Subjective Time and the Challenge of Social Synchronization: Gabrielle Roy’s The Road Past Altamont and Catherine Bush’s Minus Time

  • Paul Huebener Athabasca University


This article examines the tensions between subjective time and sociality in Gabrielle Roy’s short story cycle The Road Past Altamont (La Route D’Altamont, 1966), and Catherine Bush’s novel Minus Time (1993). While the two books examine strikingly different temporal circumstances – francophone settler culture in early twentieth-century Manitoba, and the implications of orbital space travel for a Torontonian family near the end of the twentieth century – both works clarify the relationship between social and subjective time. Through these readings I argue that the desire for various levels of social synchronization is a key factor in reading subjective experiences of time, that certain forms of social tension on the level of the family, the society, and even the ecosphere, can best be understood as forms of desynchronization, and that fleeting moments of partial synchronization are deeply necessary for fostering intimacy and connection between individuals, even while total synchronization remains not only elusive, but in fact impossible by definition.

Author Biography

Paul Huebener, Athabasca University

Paul Huebener is an Assistant Professor of English in the Centre for Humanities at Athabasca University. His work investigates the cultural politics of time in Canada, asking how time functions socially as a tool of power, and how literature and other imaginative responses can help us gain and promote critical temporal literacy. He is a co-editor for The Goose: A Journal of Arts, Environment, and Culture in Canada.