Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter Five
Impressionism and Nationalism
in the Early Twentieth Century
Few would deny that the dawning of the twentieth century was accom-
panied by a profound sense of change and complexity across the globe,
felt all the more acutely, perhaps, by the French-Canadian nation, for
whom tradition and simplicity had been promoted by the previous
generation of leaders, thinkers, and artists. The first two decades of the
new era saw an unprecedented explosion in means of communication
(telephone, telegraph, gramophone, cinema, radio, and mass distribu-
tion of newspapers) and transportation (appearance of the automobile,
motorcycle, dirigible, and airplane; expansion of intercontinental rail-
ways, metropolitan buses and taxis, and trans-Atlantic sea travel on
super liners), not to mention increasing industrialization and urbanism
in Quebec, and the global perspective demanded by participation in the
Boer War, the First World War, the Olympic games, and the League of
Nations ( Société des nations ). 1
Typical of a tendency towards self-contradiction - as Jocelyn
Létourneau describes it: 'le repli et l'initiative, la tradition et l'envie
d'étrangeté, la fidélité à l'héritage et le désir de refondation' (12-13;
withdrawal and initiative, tradition and difference, faithfulness to heri-
tage and the desire for revision) - the French-Canadian intellectual and
artistic community split into conservative and progressive movements,
termed 'la querelle entre régionalistes et exotiques' (152; the quarrel be-
tween regionalists and exotics) by Biron, Dumont, and Nardout-Lafarge.
But even conservatism, resistance to change, in itself proves the very
pervasiveness of change, which must be accounted for, just as Quebec's
expanding position in the world must cause it to define the national
identity in view of its specificity as well as its opposition to (and thus in
terms of) English-speaking Canada (Catholic-Protestant, rural-urban,
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