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Abusing, resisting, claiming power in the works of Quebec women playwrights

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The number of boldly innovative plays by Quebec women playwrights, published and performed professionally since the mid-twentieth century, runs to well over one hundred. Their themes and approaches to making theatre vary widely, as did those of pioneers Anne Hbert and Franoise Loranger. An important strand, particularly evident during the 1970s and 1980s when le thtre au fminin was strong, is the ostension and debunking of social practices deriving from dominant ideologies legitimating and even encouraging the abuse of power. These plays frequently dramatize the negative impact of such abuse on individuals' internalized sense of identity, self-worth, and legitimacy of place, and respond to the abuse with a wide spectrum of inventive theatrical techniques, as individual characters come to a realization of what is being done to them. In more recent decades, women playwrights have continued to show urgent concern about the abuse of power in social relations and institutions, but have usually set aside explicitly feminist thematics, although the complexity of motherdaughter relations and the stereotypes surrounding motherhood continue to preoccupy them. These playwrights stress the importance of imagination, fantasy, words, images and artistic creation as they boldly explore new ways of making theatre and representing society. Frequently postmodern, their plays usually remain open and ambiguous, leaving audiences and readers free to plunge for themselves into the unending and myriad flow of conflicting processes and never to become ensconced in the sort of static situation cultural norms often construct for women. Despite such fresh and creative vision that could promise new departures, however, many of the plays in this corpus continue to develop dramatic conflict around characters' inability to move beyond the contradictory imperatives of motherdaughter relations, frank enjoyment of their own sexuality and full use of the tools of language and agency available to them. Appropriate modes for the expression of women's erotic energy and the exercise of power are still seen to be elusive on Quebec stages.
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Keywords: Quebec theatre; motherhood; patriarchal systems; power; sexuality; theatrical experimentation; women playwrights

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Saskatchewan.

Publication date: 2010-10-01

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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