Confluence (2000)


Anne F. Nothof
Athabasca University

“Confluence”, a conference on cultural crossovers between two apparent cultural “solitudes” in Canada - Alberta and Quebec -- was co-hosted by Athabasca University and Faculte St. Jean at Cite Francophone in Edmonton, Alberta, on May 22 and 23, 2000. “Confluence” is from the Latin word for “bearing across.” Hence, the conference focus on “crossovers” - a mutually enriching exchange of language, literature, drama, film, and music. Its focus was also necessarily on translation - of one language to another, of one culture to another. In translation, some things are lost, and some things are discovered. As Salman Rushdie, that inimical writer of cultural confluences writes in Imaginary Homelands, “It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately, to the notion that something can also be gained.” During the conference, confluences of ideas were explored formally in papers, and informally in discussions, celebrating the French presence in Alberta, and the English presence in Quebec.

The objectives of the conference were:

  1. To explore the ways in which specific locality is constructed through literature, language, and drama in Alberta and Quebec.
  2. To investigate the possibilities of translating one place into another.
  3. To show the ways in which cultural products can be transposed or translated into another culture.
  4. To show how French-language writing and culture may inform the structure and syntax of English-speaking works in both Quebec and Alberta.
  5. To examine the complexities of writing out of a minority culture.
  6. To explore the cultural diversity present in both provinces.
  7. To explore the possibilities of further cultural crossovers between Alberta and Quebec.

These objectives were admirably met, as this selection of the conference proceedings demonstrates. In fact, many more cultural crossovers were located and debated than had originally been envisaged. The variety of topics for sessions and panels allowed for a generous consideration of the complexities of translation, of theatrical production in the “other” language and in the “other” space, of the relationship of language and space. In a panel on translation, Gail Scott, Jacqueline Dumas, and Anne Malena showed how the French language informs English-language works in Alberta, and vice-versa. The cultural diversity in Quebec was addressed by Kamba Tchitala Nyota in her paper, “Theatricalisation du rituel de veuvage Luba et ses espaces sceniques au Quebec.” Jason Morgan addressed the topic of “National” discourses in film in his paper, “’Perversion Chic’ and the National Narratives of English Canadian Cinema.” Wes Pearce showed how scenography could effectively translate text into a cultural context. Brian Smith and Gail Hanrahan presented the work of Calgary’s “Theatre in Exile” which focuses on the production of Quebec plays for an English audience, and Glen Nichols analysed the reception of Brad Fraser’s plays in Quebec (Fraser’s response’s contributing a heightened sense of drama to the panel). Jimmy Thibeault considered the novels of Nancy Huston in terms of their “demythification” of Alberta. I hope that the publication of this selection of papers will generate possibilities for further “confluences” of ideas, languages, and localities.