d'engagement." You are then responsible for the course's preparation.

The Syllabus

First and foremost in this process is creating the course syllabus. Proper preparation of this teaching tool is paramount to getting off on the right foot. It will keep you organized and help the students know exactly what to do througout the semster, and avoid any undue miscommunication. Here are two links from the Université de Montréal’s PAFEU website (Parcours d’autoformation des enseignants universitaires) on preparing course syllabi.

PAFEU - Plan de cours
Designing a Great Syllabus

In my own experience, I have found that relying on a recent course syllabus prepared by a professor, especially one from the course you are going to teach, to be a great place to start. And once your own syllabus completed, getting it looked over by your supervisor is an additional way to make sure it passes muster regarding the inclusion of important elements.

Beyond your name, course number, class time, email and office hours, you will have to write a personalized brief course description and provide the students with the list of the required texts (see next paragraph for bookstore ordering). Another part of the syllabus has to do with required course assignments and the evaluation methods, along with their distribution (e.g. percentage worth of each element) This is also a great place to explain exactly what you expect as far as content and presentation is concerned (e.g. MLA style for essays). Policy regarding late assignments and plagiarism also fits well in this part of the syllabus. This is then followed by the semester's reading and teaching schedule, broken down by class. The material is portioned off into teachable sections that include a title, the required readings and deadlines for assignments.

The Bookstore

When you have been assigned a class to teach, an integral part of putting a course together revolves around the material you will use to teach. The books you choose are an important part of this. And once that choice is made, you will have to order from the university bookstore. They are the ones responsible for making sure the right number of books is available for your students. But, as no one is perfect, there is always a margin of error that you must account for in this process. By ordering your books early enough though, the bookstore has a better chance of fixing any issues that come up along the way.


The first class I taught was a grammar class. Since I did not have the responsibility of chosing the course manual, I simply ordered the manual used in the preceding semester the course had been given. I found out what book this was by looking at the previous course syllabus available online in the department. I contacted the bookstore, informed them that I was a grad student that was going to teach a course (use precise name and number of course here) in the upcoming semester and inquired about the book ordering procedure. Mélanie Primeau guided me through the entire process. You will find her contact information below.

Mélanie Primeau | Gérante
Librairie Université de Montréal
Pav. 3200 Jean-Brillant | 3200 Jean-Brillant, local B-1315
Montréal (Québec) H3T 1N8
téléphone:514-343-6111, poste 30167| Télécopieur:514-343-6350
courriel : melanie.primeau@umontreal.ca

Varia

I have included here a teaching manual I was given at the beginning of a ProGradSkills course I took a few years ago. Obviously, seventy-four pages is insufficient to constitute a thorough and complete guide to teaching in college and university, but there are some useful pointers. Download _The_CDN_Teaching_Manual

It is important to remember that you are teaching a course, and that class time is the best time to give information to the students. If several student emails come in regarding a specific point that is turning out to be unclear, I have found it very useful to use Studium's "Dernières nouvelles" feature to send out generalized information to everyone in the class. As a matter of fact, Studium allows you to transmit a lot of information to your students. I use it to post the syllabus and any documents, or online links to documents, that should be read before a class. It is worth inversting time in learning how it functions, as it will save you a lot of effort in disseminating information to your students during the semester. My students are warned ahead of time that I favour this method of communication and that I will only contact them through their university email.

 


Leaving the Shore

 

Twitter_post2


I was just hit with the news that Mavis Gallant has passed away. She was truly one of the great dames of Canadian short stories, along with Margaret Atwood (duh...) and Alice Munro (super double duh...). At 91, she was one of those always present rocks of CanLit with a Québécois connection.

She embodied, for me, someone who lived the foreign. "Now we're on my home ground, foreign territory," as Atwood wrote in her novel Surfacing. And that's exactly how I envisoned Gallant, just without the ensuing madness. She was like the white or black dot in the yin yang symbol, always emersed in the Other, that is where she felt anchored, where she sought her emancipation. The place from where she wrote. How she managed to keep from getting swallowed into this overwhelming sea is the enigma for me. Her writings constitute the clues she left behind in order to answer this -- which shore was she referring to?

