Literary Scholar Examines Impact of French Language Writers Outside of France

Project is one of the first studies of naturalist writing in Quebec, Haiti and Belgium

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A new research study seeks to analyze the body of work of naturalist writers in Quebec, Haiti and Belgium during the late 1800s and early 1900s and explore their impact on French literature and the development of naturalism as a philosophical and literary concept.

The project, by Phillippe Chavasse, assistant professor of French at Rochester Institute of Technology, is one of the first to examine the influence and importance of French language writing outside of France on the naturalist movement.

“There have been many studies done on France’s contributions to naturalism and world literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but very little focus has been placed on the contributions of writers in other French speaking areas,” says Chavasse. “Authors in Quebec, Haiti and Belgium were producing numerous writings during the same time period, but their unique world views and environments created significantly different opinions on what naturalism meant and how it should be expressed in literature.”

Chavasse also wants to promote the ways in which these writers influenced numerous literary and political movements in their respective nations, including the development of Canadian realism, the nationalist movement in Quebec and various pro-democracy movements in Haiti.

He is currently using a grant from the National Library and Archives of Quebec to study the writings of a number of Québécois authors and will spend a week at the archives later this fall examining a number of texts that are not readily accessible to the public.

“Quebec had a strong naturalist literary community but many of the authors and writings from that time period are no longer commercially available,” notes Chavasse. “Examining the collections of the National Archives will provide a broader understanding of the naturalist works produced in Quebec and allow me to better connect Quebec’s contributions with writings produced in Haiti and Belgium as well as situate the writings in all three areas with French and world literature.”