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Marc-Aurèle de Foy Susor-Coté, Coin de mon village, Arthabaska, 1914 (Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada. NGA)


I made changes to my last post. There were little mistakes, “surface errors.” I’m ageing. However, I would like to add that, in my opinion, Canadians have not paid sufficient attention to the findings of the Royal Commission of Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1963-1969) and Canada’s Official Languages Act. It was passed in 1969 and amended in 1988. The effort provided by Canadian Parents for French has led to the creation of French immersion schools. Canadian Parents for French is an organization that needs members and support.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms may be the better tool for promoting bilingual education. It guarantees minority rights when numbers warrant. I suspect that l’École acadienne de Pomquet owes its existence to Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In this respect, I would like to repeat that, in Quebec, learning French as a second language should be in the curriculum. Moreover, I would not prevent French-speaking students from enrolling in an English language CEGEP, a two-year post-secondary programme, or similar institutions. Finally, I would recommend improvements in the teaching of French as a mother tongue.

Moreover, Harvard’s new course on North America’s francophonie may prove an excellent initiative. Canada’s founding nations were France and Britain, but the French opened the North American continent. Francophonie overrides the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. It also overrides the expulsion of the Acadians, many of whom live in Louisiana. Moreover, 900,000 French Canadians moved to the United States between 1830 and 1930. They could not find work in Canada. They may no longer speak French, but they are part of North America’s francophonie.

La Patrie littéraire, the Literary Homeland

I could not write my book on Molière during my last sabbatical leave because I was asked to prepare two new courses: Animals in Literature and a course on contemporary Quebec literature. That year, however, I lectured in Stuttgart, Germany. One of my lectures was on la patrie littéraire, the literary homeland. In his Report on the Rebellions of 1837-1838, Lord Durham stated that French Canadians had no history and no literature.

They are a people with no history, and no literature. The literature of England is written in a language which is not theirs; literature which their language renders familiar to them, is that of a nation from which they have been separated by eighty years of a foreign rule, and still more by those changes which the Revolution and its consequences have wrought in the whole political, moral and social state of France.

Lord Durham’s Report on the Affairs of British North America, Sir C.P. Lucas, K.C.B., K.C.M.G. pp. 294-295 (Internet Archive)

I have noted elsewhere that denigration of French Canadians sparked the creation of two literary schools: l’École littéraire de Québec and l’École littéraire de Montréal. Moreover, François-Xavier Garneau wrote an Histoire du Canada depuis sa découverte jusqu’à nos jours.

As my sabbatical drew to a close I wrote an article entitled La Patrie littéraire: errance et résistance, published under my professional identity, Micheline Bourbeau-Walker. Bourbeau is my mother’s family name. La Patrie littéraire is a term used by René Dionne in his section of Gilles Marcotte‘s Anthologie de la littérature Québécoise. It is a fine description of the works written by French Canada’s two early literary schools. French Canada became a literary homeland. Its writers were French Canadians.

My contribution to this concept is an analysis of Antonine Maillet‘s Pélagie-la-Charrette, the above-mentioned La Patrie littéraire: errance et résistance. Pélagie-la-Charrette is a novel which earned its author, Antonine Maillet, the prestigious Prix Goncourt 1979. The novel features Pélagie, the narrator, and a group of Acadians travelling up the east coast of the United States pulling a cart, la charrette. They are returning to Acadie. Pélagie presents her characters as “the son of” or “the daughter of:” le fils à or la fille à: “Bélonie à Bélonie,” providing a lineage for her characters. Our ancestors are larger than we are. They validate us. So, Pélagie-la-Charrette is an anamnèse and a creation of things past. The term anamnèse is used in medicine where it lists the medical antecedents of a patient, but Pélagie-la-Charette is also une anamnèse. Pélagie builds a past.

I am mentioning la patrie littéraire because much of the literature produced by members of the Quebec and Montreal literary schools gave an identity to French Canada. Pamphile Lemay translated Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s Évangéline, a Tale of Acadie. Évangéline is a fictional character, but she lives forever. Historian Mona Ozouf also created une patrie littéraire: Récits d’une Patrie littéraire (Paris, Fayard), the literary works of women writers.

I will close here, concluding, first, that French should be in the curriculum in Quebec’s English-language schools and that the teaching of French as a mother tongue could be revised. I also wish to emphasize that a nation may be une patrie littéraire. French Canada will always be a sum of its literary works and other achievements.


My kindest regards to all of you. 💕

Alan Mills sings Un Canadien errant
Marc-Aurèle de Foy Susor-Coté L’Automne (Pinterest)

© Micheline Bourbeau-Walker
2 October 2022