I would love to translate more of her work, into French, French from Quebec, to bring her back onto her native shore.

My translation of "La vie parisienne", one of Gallant's short stories, published in 1981.


R. M. Vaughan's 14 Reasons Not To Eat Potato Chips On Church Street

Inv_to_pred

For those of you who are wondering about my title, no, it has absolutely nothing to do with the nutritional content of potato chips or any sort of guide to dieting. It is the title of a poem, one written by R. M. Vaughan and originally printed as a chap book back in April 1999 for National Poetry Month by Ottawa-based Above/Ground Press. A few months later that same year, it came out in Vaughan's collection of poems Invisible to Predators, published by ECW Press. But more recently, in 2007, it was published in Barton and Nickerson's anthology Seminal by Arsenal Pulp Press. This is where, with the guidance of a wise professor, I happened upon it. The poem is a riot. It made me giggle all the way to this blog page.

And now that I have read it through a few times, googled some of the more oblique angles in my spotty connaissances, I find it is perhaps less fluffy than I may have judged at first glance.

First, a bit about the poet. R. M. Vaughan, or Richard Murray for those who, like me, are curious about the meaning of initials in place of actual names. Of course, this curiostity only amounts to silly sleuthing and is usually quickly solved with the first lines of a Wikipedia entry, but in this case, and in the name of serious academia, I relied on the University of Toronto's Canadian Poetry Online website to provide me with an encyclopedic quantity of information on Vaughan. Needless to say, I will not repeat what can easily be found on the above mentioned site, which is chalked full of information.

Broadly writing, this poet, novelist, playwright, video artist and journalist seems to live up to his "writing philosophy" of Genius is Volume. The sheer quantity of material he has written, produced, published, brought to the stage is a bit overwhelming. Until I read the poem I will discuss, I had never heard of this New Brunswick-born, Toronto-residing artist. One piece of biographical information that I find relevant to mention is his passage in the mid-1990s, as the playwright-in-residence, in Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times professional theatre, a not-for-profit company "dedicated to the promotion of Queer Canadian culture." The reason I find this relevant is that it clearly places Vaughan's writing in the Gay literature genre. Gay experience is at the heart of what he writes, and his collection of poetry Invisible to Predators clearly demonstrates this.

A reviewer in Quill & Quire called the collection "A candid celebration of homosexual love" where Vaughan's poems navigate from the deeply emotional connection of love, to a considerably abstract reply to a French revolutionary's last words to his wife before being sent to the guillotine. In all of this rather profound and touching poetry, we find a piece about potato chips held together with strange words of wisdom based on Torontonian geography. And what immediately comes to my mind is that there has to be more to it than that.

 A quick first reading of the poem made me snicker. Who hasn't been plagued with the little (and sometimes not-so-little) insecurities of weight gain and the social pressure to "keep thin?" By giving heed to the 14 reasons, the poet essentially wants to remain/become attractive (reasons 1, 5, 10 and 12), watch his nutrition in public (reason 7), steer clear of social shame associated with the consumption of junk food (reasons 3, 4, 11 and 13), watch his personal hygene in much the same way a mother would warn her son (reasons 2 and 9); let's not forget the financial predicament of an artist which stipulates that he or she be poor and therefore starving (reason 6 pushes in this direction) and what of the concept of luck, where only bad things will happen to you, much like crossing the path of a black cat. Although, I would like to find out more about the adversity of wearing a white shirt on Saturday night.

