Postdoctoral Fellow research focuses on Early Modern French literature

Samantha Carron receiving her PhD , University of Calgary

Samantha Carron is a Postdoctoral Fellow working with Dr. Marianne Legault, Department of Languages and World Literatures, here at UBC Okanagan. She is an alumna from UBC Okanagan with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in French and Spanish (2014), she has a Master of Arts (MA) in 17th century French Literature from the University of Calgary (2017) and a PhD in 17th century Women’s Literature from the University of Calgary (2023).

Her research is titled « L’Autre, c’est moi » : la fluidité du je travesti dans le discours romanesque du XVIIe siècle

Samantha shared with us some information about her research and affiliation with UBC Okanagan.

How is your postdoc connected to UBCO?

The Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies is home to many talented and motivated researchers and students who are committed toward greater inclusion, diversity and equity, and who support the growth of quality research in Gender, Queer and Feminist Studies. It is a humbling opportunity for me to play a role in the work currently done by FCCS’ students, professors and researchers in the real world – challenging conventions, questioning heteronormativity, redefining our visions and our ways of living in community. With the support of Dr. Legault, I hope to be able to participate alongside these numerous researchers, who make up the strength of UBCO, in the advancement of innovations and research, and to contribute to the literary and inclusive understanding of the diversity of personal identities in our communities today.

Most importantly, my postdoctoral research is connected to Dr. Legault directly, as she is the only specialist in Early Modern Feminist and Queer Studies in Canada. When I first met her during my BA in 2010-2014, little did I know that she would not only become my mentor but she would also become a solid example of what it means to be a woman in Academia and that our daily fight for greater inclusion, diversity and equity is deeply rooted in the work that we do. I hope that someday I can be an example like her.

Explain your research and how will you be able to conduct this research at UBCO.

My research project carries out a comparative study of the characteristics attributed to man-woman vs. woman-man cross-dressing in two 17th century novels, L’Astrée by Honoré d’Urfé (1607-1627) and Mémoires de la vie de Henriette-Sylvie de Molière by Madame de Villedieu (1672-1674), in order to bring out the discursive construction of the subject in relation to his or her other self, the “travesti”.  The main objective of my research is to observe cross-dressing as a privileged place of identity reflection in relation to cultural perceptions of identities, especially the discursive role of gender in the formation of identificatory practices. With this project, I hope to show that “travestissement” is a phenomenon of reflection, fluidity and authority that crosses and redefines the gendered boundaries institutionally codified in the 17th century.

Literary studies in 17th century France have always been separated from other disciplines, confined within the integrity of literary history. Barthes once wrote that the 17th century is “autre et nôtre” (“others and ours”). However, many 17th century experts still believe that it is more “autre” rather than “nôtre” and that a modern gendered and political approach is simply anachronistic and would make this “great” century loose its particular mentality, its perception of the world and its understanding of hierarchies in its nuances.

One day, while discussing my research project with Dr. Legault, I admitted having an impostor feeling, which came from the many comments I received throughout my doctoral journey from other 17th century experts who denied publication of some of my work, because it was “anachronistic”. Dr. Legault then told me that challenging the norms is a pretty scary ride, but if it bothers some people, it means that we are going in the right direction. And she was right. My passion for 17th century literature was born on the wish to challenge this conservative thinking, and I am proud to make my project part of the contemporary movement in Gender and Queer Studies.

Why did you choose that topic, and what difference do you hope your research will make?

I first chose this topic of research because “travestissement” is a subject that is still very new in the context of 17th century France, and I eagerly want to be part of this new evolution of research in my field. Also, my postdoctoral research follows my doctoral dissertation in some ways. Indeed, while my dissertation focused on the representation of the religious woman in her autobiographical and epistolary discourse, I am now interested in knowing what we can learn from the representation of the “travesti” subject in the context of the 17th century. I chose two novels, one written by a man and one written by a woman, in order to conduct a more inclusive research that reflects the identity diversity of yesterday and today.

I hope that my research will make a difference on two different levels:

First, I hope that it will contribute to raising two major historical issues: the role of literary discourse in understanding the realities of gender diversity, and the self-determination of the “travesti” subject which calls into question the cultural practices as well as the preconceptions that “travesti” subject gives rise to.

Second, the current research has studied “travestissement” as a marginal phenomenon that expressed class and gender irregularity in the 17th century, primarily associated with the popular baroque rhetoric and aesthetics of the “world upside down”. Therefore, I hope that my research will contribute to demonstrating that “travestissement”, in the context of 17th century literature, is a problem of mentality on the part of society which refuses the idea of gender diversity in favor of conformity. At this level, I hope that my research will help us better understand the historical ramifications of this gendered violence that we still witness today.

What are your plans after you complete the postdoc?

I hope to stay in Academia and have the opportunity to continue challenging the norms, making a difference, and above all, continuing to “make noise”! I once read that “écrire c’est révéler, révéler c’est faire connaître, et faire connaître, c’est engager” (to write is to reveal, to reveal is to let others know, and to let others know is to engage them as well). If I had to define what I love most about being a researcher, this would be it, and I hope to continue doing just that, wherever the next chapter will take me. And of course, I will be bringing my cats along!

About Samantha Carron

I am a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at UBC-Okanagan. My research focuses mainly on Early Modern French literature, with a particular interest in discursive representations of the female and “travesti” subject (le sujet travesti), in the critical and political scope of this image of the subject, and in the way in which these representations negotiate the logic of the sex/gender system which maintains the hierarchical attributes and power dynamics in place in 17th century France.

I have published several works, including an article in the Journal of Canadian Studies entitled “Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation: Une femme d’action en Nouvelle-France” (2020), an article published in the Cahiers du dix-septième entitled “Se taire pour mieux plaire? Le paradoxe genré du silence dans la Correspondance de Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation” (2023) and an upcoming chapter contributing to a collective work at McGill-Queen’s University Press entitled “Marie avant l’Incarnation (1621-1631) : une sainte « en devenir » dans la Relation de 1633” (2024).