Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
winter quarters. 12 In short, it is Cartier's writings, followed by those of
Champlain, that locate, designate, and consecrate this place for posterity,
that impose a collective cultural mark, a landmark, on the New World
wilderness. Indeed, it is ultimately the text, or the map itself, that be-
comes a 'place,' 'utopian' at that, as Peters concludes: 'Throughout the
text, Champlain's narrative persona envisions the construction of a sin-
gular “place” from which “la Nouvelle-France” may be viewed “objec-
tively” and “truthfully” … The map's totalizing point of view is ultimately
utopian. It is an impossible view from and of “nowhere” ( ou-topos ). The
map's authority as a geographic instrument derives not from any real
capacity to communicate its referent, but from its ability to persuade
viewers to behave as if it could' (101).
Just as Cartier saw nature in terms of culture, one might say that
Champlain transformed nature by culture, creating significant place
from meaningless space, hardly surprising, of course, for a man whose
declared mission was to settle the new land (13), as later reiterated by
King Henri IV himself, in a document quoted by Champlain: 'Sur l'avis
qui nous a été donné par ceux qui sont venus de la Nouvelle-France de
la bonté et fertilité des terres dudit pays et que les peuples de celui-ci
sont disposés à recevoir la connaissance de Dieu, nous avons résolu de
faire continuer l'habitation qui avait été ci-devant commencée audit
pays.' (120; Based on the advice given to us by those who came from
New France concerning the goodness and fertility of its lands and that
its peoples are disposed to receive knowledge of God, we have resolved
to have the residence already begun in said country continue.)
This same civilizing mission is well illustrated by one of the first
surviving paintings set in the New World, La France apportant la foi
aux Hurons de la Nouvelle-France (figure 1.3), painted around 1660 by an
anonymous French artist, though sometimes attributed to Frère Luc, aka
Claude François. 13
If one begins a reading with the figure of France (whose face is that of
Anne of Austria, dowager Queen of France from 1643-66 and regent for
the future Sun King, Louis XIV, until 1651), as suggested by the paint-
ing's title and promoted by her prominent position, she transfers
European values, represented by the ship with coat of arms and flags to
the right, through the painting, to the kneeling native in the rugged
New World setting to the left, both of which already bear the stamp of
French civilization in the form of a fleur-de-lis cape and cross-topped
chapels. At the same time the allegorical figure's gesturing hand leads
the eye upward to the vision of the holy family, which reappears in the
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