Friday, Sept 27 | 9:00-10:50 am

Identity Making 1 | Room 201

Of East and West: Authentic Origins, Métissage, and the Transnational Emergence of Post-Colonial Diasporas in Robert Lepage's "Four Dragons"

With The Blue Dragon (2008), Robert Lepage & Co. have brought to conclusion The Dragon's Trilogy (1985, 1987, 2003) – one of the most celebrated landmarks of Canadian theatre which helped launch the director’s international career.  However, critical assessments of the 2003 revival censure Lepage’s “inauthentic staging of the Other” (Koustas 2006; Harvie 2000), and characterize the works’ portrayal of the Chinese diaspora, in particular, for its missteps in representing immigrant communities and for re-entrenching cultural stereotypes. While early criticism acknowledged that the narrative of the first three parts “opens out from an isolated French-Canadian culture into a multinational field” (Rewa1990), the fourth part, The Blue Dragon reveals with greater clarity that the grab bag of “kitch China clichés” which Lepage & Co embedded in The Green Dragon (part one) must be understood as an ironic parody of narrow, historically situated, cultural assumptions in a postmodern mode.  The “four Dragons” (spanning the years 1932-2008) allow Lepage to map a trajectory of development for both “East and West” which clearly inverts some of the Orientalist constructions of “the East,” as imagined by 19th century Europe (Said), and ultimately suspends the dyadic logic entirely. To this end, Madame Butterfly serves as intertext whose incremental re-writing in The Red Dragon and The Blue Dragon helps to chart the transformation of cultural assumptions and attitudes.  However, the potential of an inversion of colonial attitudes is also anticipated, as progress and change are now “made in China”. Ultimately, Lepage’s “Dragons” envision cultural evolution as an open-ended, transformative potentiality across historically defined differences, as fluidity, métissage, and processuality which substitute older paradigms characterized by immutable essence, authenticity, roots, bloodlines, cultural isolation, and fear.

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Cordula Quint is Associate Professor of Drama at Mount Allison University, where she teaches courses in dramatic theory, literary criticism and theatre practice. Her book Robert Wilson's Hamletmachine: Mise en Scène of Postmodern Groundlessness will be published later this year. Articles by her have appeared in various journals and anthologies, among them the Canadian Theatre Review, Theatre Journal, WHERE THE BOYS ARE: Cinemas of Masculinity and Youth, Popping Culture, Global Challenges and Regional Responses, Space and the Postmodern Stage, and the New England Theatre Journal.


A Return to Old Country: Travelling the Landscape of Chaos through Silence, Memory and Imagination

To seek meaning, to make sense of our world and our being in it, is the quest of narrative and the answer to why we construct it. Whether fiction or non-fiction, constructing narrative is an ethical act. Telling one another our stories is an innate human impulse, and, as narrative theorists claim, the distinct and defining quality of being human. As temporal beings grounded in time and space we long for relationship, interconnectedness and belonging in our world.

Beyond this moreover, the human, primordial instinct is, at once, for survival, that is, to seek to order the chaos of our lives, while also, a longing for transcendence. In storytelling, narrative, we experience, as Paul Ricoeur states, the “continued temporality” of a person. 

In my writing, I employ memory, imagination, and silences in constructing narratives, and as a Canadian, much of my published work has focused on the ethics of writing from the site and context of my own life, for those who experienced what I have not—specifically my family’s experiences in Poland, Ukraine and Germany and Word War II. My paper, will demonstrate both the praxis and ethical dimensions of memory, silence and imagination as they are mediated in the construction of second-generation witness narratives, situated in this context.   

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Connie T. Braun earned her BA (Communications) and MA in Humanities (English) at Trinity Western University, and is completing her MFA in Creative Writing at UBC. Her memoir The Steppes are the Colour of Sepia: A Mennonite Memoire, (Ronsdale Press, 2008) was widely reviewed and she has published academic papers in IllumineRenasenceThe Journal of the Centre for Mennonite Writing, and Demeter Press. Her personal essays and poetry appear in anthologies and journals and she has written reviews for various publications. Connie is an instructor of creative writing and serves on the advisory of TWU’s student literary journal (spaces) where she has also been Writer in Residence.


Suffering, Service and Salvation: The Narrative Themes of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh was moved by stories of suffering, service and salvation, three primary narratives that influenced his art. His letters tell us that he had an "irresistible passion for books" that led him to identify with authors like Émile Zola, Victor Hugo, Harriet Beecher Stowe and George Eliot, all champions of the common man; this theme was repeated over and over as van Gogh told the stories of miners, weavers, and peasant farmers in pencil, chalk, and oil. "Let Art always remind us of them…" wrote Eliot in Adam Bede …"let us always have men ready to give the loving pains of a life to the faithful representing of commonplace things…" No artist, save Millet, did this any better than van Gogh; it is not surprising that Millet was his primary artistic inspiration. Similar narrative themes underlay van Gogh's choice of subject matter during his confinement in St Rémy mental asylum the year before his death as he turned to explicitly Biblical narratives.  In his rendering of the Pièta and The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) and the Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt) the faces of Christ, the Samaritan and Lazarus resemble van Gogh himself, who identified with each in some way. There is no question that the literary narratives van Gogh immersed himself in contributed to the development of his own identity and his art. Yet van Gogh had a well-developed personal identity prior to his transition from pastor of peasants to painter of peasants that was rooted in family history, the writings of John Bunyan, Thomas à Kempis and the Bible. In this presentation I will tell the story of how narrative themes intertwined with van Gogh's personal identity through a series of ekphrastic sonnets I have written with an accompanying PowerPoint presentation of van Gogh's art.

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Sharon Fish Mooney teaches nursing research for Regis University and Indiana Wesleyan and has taught courses on Christian spirituality at McMaster Divinity College. She won the inaugural Frost Farm Prize for metrical poetry and was a semi-finalist for the Richard Wilbur Award and Blue Lynx Prize for a manuscript of ekphrastic sonnets. Her poems have appeared in RUMINATE, The Lyric, Pudding Magazine, The Evansville Review, String Poet, and Christian Research Journal and are forthcoming in Modern Age and First Things. Sharon has a PhD from the University of Rochester and lives in Ohio.

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