By Maria Hebert-Leiter
From antebellum instances, Louisiana's distinct multipartite society integrated a felony and social house for middleman racial teams comparable to Acadians, Creoles, and Creoles of colour. In turning into Cajun, changing into American, Maria Hebert-Leiter explores how American writers have portrayed Acadian tradition over the last one hundred fifty years. Combining a research of Acadian literary heritage with an exam of Acadian ethnic background in gentle of contemporary social theories, she deals perception into the Americanization strategy skilled via Acadians--who over the years got here to be referred to as Cajuns--during the 19th and 20th centuries. Hebert-Leiter examines the complete heritage of the Acadian, or Cajun, in American literature, starting with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem Evangeline and the writings of George Washington Cable, together with his novel Bonaventure. The cultural complexity of Acadian and Creole identities led many writers to depend on stereotypes in Acadian characters, yet as Hebert-Leiter indicates, the anomaly of Louisiana's category and racial divisions additionally allowed writers to handle advanced and controversial--and occasionally taboo--subjects. She emphasizes the fiction of Kate Chopin, whose brief tales comprise Acadian characters permitted as white americans throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Representations of the Acadian in literature mirror the Acadians' direction in the direction of assimilation, as they celebrated their adjustments whereas nonetheless adopting an all-American idea of self. In twentieth-century writing, Acadian figures got here to be extra known as Cajun, and more and more outsiders perceived them no longer easily as unique or mythic beings yet as advanced people who healthy into conventional American society whereas reflecting its cultural range. Hebert-Leiter explores this transition in Ernest Gaines's novel a meeting of outdated males and James Lee Burke's detective novels that includes Dave Robicheaux. She additionally discusses the works of Ada Jack Carver, Elma Godchaux, Shirley Ann Grau, and different writers. From Longfellow via Tim Gautreaux, Acadian and Cajun literature captures the levels of this interesting cultural dynamism, making it a pivotal a part of any background of yankee ethnicity and of Cajun tradition particularly. Concise and obtainable, changing into Cajun, turning into American presents an exceptional advent to American Acadian and Cajun literature.
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From antebellum occasions, Louisiana's special multipartite society integrated a criminal and social house for middleman racial teams akin to Acadians, Creoles, and Creoles of colour. In turning into Cajun, turning into American, Maria Hebert-Leiter explores how American writers have portrayed Acadian tradition over the last a hundred and fifty years.
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Extra resources for Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke (Southern Literary Studies)
Although his intention may have been to improve the lives of Louisiana Acadians, Cable’s novel, with its romantic notions of freedom through English usage, places the Acadian community firmly within American boundaries and endorses an assimilation process that ironically foreshadows the process by which Acadians became Cajun Americans. Bonaventure claims that “Knowledge is power” (88), and knowledge of the English language is the greatest power of all in the nation. As the title character endeavors to spread this message to the Louisiana Acadians, many of the adults he confronts refute his instruction because of distrust of the assimilation process such education promotes.
114). Bonaventure clearly promotes English language usage and public education as the means of guaranteeing Acadian assimilation to an American way of life, a necessary Americanization process in the mind of Cable, especially following the divisive Civil War and process of Reconstruction. This assimilation agenda pertains not only to a little known culture that would soon feel the aftereffects of national exposure, but also to the South in general. While Henry Wadsworth Longfellow chose to depict Acadians as American in many ways, Cable more accurately describes a people who remain different within their Louisiana boundaries, a difference placed at risk by the consequences of the war and Reconstruction.
After publishing his slavery poems, Longfellow chose to work on a story that would not divide the nation but would in fact record the geographical expansion of the United States through assimilation. 12 By creating such an American character, Longfellow, “like Whittier, like Whitman on a different scale, is one of the founders, through Evangeline, of a North American consciousness in poetry,” according to Henri-Dominique Paratte (Foreword). Within the lines of Evangeline, Longfellow maintains his Acadians’ distance from their African slave neighbors to create an uncomplicated and nondivisive image of a native American people.
Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke (Southern Literary Studies) by Maria Hebert-Leiter
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