New Minor offers a unique opportunity to specialize in Québec Studies.

By Nick Ward

Unbeknownst to many, Carleton University was one of the first Canadian universities to offer courses in Québec literature outside of Québec.

Although this rich history of studying the province is sometimes overlooked, the 2020 addition of a Québec Studies Minor to Carleton’s academic programming is sure to renew the university’s remarkable legacy of studying Québec.

Professors Anne Trépanier (Indigenous and Canadian Studies and French ) and Catherine Khordoc (French and Indigenous and Canadian Studies) are the architects of the Québec Studies Minor which will be available to students in the Fall of 2020.

Khordoc and Trépanier believe the study of Canada must always be broad, diverse, and critical – straying away from any simplistic, flag-waving approach. Any critical analysis of Canada, of course, then must include a significant focus on Québec society which is foundational in its contribution to understanding Canada and its national identity.”Carleton is at an interesting crossroad, being Canada’s Capital University here in Ottawa, and at the same time, a stone’s throw from Québec. It is difficult to ignore a neighbour that is situated less than ten kilometres away,” says Khordoc.

“Québec’s history and culture are inevitably shaped by being a part of Canada, despite, and probably because of, its complicated relationship to the rest of the country; but Québec also shapes Canada’s culture and history,” explains Khordoc.

“Both entities, separately, together, and in tension with each other, are inextricably connected. Failing to understand Québec’s specificity and role is a grave oversight to anyone who wants to understand Canada. I don’t think you can maintain that you know Canada if you ignore Québec,” she says.

“Furthermore, there is much to be learned about Québec as a unique, distinct entity, in the same way, that we feel it is important to learn about Germany, the US, Scotland, France, China, or any other geopolitical region or state.”

Importantly, Khordoc and Trépanier believe there is an innate value in studying Québec from an external vantage point. “There is much to be learned from studying from the outside. Even if we are very close to the boundary that places Carleton outside of Québec, in some ways, we have the advantage of being almost-inside, but outside,” says Khordoc.

Khordoc has long been interested in creating deeper connections between the study of Canada, French Studies (broadly understood: the study of linguistics and literature, encompassing diverse francophone regions), and Québec. Her previous administrative duties as French’s Departmental Chair and as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences did not allow for much extra time to create the Minor.

Building the New Minor  

Khordoc is now back in her full-time faculty role, and her friend and collaborator, Professor Trépanier, has returned to Canada after spending four years teaching in Italy. The pair were able to put the required thought and effort into developing pedagogy which will both compel and challenge students to refine and reconfigure their understandings of Québec. “I think it is more important than ever to be able to assess our relationship with Québec, its history, and the French language,” says Trépanier who researches the history and historiography of the province. “In the case of Québec, we need to open our eyes to various approaches and from diverse perspectives and in a multicultural, intercultural, and bilingual framework.”

Having taught the Introduction to Québec course to more than a thousand Carleton students over a decade, Trépanier is eager to implement a more in-depth follow-up programme which encompasses various aspects of Québec culture and literature, including the French language.

“Québec was the first colonial Canada. The term was appropriated by Jacques Cartier and used to describe the Saint-Lawrence Valley for more than a century,” explains Trépanier. “Two hundred years later, the Little Canadas or les petits Canadas were French Canadian enclaves in the North of the United States.”

“Until 1880, the idea of a French-Canadian nation was not defined by geographical boundaries, even after Confederation! Things dramatically changed during what is called the Quiet Revolution in Québec. The revolution caused an identity shift for French Canadians living in the province — one which transformed the relationship to history, politics, and language for all Canadians, and this continues today.”

A view of the Montreal Olympic Stadium in Quebec, Canada.

An Interdisciplinary Approach & Cultural Immersion

The Minor will be based out of two distinct units, the Department of French and the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies and can be added to a student’s Major or Combined Major. This pliability means that students will receive a truly interdisciplinary education in Québec Studies.

“In the Department of French, the study of Québec, both in terms of linguistics and literary studies, has always been an important element, along with the study of the French language,” says Khordoc.