I have purposely left out the last reason, number 14. Prior to Vaughan terminating it on the satiric and resolutely fatalistic "But now it's too late," the preceeding four lines contemplate a different place: "a kinder neighbourhood, someplace more real, a family place", where he might meet someone who would be able to love him for what he is, potato chip-eating and all.  By leaving (specifically the Church and Wellesley Village, Toronto's largest LGBT neighbourhood), he might have a chance at some kind of peace. The safety zone of the gay community seems to be suffocating our poet. Gay turf, historically cloistered and turned onto itself, has become a space of repression where stereotypical political and social righteousness rule. You have to walk the walk, or else. And sadly, for this poet, and in his own words, "it's too late."

 


Conversation with Mireille: Saturday Morning Giggles Over Writing Retreats

About a thousand years ago, back in high school, I had a plethora of real live friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately, the much older and wiser person that I am now (please insert giggle here) is left with very little time to dabble in the outwardly social. From this aforementioned "plethora" I have constituted a good solid base of Facebook friends. In comparison to some folks out there, the so-called solid base is microscopic. I don't collect them for show. I just do it so that I have something to do when stuck waiting somewhere and the only entertainment at my disposal is my handy dandy "smart phone."

There is one person's certain Facebook post that I look forward to every week. It acts as a friendly reminder to read a certain column in the National Post. I could very easily just go online and find this column myself, but the extremely lazy soul that I am prefers to rely on someone else's prompt and reliable postings rather than add to my own list of never-ending things to do. These posts usually turn up as I wait for Lili's Saturday morning Mandarin classes to end. Perfect timing.

But it isn't just a question of timing. This column is good. It also makes me feel good. It is vastly entertaining to see how someone's view of their universe can so easily find echo in mine, malgré nos différences évidentes. The reading is so entertaining that I always want to answer her, like in a conversation, only on "paper" (screen?)

This week's column hit so close to home that here I am, ready to take up the (one way) conversation… 

Mireille,

Your infamous rate of word production. I know a thing or two about this exact issue, and yes it includes children, fathers' country homes and food too. How totally odd the way you instantly locked into familiar territory for me. 

So, no, I don't write for a newspaper, nor have I written short stories. My scribblings are on a much smaller scale. Last year, I finished my MA thesis, an almost 100-page chunk of research in the realm of literature. Funny, because the subject of my thesis also hit close to home with another one of your posts. But that's another story.

I did come to the conclusion, as you did, that the kids are not really the issue so much as us wanting them to be. I'm beginning to wonder if procrastination isn't a Freudian "mom thing." 

Retreats, I know a thing or two about those and they also include my father the writer and his country home. Although he doesn't drive me completely crazy about food, he is rather set in his ideas as to what goes into the definition of "good for you" food. Some members of the family have sharply commented on this over the years -- My husband is almost afraid to drink his coffee. No, Dad, fresh ground pepper should NOT go into the freshly ground coffee… the ensuing cup does not make for a pleasurable experience. And as my younger sister has maintained since adolescence, chicken is not best boiled with a carrot. Then there is the story of when my father mistook Mom's vichyssoise for milk and poured it over his morning cereal. This event did not bode well with my mother after he threw it all down the sink thinking the milk had gone bad.

I could go on, I have a ton of these stories. Let's just say that my father has developed an approach to cooking that has had its hits and misses. Although I do have to say that the smoked salmon cured with maple syrup is a total hit with Lili and I.

My last writing retreat at my father's country home was, well, regulated by the "healthy" meals he would prepare for both of us -- no salt anywhere and olive oil everywhere. So, to answer your question, you're right, it's not just your father. But I'm not so convinced it's just your people either. Going to the village for the papers, and in his case usually bread also, rang oddly familiar when I read you this Saturday.

As for music, no. It's a totally different story. He does sometimes get all classical on me. But usually, it's NPR à tue-tête throughout out the house. But his tolerance for people's chatter has greatly diminished over the years. It's just the volume that freaks me out. I know he's not going deaf, so why? Again, must be Freudian.

Oh, and the McGill Law Journal Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, does it look like this? Yea, I have my own copy, from my days as a legal translator. The coincidences really are weird.

À samedi prochain.

Best,

Marie

Photo