Thirteen years after her death, finally freed from her physical appearance, writer Nelly Arcan is now making an impact through her writing. For the first time, the Université Laval is offering a 15-week undergraduate course entirely dedicated to the author’s corpus whorefrom Crazy womanfrom the child in the mirror, Or from Burqa made of fleshwho wrote down both his obsession and disgust with the physical constraints imposed on women.
So does the room The anger of what I thinkto the brilliant staging of Marie Brassard, returns to the poster in Espace Go, Nelly Arcan continues to influence a whole generation of young writers, says Karine Rosso, professor of literature at UQAM, who signed a novel with the title in 2019 My enemy Nelly.
“It’s a multi-layered work that says multiple things and has multiple layers,” she says. Nelly Arcan demonstrates woman’s alienation from the imperative of normative beauty while denouncing it.
Even five years after the start of the #MeToo hurricane, these dictates remain strong, especially through social networks like Instagram, where young people, especially girls, paint an often idealized image.
The multiplied spaces where the seven representations of Nelly Arcan arise in space The anger of what I thinkare also reminiscent of today’s world of social networks.
be forty years old
If the relevance of reflection remains, the seven actresses who embody Nelly Arcan have aged since the premiere of The anger of what I think, in 2013, commemorates Sophie Cadieux, who created the piece and still performs it today. You have passed the milestone of forty with your aging body, that age which so terrified Nelly Arcan and which her suicide forever prevented her from exceeding.
“We’re at that horrible age now that she decided not to live,” she said in an interview. I am 45 years old. The majority of the actresses on the show were 35 years old when the play was made. Ten years later we find ourselves on this slope of women finding themselves in a new space that is not that of youth or old age. I feel like there’s a security for us, a maturity in our game, such a different echo of his lyrics, of his violence.” Certain themes in Arcan’s work, such as gender assignment at birth, are very relevant today.
Furthermore, the realities Nelly Arcan denounced while submitting to them remain to this day. Karine Rosso notes that millions upon millions of women are still undergoing plastic surgery. And sex work, which Nelly Arcan practiced primarily while she was studying literature, is still a matter of debate among feminists.
Between Emancipation and Alienation
“Nelly Arcan’s work oscillates between emancipation and alienation,” says Catherine Parent, who teaches the course Nelly Arcan, Legacies, Portrayals and Lineages, offered by Laval University at the undergraduate level. “These realities are absolutely timely and I see it in the students that are touched by the work,” she adds. However, she notes that perhaps the era today encourages more solidarity than the female rivalries that Arcan represents.
Magazine in February voices and images will dedicate an issue to the legacy of Nelly Arcan. Catherine Parent attended with the late author, professor and translator Lori Saint-Martin. “There will be no posthumous text from Lori. We signed the introduction with four hands,” Catherine Parent specifies.
Back in 2012, Lori Saint-Martin published this disturbing analysis of the reception of Nelly Arcan’s work in voices and images.
“Sad thought, she had to die so that we forget the beautiful but too artificial woman who didn’t suit us and that we finally pay attention to her books; She had to extinguish the black light that was within her in order not to overshadow her work, Lori Saint-Martin wrote at the time. Alive bothered her too much, like a person who was too beautiful or too ugly or too naked; the mirror of the feminine that she held up to us widened the border to the unbearable, we were afraid it was contagious. When she is dead, she evokes the compassion and respect that many denied her when she was there like a spoilsport, when her body was a screen between us and her words. It fascinates young academics, inspires conferences, articles, dissertations, and that’s a good thing. All burqas follow, as does the black veil and the open wound. »