Femininity in the Position of the Oppressed in Nino Ricci’s <i>Lives of the Saints</i> A Comparison to Nelly Arcan’s <i>Putain</i> in Canadian and Quebec Literary Portrayals of Contemporary Womanhood


Nino Ricci, an award-winning English-speaking Italian descendant, and Nelly Arcan, suicidal Quebecker from Montreal, portray contemporary womanhood as seen through the lenses of oppression. In Ricci’s Lives of the Saints the figure of mother becomes a curse of the woman’s son, whose whole existence is conditioned by his mother’s incidental and adulterous pregnancy. The mother shifts from the position of an individual to the position of a symbol by becoming sinful representation of her disobedience in the relation to social rules. She is dominated by masculine gaze and rules established by men. Inversely acts Cynthia, the prostitute in Nelly Arcan’s Putain, who chooses her fate intentionally but who is equally conditioned by the social environment in which she grew up. Being a prostitute is an act of succumbing to masculine tyranny.

Key words: womanhood, oppressor, subjugation, Ricci, Arcan.

Arcan, Nelly, 2005: Whore. New York: Black Cat.

Bordeleau, Francine, 2002 : « La mise en scène de l’autofiction ». Spirale : arts • lettres • sciences humaines, no. 182 : 22.

Collins Dictionary. Femininity. 2013: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/femininity. Accessed: 12 March 2013.

Ditmore, Mellisa Hope, 2006: Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work. Vol. 1. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Imboden, Roberta, 1992: “The Hyperbolical Project of Cristina: A Derridean Analysis of Nino Ricci’s Lives of the Saints.” The Dalhousie Review, vol. 72, no. 1: 38.

Kille, Andrew, 2001: Psychological Biblical Criticism. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Kristeva, Julia, 1982: Powers of Horror: An Essay in Abjection. New York: Columbia University Press.

Ricci, Nino, 2008: Lives of the Saints. Markham: Cormorant Book Inc.

Ricci, Nino, 1999: Żywoty Świętych. Warszawa: Fallenica.

Tuzi, Marino, 1997: The Power of Allegiances: Identity, Culture and Representational Strategies. Toronto: Guernica Editions.

Werness, Hope, 2006: The Continuum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in World Art. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Ewa Drab  ewa.drab@us.edu.pl
University of Silesia 
Ewa Drab holds the master’s degree in applied languages, English and French, and teaches at the
Institute of Romance Languages and Translation Studies in Sosnowiec. She follows her doctorate course at the University of Silesia in literary translation. Her professional interests cover: American fantasy literature, science-fiction from Québec, film and video games translations, gender perspectives in contemporary literature, especially in fantasy. She is working on her PhD thesis with the focus on imaginary worlds in Anglo-French translations of fantasy novels published after 2000.