“My feeling is that it is not enough to study a language solely. It is essential to link language proficiency with knowledge of the people who use the language in their everyday lives, be it France, Québec, other parts of Canada or other countries such as Sénégal or Haïti. In the case of my home department, why not learn about Québec while also becoming proficient in the French language? This thought can be applied to any major, French or otherwise, once paired with the Québec Studies Minor – be it through coursework in Journalism, Literature, Political Science, or Art History, for example.

Important to note is that students will be required to have a reasonable level of language competency. The rationale being that capability in French will help facilitate practicum, community engagement, co-op, and experiential learning opportunities. Such opportunities include the chance to take one of the immersive Spring courses which take place in Québec City. For these courses, students will immerse themselves in the culture of the historic city as they study the literature of New France (taught by Professor Sébastien Côté) and national lieux de mémoire evoked in works and novels which take place in Québec City (taught by Professor Trépanier).

One of the principal reasons why Trépanier and Khordoc were so intent on adding the Minor is that significant and diverse expertise on Québec already exists at the University.

Carleton’s Impressive Québec Expertise

“We have many faculty members at Carleton who are from Québec, who studied there, or who study Québec from another perspective. I am always amazed at how often I can speak French at Carleton,” says Khordoc.

The long list of faculty members who research and teach on various aspects of Québec includes Professor Dominique Marshall in History; Professor Rafael Iacovino in Political Science; and Khordoc’s colleagues in the Department of French, Professor Sébastien Côté who works on New France, and Professors Randall Gess and Carmen LeBlanc who focus on linguistics. Trépanier and Khordoc are delighted that the Film Studies program has appointed a new faculty member who specialized in Quebec cinema and they welcome Professor Kester Dyer, whose courses will be added to the list of elective courses for the minor. Also in this impressive Carleton directory of Québec experts is Chancellor’s Professor Emerita, Patricia Smart, who, as a member of the Royal Society of Canada and recipient of the Order of Canada is one of the world’s most prolific scholars on Québec literature.

“Professor Smart was friends with important poets and artists during the Quiet Revolution, and she has given her readers several book-length essays on Québec literature and culture which have received both the Governor General’s Award and the Gabrielle Roy Prize”,” says Trépanier.

“Whenever I am at a Québec Studies conference, and I mention that I am a professor at Carleton, I’m invariably asked if I am in the same department as Professor Smart,” says Khordoc.

“This reputation is a testament to Carleton’s storied tradition of world-class scholarship on Québec literature. Even during periods when we had to defend the study of Canadian and Québecois literature as being valid.”

Trépanier also offers the reminder that Carleton’s School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies was home to Robert Dunton. Famously, Professor Dunton (the namesake of Dunton Tower), was one of the two commissars of Canada’s biculturalism and bilingualism commission.

International Appeal

Interest in Québec is not limited to Canadian scholars. In fact, there are Québec Studies associations in many regions of the world, including the Association for Canadian Studies in Ireland which concentrates heavily on Québec and the American Council for Québec Studies, which is a separate, unique entity from their Association for Canadian Studies in America. Khordoc believes this wide-reaching fascination of Québec occurs for a variety of reasons. As a separate, yet connected entity, the province commands particular lines of inquiry.

“The province has overcome the odds of assimilation, so in places like Ireland, it is interesting to see how French is revitalized, promoted and constantly on the radar. This is also the case in India, where several French departments have famous specialists on Québec literature and Québecois queer literature. Quebec culture and literature is also studied in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, France, Italy, Brazil, Poland, Japan and Korea.

Khordoc also feels that due to its consistently thriving economy, Québec has the ability to shape a uniquely independent society within Canada. Departures are seen in its education, social supports, and culture at large. Similar comparisons can be drawn around the world; Catalonia and Scotland are just two examples.

Further demonstrating the borderless appeal of Québec is l’Association internationale d’études québecoises with its 5000 Québec specialists around the globe. Impressively, Professor Trépanier is currently the vice-president academic and scientific of the AIEQ.  She cherishes this role, as it allows her to connect her Québec focused students with like-minded scholars and students from around the world.

