Chloé Brault MacKinnon
Between 1968 and 1971, Pierre Vallières got all the good press he and the Quebec separatist movement wanted with White N-words of America. In the decades since, critics called Vallières' first book a “classic” and an “integral part of Quebec history.” By 2019 however, those who continued to utter the title in full in Canadian universities and on public radio and television started to face denunciation. Complaints led to putative cancellations, followed by investigations, new legislation regarding hateful anti-Black language on publicly funded media, and finally, arguments against censorship in the name of free speech and the preservation of Quebecois culture.
This project will build a corpus of references to White N-words of America in French- and English-language newspapers and analyze trends in the discourse from a book history and print culture perspective: first in the wake of its publication, then with its re-entry into media discourse in the 2020s. Using a variety of text analysis methods (including topic modeling, cosine similarity, PCA, and text classification, along with simply tracking the frequency of key terms over time), we will identify and characterize the key positions in conversation around this book, both historically and currently.