Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
The Landscape of Quebec:
Nature and Culture, Space and Place
In an exploration of literature and painting in Quebec across time, a
focus on the landscape - its verbal description and its visual representa-
tion - opens an avenue that enables us to pass from seemingly simple
imagery to the exceedingly complex question of national identity. To
undertake this passage, however, means locating the best vehicle, and
indeed, we need look no further than to the time-tested pairings of na-
ture and culture and space and place.
The call of the wilderness counterweighted by nostalgia for culture
has long characterized the French perception, construction, and repre-
sentation of the North American landscape. From the writings of the
earliest French explorers to the paintings of the latest Quebecois land-
scape artists, vast space is seen as coexisting alongside closed place in a
perpetual state of dynamic interplay. Throughout the ages, cultural
tools - ranging from naming, mapping, and flag planting to fences,
fields, and farms; from forts, churches, and monuments to paintings,
stories, and songs - have been mustered to cope with the otherness of
nature, while simultaneously acknowledging its powerful allure.
The intersections of culture with nature often occur at defined places in
relation to the undifferentiated vastness of the surrounding space, and
their proximate combination constitutes what is perhaps the most strik-
ing feature of the North American landscape and its representation in the
literature and painting of Quebec. 1 The garden and the wilderness, the
civilized and the 'savage,' the familiar and the unknown, security and
adventure, the habitant and the coureur de bois, the European and the
Amerindian - all are juxtaposed and superimposed to produce original
couplings befitting the hybrid combinations of place, space, and race dis-
covered in the New World. More than a type of representation, however,
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