Referential Lives: Literary, Legal, and Colonial Discourses in Audrey Andrews’ Account of the Life and Trials of Dorothy Joudrie
Alkenbrack, Kaleigh Elizabeth
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In Be Good, Sweet Maid: The Trials of Dorothy Joudrie (1999), Audrey Andrews recounts the life and trial of Dorothy Joudrie, a so-called wealthy socialite who was arrested in Calgary in 1995 for attempting to murder her estranged husband after decades of domestic abuse. Andrews tells Joudrie’s story in the form of a semi-auto/biographical text that quotes other scholarly and creative literary works in an intertextual dialogue about violence against women, post-World War II gender socialization, and the “battered women syndrome” defence. This thesis takes this highly referential dialogue as its starting point, and then extends Andrews’ cultural work by tracing a genealogy of colonialism in Canadian domestic violence laws with the help of selected intertexts – including Yvonne Johnson’s Stolen Life: Journey of a Cree Woman (1998), the trial of Angelique Lavallee, and Lorena Bobbitt’s infamous case. First, I source the epigraphs that Andrews strategically places at the start of each chapter and discern the layer of meaning that these external texts bring to Joudrie’s story in order to raise questions about how Andrews rearticulates the work of others and the politics of such a rearticulation. Second, I similarly frame Joudrie’s 1995 trial as a referential and intertextual discourse based in precedent established by the Supreme Court in 1990 when it ruled that expert testimony on the “battered woman syndrome” was admissible in the R. v. Lavallee case (Shaffer 1). This allows me to consider a consequence of the ruling often overlooked in feminist literature: due to the fact that the original defendant, Angelique Lavallee, was a Métis woman whose identity was erased in the courtroom and in case law, subsequent trials employing the “battered woman syndrome” defence repeat settler relations entrenched in colonial violence. Third, I expose how representations can fail by thinking through what Stephen Couser calls the auto/bio/ethics of life writing, which reveals the limits of Canadian laws and literatures. Ultimately, this discussion generates questions about who is considered human under the law and how life writing might re-imagine the “reasonable” human in more just and compassionate ways.