François Paré

Distinguished Professor Emeritus
François Paré

BA (Montreal), PhD (State University of New York, Buffalo), FRSC

François Paré's work is in the area of minority literatures, literature as a cultural institution, and 16th-century France. His book, Les littératures de l'exiguïté (Le Nordir, 1992, 1995, 2001), was awarded the Governor General's Award in 1993. His other books on Franco-Ontarian and Québec literatures include: Théories de la fragilité (Le Nordir, 1994), Traversées (with François Ouellet, Le Nordir, 2000), Frontières Flottantes / Shifting Boundaries (with Jaap Lintvelt, Rodopi, 2001), Le fantasme d'Escanaba (Nota Bene, 2007), and Louis Hamelin et ses doubles (with François Ouellet, Nota Bene, 2008).

He is presently working on three different projects: a photographic essay on Sudbury, an essay on diasporic cultures, and an epistolary essay with François Ouellet on Québec novelist Louis Hamelin. He is currently working on a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) on traces of oblivion in contemporary North American Francophone cultures. A book, tentatively titled L'effacement du nom, is due to appear in 2011.

He received the Distinguished Teacher Award in 2009.


François Paré is the winner of the 1993 Governor General's Award and Signet d'Or for his first book Les littératures de l'exiguïté. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

François Paré grew up in Montréal and didn't speak English until he had graduated and left for Buffalo. "I don't understand my own decision to leave Québec," he says. The decision to go to the US seemed strange - most of his fellow students went to study in France. It was at the end of the Vietnam war and many Canadians were being channelled towards US jobs and encouraged to apply for US schools. Paré was encouraged by his professors in Montreal to study at the University of Buffalo, The State University of New York (SUNY), as one of the best French studies graduate programs in the world. At the time, he says, this was true.

During this time, many intellectuals taught in the Buffalo program, including cultural gurus Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Hubert Aquin. Had Paré met them as a student in France, he says, they may have been too busy to speak to him, but in the US they were quite willing to go for coffee with grad students and talk about their work. Paré got to know Foucault and Aquin and was deeply influenced by them. This proved to be pivotal to his research interests and direction.

Paré was working on Montaigne and 16th-century French literature. The influence of both Foucault and Baudrillard developed his interest towards literature as a cultural object. His own cultural experiences as a francophone in the US and later in Canada began to deepen and personalize his work.

After graduation, Professor Paré began teaching at Buffalo but soon decided against living in the US. He moved to St. Catharines and began to see marked cultural differences both in himself and as a member of a community. "Living as a Francophone in the US didn't mean anything; you were just another free immigrant. You didn't establish a group, become a community, or perpetuate your culture. You were by yourself." It was in St. Catharines that he first came to see himself as Québécois. "Many Québécois who move to another province sense a temporariness in their decision and don't invest in their new community at first." But this sustained the cultural loneliness Paré had experienced in Buffalo. It soon struck him that he was in Southern Ontario to stay. He had been away from Québec for almost ten years and had lost sight of his home culture, yet even here in Ontario he was no longer an immigrant. He became a Franco-Ontarian and joined in the ten percent French speaking community in town.

In 1982 Paré moved to Kitchener-Waterloo and taught at the University of Guelph for 25 years. During that time he filled in for several graduate courses at Waterloo during summers. He became an adjunct here in1994 and began supervising graduate student theses on Québec literature. "Because I didn't have an office here, I would meet the students at various coffee places, sometimes late at night - each had their own favourite, Grabba Java, Williams... It was a little strange, but fun. We had time to talk over their work in a more relaxed environment."

The development of Paré's research on literature as a cultural object began with his interest in the 16th century and in the invention of the printing press. Poets wrote and published books which were in turn used to build and strengthen nationalism in France. The poets, like it or not, became political agents, and their books grew to be objects circulating as part of someone's political or cultural agenda. The key questions were who wrote, who printed and circulated, and who read these books? And what changes came about as a result?

Paré applied the same questions to his growing interest in Québécois and French literatures. The book is a cultural agent to academic institutions as well as a teaching tool. The trouble, he says, is when a university lives in a culture but does not study the culture that surrounds it, concentrating instead on literatures from a different time and place. "When an institution does not participate in the local culture, does not make contributions to or criticism of it, there's a problem."

The defence of small, untaught literatures excluded from teaching and literary institutions is the subject of his first book. "We go berserk on a plant that is disappearing," he says, "because we value biodiversity but we don't seem to value cultural or linguistic diversity. Human cultures and languages disappear on a daily basis. I don't understand why we don't fight back." As professors in an eminent institution, he feels he and his colleagues in French Studies are in a good position to do just that. "We have an important advantage in that we are educating people. It is important that we are open to the French speaking community here in town. We can forge relationships with French and French-Canadian families, with the five French language schools in K-W and cater to the general community here. It is not enough just to teach the language."

Speaking about the Governor General's Award, Paré says he was pleased largely because the book had a message and a cause to defend, and winning the award allowed it to have a platform. It is now in its third edition and has been translated into four languages. The book began to be noticed when Le Devoir newspaper in Montréal gave it a good review. He was surprised when he got the call to say he had been short listed for the award, and was satisfied with that. Then he won and, he says, "things changed dramatically. Suddenly I became someone who was an interesting person."

"At Waterloo", Paré comments, "the language departments are small but they are separate entities within the Faculty of Arts. It allows us to have a voice and a presence. This department is on the move and I'm excited to be part of its development." Paré recently published three new books. Le fantasme d'Escanaba, a study of French Canadian migrations, appeared at Nota Bene publishers in 2007. A collection of articles on Franco-Ontarian playwright Jean-Marc Dalpé, edited with Stéphanie Nutting, also came out in 2007. A study of Québec novelist Louis Hamelin's fiction (written with François Ouellet), appeared in 2008. Paré is currently working on a book intitled L'effacement du nom, a study of the figures of blivion in North American francophone literature.

Representative Publications:


  • Louis Hamelin et ses doubles, (with François Ouellet), Nota Benne, 2008.
  • Le fantasme d'Escanaba, Nota Bene, 2007.
  • Jean Marc Dalpé, ouvrier d'un dire, Prise de Parole, 2007.
  • La distance habitée, Le Nordir, 2003. (winner, Trillium Book Award)
  • Shifting Boundaries/Fontières flottantes, Rodopi, 2001.
  • Traversées (with François Ouellet), Le Nordir, 2000.
  • Théories de la fragilité, Le Nordir, 1994.
  • Les littératures de l'exiguité, Le Nordir, 1992, third edition, Bibliothèque canadienne-française, 2001. Exiguity: Reflections on Literature in the Margins, WLU Press, 1997. (winner, Governor General's Award, Signet d'Or, 1993)


Articles on Gabrielle Roy, Daniel Poliquin, Jean Marc Dalpé Robert Dickson, Edouard Glissant, Gaston Miron, Fernand Dumont, Hélène Dorion, Gérard Bessette, Herménégilde Chiasson, Michel de Montaigne, Marguerite de Navarre, Blaise Pascal, Philippe Jaccottet, Joachim du Bellay, Denise Desautels, France Daigle.

Selected Professional and Community Affiliations

  • Member of the Association Internationale des Études Québécoises,
  • Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies,
  • Société Québécoise d'Études Théâtrales,
  • Association des Professeurs de Français des Universités et Collèges du Canada.
  • Royal Society of Canada