Monday, January 10, 2011

"Les fees on soif: Feminist, Iconoclastic or Blasphemous?"

Maria-Suzette Fernandes-Dias, Les fees ont soif: Feminist, Iconoclastic or Blasphemous?, Chapter Six of Negotiating the Sacred II: Blasphemy and Sacrilege in the Arts (Canberra, ANU E Press 2008) (available here)

This article discuss the controversy over the short-lived ban of the printed version of the play Les fees ont soif ("The Fairies Are Thirsty") in Quebec in 1978 on the grounds that it was blasphemous. The play, a feminist critique of patriarchy and its mythmaking, features "the Virgin Mary, the Mother and the Whore as a satirical counterpart to the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, to depict how patriarchal tradition has incarcerated women in stereotypical roles of submission." (para. 7) According to Fernandes-Dias, the play "engages in vulgarising discussion about sexuality, incest and rape, [and] even involves the Holy Virgin in doing so." (para. 17) The article states that a private prosecution was brought against the play by four Christian organizations, and the groups succeeded in gaining an injunction against the sale of printed copies for a brief time before the injunction was overturned (the exact procedural history of the injunction and subsequent appeals is not clear in the article).

Fernades-Dias' article is a non-legal exploration of the play's themes and its role in the history of late 1970s Quebec feminism. She states that the play "is considered as a prominent marker of the post-Quiet Revolution assertion of the feminine identity and the social rupture from religious dogmatism in Quebec." (para. 6) Apparently the play remains popular and has been staged at least as recently as 2005 and is reprinted in several anthologies. Fernandes-Dias concludes with an interesting exploration as to why the play is no longer controversial: "a community that was already divided and in a state of transition gradually lost the importance it accorded to religion as a factor of social cohesiveness. Therefore, an artistic creation that was once considered as morally and spiritually objectionable . . . did not shock the Quebecois society anymore." (para. 36).

* Paragraph numbering is approximate; the online version is not paginated or numbered by paragraph.

** The article cites a source I have not previously seen reference to elsewhere: Nancy Huston, 1981, "Blasphemy in 'Nouvelle France' Yesterday and Today", Maledicta vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 163-169.

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