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Valérie Dusaillant-Fernandes

Assistant Professor

Valérie Dusaillant-Fernandes

Office: ML 342
  • D.E.U.G (Lettres, Arts, Expression et Communication), Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3, 1988
  • M.A. French Studies, University of Waterloo, 2004
  • PhD French Studies, University of Toronto, 2010


I spent my childhood in France and completed a D.E.U.G. in Paris (Sorbonne Nouvelle), before I moved to Canada where I started my career first as a teacher at the Alliance Française of Hamilton and then as a Marketing Coordinator/Translator in an environmental company in Guelph, specializing in impact assessment along with eco-toxicity testing and environmental technologies. I returned to academia and developed a professional interest in 20th and 21st century French Literature during my Master at the University of Waterloo French Studies Department where I completed a thesis entitled : “Writing on the Body and Violence: Study of Selected Texts from Amélie Nothomb and Sylvie Germain”. After completing this degree, I headed to the University of Toronto and successfully finished a PhD dissertation on the inscription of trauma in female autobiographical narratives in France since 1980.  I explored the textual inscription of childhood trauma in the works of six contemporary French authors and analyzed how each author articulated the traumatic scene within the context of the narrative and which textual strategies were used to convey the obsessive memory of a private childhood traumas such as incest, mistreatment or the loss of parents.

Research and teaching interests

  • 20th and 21st French and Francophone literature  
  • Literature and Arts
  • Autobiographical/Autofictional Writing
  • Trauma studies / Genocide
  • Intergenerational/Transgenerational Transmission
  • Psychoanalytic theories
  • Postcolonial theories
  • Feminist theories

Current projects

I specialize in 20th/21st French and Francophone Literature at the French Studies Department where I am active in both the undergraduate and graduate programs. My research focuses on the field of contemporary autobiographical/autofictional narratives, particularly those related to personal and collective traumas. I am also interested in the narratives of illness and intergenerational and transgenerational transmission in literature. While maintaining my interest in the representation of trauma in literature, I am expanding the scope of my research to include the notion of collective trauma, as expressed, for example, by the author Scholastique Mukasonga, who writes about the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. In working on Mukasonga’s text, I decided to focus on the plight of children in situations of armed conflict and urban violence, more particularly in the literature of sub-Saharan French Africa. The objective of my coming project is to conduct the research needed to develop a resource in digital format (an e-book) to be made available on the internet for use by scholars, educators, students and the public at large. The specific focus of this project will be narratives that represent the lived reality of marginalized African youth who are exploited and victimized by forces outside the law. The e-book will cover between ten to twelve literary works, with a detailed “Fiche” prepared for each work–a kind of guided literary overview that will be useful both to educators at the secondary and post-secondary levels and to learners or to those with an interest in discovering this rich literary tradition. In the literature of sub-Saharan French African novels that I propose to study, the child is depicted as an observer, a victim, and sometimes an actor. Despite the range of political and social contexts and the different traumas experienced, it becomes clear in these texts that the child occupies a specific semiotic position in testifying to the cultural and moral crisis of post-colonial Africa.

Selected publications

  • “Quand un tremblement de terre secoue l’écriture : regards croisés sur une catastrophe dans Tout bouge autour de moi de Dany Laferrière et Failles de Yanick Lahens”, In Haïti après le tremblement de terre : La forme, le rôle et le pouvoir de l’écriture, Emmanuelle Vanborre (ed.), Peter Lang, 2014, p.15-29.
  • “Difficulté de vivre avec ‘le passé devant soi’ : ne pas tomber dans le réalisme ordinaire chez Gilbert Gatore”, revue @nalysesRevue de critique et de théorie littéraire, vol. 9,  no3,  Automne 2014, p. 43-71.
  • “Le sort des enfants de la postcolonie: « Suite africaine » de Léonora Miano”, In L'oeuvre romanesque de Léonora Miano. Fiction, mémoire et enjeux identitaires, Alice Delphine Tang (dir.), Paris, L’Harmattan, 2014, p. 29-44.
  • “Dérouter le lecteur : procédés stylistiques dans Le cri du sablier de Chloé Delaume”, In Aventures et expériences littéraires: écritures des femmes au début du vingt-et-unième siècle, Amaleena Damlé and Gill Rye (eds.), Amsterdan/New York : Rodopi, Coll. Faux Titre, Volume 394, 2014, p. 39-56.
  • “La mission de Scholastique Mukasonga : entretenir le souvenir et faire perdurer la mémoire des siens”, In The Unspeakable: Representations of Trauma in Francophone Literature and Art, Névine El Nossery and Amy Hubbell (eds.), Newcastle-upon-Tyne : Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013, p. 97-114
  • “Le trauma du déracinement dans Mes Mauvaises pensées de Nina Bouraoui”, Nouvelles Francographies, Volume 3, numéro 1, 2012, p. 17-26.
  • “Du Vietnam au Québec : fragmentation textuelle et travail de mémoire chez KimThúy”, Women in French Studies, no 20, 2012, p. 75-89.
  • “Habiller le vécu de mots et d’images: le projet de Kim Thúy”, Entretien avec Kim Thúy, le 20 juillet 2012, Voix Plurielles, Volume no 9, no 2, 2012, p. 164-177​
  • “Revisiter l'événement traumatique: indécidabilité générique dans Le Manteau noir de Chantal Chawaf”, In Le roman français de l’extrême contemporain : écritures, engagements, énonciations, Barbara Havercroft, Pascal Michelucci and Pascal Riendeau (eds.), Québec: Éditions Nota bene, Coll. « Contemporanéités », no 4, 2010, p. 343-361.
  • “Auto/biographie et construction identitaire par la transmission intergénérationnelle dans La Dernière leçon de Noëlle Châtelet”, In Transmission et héritage dans l’écriture contemporaine de soi, Béatrice Jongy and Annette Keilhauer (eds.), Clermont-Ferrand : Presses Universitaires Blaise Pascal, Coll. Littératures, 2009, p. 105-116.

Awards and achievements

  • 2014  uWaterloo Robert Harding Humanities & Social Sciences Endowment Fund Grant
  • 2009-2010 Best Doctoral Thesis Award, University of Toronto
  • 2008-2009 OGS Scholarship
  • 2006-2008 SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship 

Selected professional and community affiliations

  • Association des professeur(e)s de français des universités et collèges canadiens (APFUCC)
  • Association pour l’Étude des littératures africaines (APELA)
  • Council of International Francophone Studies / Conseil International d’Études Francophones (CIEF)
  • Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
  • Women in French (WIF) 
University of Waterloo