Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter Two
Race, Place, and Identity
in the Nineteenth-Century Short Story
Like Garneau's Histoire du Canada (chapter one), published in 1845,
French-Canadian fiction and painting emerged in the early decades of
the nineteenth century in response to an identity crisis stemming ini-
tially from the British Conquest in 1759 and culminating in a series of
debilitating circumstances and traumatic events in the 1830s and 40s. 1
For the French-Canadian people, haunted by feelings of humiliation,
guilt, and doubt, this broad period was further marred by economic
woes, depletion of the educated, ruralization and isolation of the popu-
lace, and erosion of civil rights, leading to the failed patriots' rebellions
of 1837-8 and to the brutal reprisals and threats of assimilation that
ensued. Most historians of French-Canadian literature would agree
with the introductory words of a recent study, which affirm that 'après
les Rébellions de 1837-1838, l'écrivain devient le porte-parole de la col-
lectivité et participe à l'élaboration d'une nouvelle conscience natio-
nale' (after the rebellions of 1837-8, the writer becomes the spokesman
for the collectivity and participates in the elaboration of a new national
conscience). 2 Moreover, as the social historians Havard and Vidal con-
tend, the nationalism of this period often takes a particular turn to-
wards the remote past of the French colonial period, with its founding
figures and deeds (722-3).
Certainly, numerous early nineteenth-century short stories and paint-
ings turn back towards the seventeenth century for their subject matter,
spanning, yet occulting the dreaded eighteenth century in search of the
values of independence, ingenuity, and persistence they see and pro-
mote as central to the besieged national identity. Furthermore, their
specific subjects are invariably set in a landscape that showcases the
struggle against the wilderness and the weather on the one hand and
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