[UPDATED deadline] Women and the Production of Popular Culture in Québec between the Wars

full name / name of organization: 
Andrée Lafontaine and Louis Pelletier

Montréal – March 5, 2016 / Submission deadline extended to January 11, 2016

The interwar years represent a period of profound – if sometimes hardly perceptible – change for women in Québec. After massively entering the industrial workforce during the First World War, Québec women were enfranchised at the federal level, but had to keep battling conservative forces to gain voting rights at the provincial level. The era's press, popular music, theater, radio, as well as the French and Hollwyood films massively consumed by women introduced new ideas, and manifestations of a new vernacular modernism overlapped with traditional cultural productions.

Quebec women were, however, more than mere consumers of entertainment and mass media. In fact, women played a leading role in the emergence of Quebec's popular culture and, in the process, contributed to both the vitality of the local artistic community and the rapid growth of the entertainment industry. Female performers such as singer La Bolduc or comedian La Poune made creative use of a new vernacular language and commented on the rapid urbanization and industrialization transforming Quebec society, as well as on the rise of consumerism. In the film world, writer and journalist Emma Gendron scripted two pioneering feature films, while musician Vera Guilaroff gained fame as a silent film accompanist. Guilaroff and her sister Olga also took part in the early days of radio and the recording industry, and later became highly sought performers during the golden age of cabaret in Montreal. The success of cinemas, theaters and cabarets responsible for Montreal's (in)famous reputation further relied heavily on the work of countless forgotten female dancers, musicians, comedians and extras.

This colloquium aims to give new impetus to historical research on these female creators, performers and workers, to which few studies have been devoted. Proposals that go beyond mere biographical approaches by contextualising the work of women within the interwar social and political context are especially sought. The colloquium will thus focus on the following questions: Which historical and social factors encouraged the increased involvement of women in culture and entertainment? What roles did mass media play in constituting female identities and communities? Can we speak of a feminine alternative public sphere in Quebec's interwar years? How was the intermedial dimension of cultural productions reflected in women's careers and creative outputs?

We welcome proposals on all aspects of women's involvement in cultural production, including, but not limited to:

● Women's creations and hierarchies of arts and entertainment
● The question of vernacular modernism
● Inconspicuous and devalued female contributions
● Independent, amateur and community productions,
● The contributions of women from the anglophone and cultural communities
● Censorship and women producers and consumers
● The contribution of women to the early days of radio
● The work of women journalists, columnists and writers
● Brotherhoods, trade unions and guilds
● Developing and programming content for female audiences

While the colloquium will focus on the work of women as producers of popular culture and entertainment, proposals focusing on women as fans and consumers, as well as on women working in more "legitimate" fields (such as fine arts and literature) will also be considered. Comparative approaches and studies pertaining to Quebec women working abroad are also welcomed.

Proposals for twenty-minute presentations should include a title, an abstract of 300 words and a brief bio. Proposals may be submitted in either French or English to colloqueculturepop@gmail.com before January 11, 2016.

We welcome initial inquiries at colloqueculturepop@gmail.com.

Colloquium organized by Andrée Lafontaine (University of Montreal) and Louis Pelletier (Concordia University).