Québec City at sunset

The Value of Québec Expertise in the Workforce

In Canada, having in-depth knowledge about Québec is a sought-after asset for employers. Areas of employment such as journalism, civil service (at federal or provincial levels), policy work, heritage and cultural organizations, national museums, education, translation and interpretation, and many more, often require a refined familiarity and comprehension of the province and of French. “Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that bilingual Canadians, such as those who would take the Québec Studies Minor, are consistently more employable and better paid than unilingual Canadians,” says Trépanier. “This is especially the case in the National Capital Ottawa region, in which most of its major employers give preferential treatment to bilingual job candidates in the two settler official languages.”

“For students planning to pursue academic careers, bilingualism in English and French and an understanding of Québec expands job opportunities considerably.”

Trépanier also submits that studying Québec in French will will be useful for student who will pursue graduate studies, at Carleton or elsewhere. “French has been one of the two official settler languages of this country for only 50 years, but academic literature and other written discourses in French about Canada, its peoples and its resources date back to the 1500s. Resources for academic discourses as well as literary, archival, and popular discourses in and about Canada exist in languages other than English, but they have often evaded scrutiny. There is much critical research yet to be accomplished, and many institutions want to increase their scholarship,” says Trépanier. “When studying Canada, particular attention should be given to those resources existing in French – given the long and sustained academic tradition – not to mention the important cultural and recording tradition of French language documents in Canada.”

Professors Trépanier and Khordoc have both been pleasantly surprised by the extraordinary support they have received from colleagues and students for the Québec Studies Minor. “The feedback we have received has been tremendously positive. People are excited,” says Trépanier.

“It is amazing to meet people in Poland, or India – places all over the world – who know quite a lot about Québec. And yet, few universities in Canada offer a focused, interdisciplinary study of Québec,” says Khordoc.

“Carleton is already known for its excellence in terms of the study of Canada. This minor will enhance that reputation and show Carleton’s creativity and innovation. Many of our students go on to work for the federal government. In my opinion, our civil servants must be well-versed in the specificities of all regions and people including, of course, the rich and nuanced history and culture of Québec.”

More About Professors Trépanier and Khordoc

Professor Anne Trépanier teaches identity narrative, Quebec history and historiography and their connection with the performance of the national in the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies and in the Department of French. Prof. Trépanier regularly publishes in French and English on Québec culture, history and literature and frequently participates in conferences relative to these subject matters. Her books Un discours à plusieurs voix : la grammaire du oui en 1995 (PUL 2001) and (PUO 2010) will be followed by another book about satirical representations of Canada prior to Confederation.  Since 2019, Professor Trépanier has been the vice-president scientific of the International Association international d’études québécoises, a network of 5000 international scholars whose research involve Quebec culture and literature. Prof. Trépanier, now graduate supervisor in SICS, was awarded both the prestigious D2L award in Teaching Innovation and the Provost Fellowship in Teaching Award in 2019 and is since a teaching fellow of Carleton University. She teaches Introduction to Québec Society, Critical Nationalism and Québec ville d’histoire(s) which are well developed online courses.  Her favourite Québec locale is île d’Orléans where she spends a few weeks each year in her yurt, picks blueberries and apples, and watches the migration of the snow geese.
Professor Catherine Khordoc teaches contemporary Québécois literature (mainly from the 1960s to the present), with a particular emphasis on literature produced by writers who have immigrated to Québec, and whose writing contributed to a critical reconsideration of what the term “Québec culture” actually means. Literature produced by writers of diverse cultural origins participates in the evolution of Québec culture which cannot simply be thought of as being francophone, with French and Catholic roots. Professor Khordoc is also interested in how contemporary Québécois writers have integrated diverse geographic and cultural dimensions into their work, in some ways, bringing “the world” into their world.  Khordoc is also a former president of the Association for Canadian and Québec literatures, author of Tours et détours: le mythe de Babel dans la littérature contemporaine (2012) and co-editor of Comparing Migration: The literatures of Canada and Québec / Migrance comparée: Les littératures du Canada et du Québec.  She has published in French and in English, in journals such as Québec Studies, Studies in Canadian Literature, the Journal of Canadian Studies and French Cultural Studies.

To learn more about the Minor in Québec Studies, feel free to contact Professors Trépanier and Khordoc,or visit the Undergraduate Calendar to review the required courses.

Monday, July 13, 2020 in
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