- L’Acadie: Sur l’empremier et aujourd’hui / Acadia: Past and Present
Par / by Regis Brun
Translation: Sally Ross
Published by the Centre d’etudes acadiennes,
Universite de Moncton, Moncton, N.B.
An Excellent Preliminary Volume, No ‘canned’ Treatment Here!
A Review by: Ronnie Scullion
This bilingual text was intended, in part, to accompany an exhibition, ‘Hale-toi une buche: une expression de l’Acadie’ / ‘An Expression of Acadia’. The cover, curiously featuring a can of Claude’s Poutines Rapees does little to prepare the reader for the book’s contents that delivers anything but a ‘canned’ treatment of this rich and fascinating part of our shared history.
The goal of the exhibition and the book was not simply to chronicle the history of the French in this part of North America. Topics covered and artifacts chosen for display were intended to convey different aspects of the Acadian experience in the Maritimes from a socio-cultural perspective. The resulting volume is an expose exploring the religious, cultural, and traditional life of the Acadians, and one that extends its appeal beyond the readership of the exhibition attendee.
The topics are concisely, yet expertly, dealt with by historian, Regis Brun, and interspersed with illustrations of many of the unique artifacts and archival photographs that comprised the exhibit.
The first chapter gives an overview of the history of the Acadians. The ‘Acadians’, as the name is used in the exhibition and the book refers to the French communities in the three Maritime provinces, in the Magdalen Islands and the west coast of Newfoundland. Devoted to the colonial period, it explains how the early French settlers came to stay in the communities they inhabit today. It details Acadia before the Deportation and tells of their role and participation in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the First World War.
Early Church artifacts are plentiful, underlining the importance of religion in the Acadian communities from the outset. The relationships to the native people are also emphasized. The first French settlers owed much to the natives from whom they learned traditional hunting and fishing practices, such as drying cod, and other aspects of survival in the new and sometimes harsh Canadian environment. This initial exchange extended to cultural and linguistic borrowings as well.
The chapters that immediately follow trace and contrast the socio-economic development of the communities — the growth and proliferation of the New Brunswick communities compared to the ongoing struggles of communities in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to endure in an often overtly anti-Catholic or anti-Acadian environment. New Brunswick alone sustained a large enough population base to effectively influence political life and attain political status in the province.
The balance of the book gives an overview of evolving religious, material, and cultural life and how it was shaped and influenced by the physical and cultural landscape of the Maritimes. Cultural life is explored in detail, examining the particular and unique development of Acadian literature, music, art and film.
The importance of the family occupies its own chapter near the end of the book. Tied in with the strong sense of identity that it supports; family, like religion remained a mainstay of the Acadian communities.
A final section contains a comprehensive list of works dealing with a range of topics relevant to Acadian life. The list is intended for further reading.
As an introduction to the rich cultural traditions and communities of the Acadians, ‘Acadia: Past and Present’ is an excellent preliminary volume, which will undoubtedly stir many of its readers to further explore this topic.
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2. Acadia of the Maritimes: Thematic Studies from the Beginning to the Present
Translation of: L’Acadie des Maritimes: etudes thematiques des debuts a nos jours
Edited by Jean Daigle
Chaires d’etudes acadiennes
Universite de Moncton
For Serious Students and Scholars of Acadian History and Culture!
A Review by: Ronnie Scullion
Acadia of the Maritimes comprises a collection of scholarly articles on Acadia and the Acadian people. Produced by the Chaire d’etudes acadiennes from the Universite de Moncton, it is an academic work addressing current issues and research of Acadian life in a number of different subject areas — including history, sociology, economics and linguistics. The included articles challenge and inspire the current trends and thought of Acadian study.
The articles are historically grounded, chronologically presented and cover four centuries of Acadian life. Twenty distinct themes are explored within this historical framework, beginning with a recount of the first French settlements, the period of colonization and the course of early political and economic development.
Linguistic research forms the basis of a number of the investigations as seen in the co-development of linguistic and cultural rights, the unique evolution of the French language in the Maritime provinces, through to the impact of past and current Acadian literature.
All aspects of Acadian life and community are looked at — education, religion, recreation and culture. In the cultural arena folklore, visual arts, the media, theatre and music are explored.
The book is intended for students and specialists of Acadia. A thematic index at the end of the volume facilitates cross-referencing of the contents. The articles follow the conventions and standards of academic literature. They are liberally footnoted and a complete bibliography accompanies each one. Supplementary maps, tables and illustrations are incorporated, enhancing the textual material.
The team of thirty-three specialists commissioned to prepare the articles are all distinguished leaders in their fields of study. They are drawn principally from Canadian Universities, from a range of disciplines, reflecting the diversity of themes and topics included in the anthology. While many of the articles are the works of a single author, some are collaborative works with two, three or more contributors, making the volume reflective of the large sampling of current academic thought.
Editor Jean Daigle draws together these disparate yet intimately related works in expert fashion. This work is essential reading for serious students and specialists of Acadia.
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