Mapping Jouissance: Insights from a Case Study in the Schizophrenia of Canadian Drama


Gregory J. Reid


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

To read is to compare. —George Steiner, What Is Comparative Literature?

In The Map and the Garden, John Vernon identifies two forms of schizophrenia that together frame the most common features of twentieth-century literature and culture: one alienation of division, compartmentalization, separation (the map); the other, the absence of distinctions, the compulsion to see the world as inseparable, natural, erotic, and always whole (the garden).1 Vernon’s contrast of “map” and “garden” shows a striking potential to absorb various contrastive analyses of English Canadian and Québécois literatures, including the double-axis hypothesis highlighted by Jean-Charles Falardeau (1959) in which English Canadian literature is seen to operate on a horizontal axis (individuals in relation to each other and society) in contrast to the vertical axis (of man in relation to the cosmos) of Québécois writing;2 Clara Thomas’s characterization of English Canadian literature as masculine, linear, and Protestant formed under the image of Robinson Crusoe in opposition to the cyclical, feminine, and Catholic perspectives of a French Canadian writing dominated by the fable of the “Precious Kingdom” (1972);3 Philip Stratford’s stylistic analysis of the typical Canadian novel as outward looking and preoccupied with realism and historical perspective in contrast to the inward looking, subjective, and deeply coded roman québécois (1986);4 and McLuhanesque speculations on English Canadian literate/visual stylistics cast in relief against Québécois orality (1990).5 The map/garden axis also seems receptive to Sylvia Söderlind’s “at-homedness” thesis, which contrasts the “absolute, almost sacred, identity between name and thing, language and territory” in the Québécois novel in contrast to the English Canadian novel in which “language becomes a plastic, though tough and resistant material” that is separable from the territory it un-names and names.6 Noticeably, studies of the novel have dominated comparative studies of English Canadian and Québécois literatures.7


1 John Vernon, The Garden and the Map: Schizophrenia in Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973); hereafter cited parenthetically in my text.

2 Jean-Charles Falardeau, Notre sociètè et son roman (Montréal: Editions HMH, 1967), 57–63.

3 Clara Thomas, “Crusoe and the Precious Kingdom: Fables of Our Literature,” Journal of Canadian Fiction 2, no. 1 (spring 1972): 58–64).

4 Philip Stratford, All the Polarities: Comparative Studies in Contemporary Canadian Novels in French and English (Thomas: ECW Press, 1986).

5 Gregory J. Reid, “An Eye for an Ear: Fifth Business and La grosse femme d’à côte est enceinte,” Études en littérature canadienne 14, no. 2 (1989): 128–49.

6 Sylvia Söderlind, “From O to Ö and Sea to Sea: A Question of Translation and Territory,” in Essays in Canadian Literature: Proceedings from the Second International Conference of the Nordic Association for Canadian Studies, ed. Jørn Carlsen and Bengt Streijffert, The Nordic Association for Canadian Studies Text Series, 3 (Lund: University of Lund, 1987), 117–25. In Söderlind’s Margin/Alias: Language and Colonization in Canadian and Québécois Fiction (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), the concepts of “extraordinarily” and “alterity” displace the more homespun notion of “at-homedness.”

7 In his “Historical Introduction” to the Bibliographie d’études de littérature canadienne comparée [Bibliography of Studies in Comparative Canadian Literature], ed. Antoine Sirois, Jean Vigneault, Maria van Sundert, and David Hayne (Sherbrooke: Université de Sherbooke, Départment des lettres et communications, 1989), 16, David Hayne observes that “there has been almost no comparative study of dramatic writing in the two languages.…” Richard Plant, “Drama in English,” in The Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre, ed. Eugene Benson and L. W. Conolly (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1989), 148, observes that “although several studies trace the development of anglophone and francophone drama, and thereby offer implied, if not stated, comparative analysis, research has not extensively explored the relationship between French and English theatrical and dramatic activity.” Examples of single essays which carry out explicit comparisons include: André Loiselle, “Paradigms of the 1980's Québécois and Canadian Drama: Normand Chaurette’s Provincetown Playhouse, juillet 1919, j’avais 19 ans and Sharon Pollock’s Blood Relations,” Québec Studies 14 (spring-summer 1992): 93–104; Renate Usmiani, “The Playwright as Historiographer: New Views of the Past in Contemporary Québécois Drama,” L’art dramatique canadienne [Canadian Drama] 8, no.2 (1982):117–28 and “The Bingocentric Worlds of Michel Tremblay and Tomson Highway: Les Belles-Soeurs Vs. The Rez Sisters,” Littérature canadienne [Canadian Literature] 144 (spring 1995): 126–40; Sherill Grace, “The Expressionist Legacy in the Canadian Theatre: George Ryga and Robert Gurik,” Littérature canadienne [Canadian Literature] 118 (fall 1988): 47–58; Irving Wolfe, “Québec and Ontario Theatre, 1960–1980: Two Parallel Revolutions That Failed,” New Literatures Review 19 (summer 1990):35–45; Paulette Collet, “Fennario’s Balconville and Tremblay’s En pièces détachées,” L’art dramatique canadien [Canadian Drama] 10, no. 1 (1984): 35–43.

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