Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American by Maria Hebert-Leiter

By Maria Hebert-Leiter

From antebellum occasions, Louisiana's certain multipartite society integrated a criminal and social area for middleman racial teams resembling Acadians, Creoles, and Creoles of colour. In changing into Cajun, turning into American, Maria Hebert-Leiter explores how American writers have portrayed Acadian tradition during the last a hundred and fifty years. Combining a research of Acadian literary background with an exam of Acadian ethnic historical past in gentle of contemporary social theories, she deals perception into the Americanization procedure skilled by way of Acadians--who through the years got here to be often called Cajuns--during the 19th and 20th centuries. Hebert-Leiter examines the whole historical past 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 deal with complicated and controversial--and occasionally taboo--subjects. She emphasizes the fiction of Kate Chopin, whose brief tales include Acadian characters approved as white american citizens throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Representations of the Acadian in literature replicate the Acadians' direction in the direction of assimilation, as they celebrated their transformations whereas nonetheless adopting an all-American proposal of self. In twentieth-century writing, Acadian figures got here to be extra referred to as Cajun, and more and more outsiders perceived them no longer easily as unique or mythic beings yet as complicated individuals who healthy into conventional American society whereas reflecting its cultural range. Hebert-Leiter explores this transition in Ernest Gaines's novel a meeting of previous 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 phases of this interesting cultural dynamism, making it a pivotal a part of any heritage of yank ethnicity and of Cajun tradition particularly. Concise and obtainable, changing into Cajun, changing into American presents a superb creation to American Acadian and Cajun literature.

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Additional resources for Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke (Southern Literary Studies)

Sample text

Departing from this mirror structure, Voorhies has the narrator name Louisiana the “Eden of America” and divides this perfect place from the “desolate” land from which the Acadians came (100). By confirming his homeland’s and his culture’s place in the nation, Voorhies was, in essence, depicting the Cajuns’ American identity and their need to experience a spiritual connection with their Louisiana land. Longfellow created this bond to reflect American notions of spiritual righteousness in settling the future state of Louisiana, but Cajuns now view this bond as part of their identity since they became Cajuns by traveling to Louisiana and establishing a new homeland.

The poem also represents the translation of folklore to the written page in the same way Longfellow translates the story of the Acadian dispersal, as told by Conolly, to the pages of American literature. This translation can be a way of considering Evangeline as more than a misrepresentation of a people because it follows the common path by which folktales are decontextualized and recontextualized as demonstrated by Saxon’s own focus on collecting and publishing folklore in English and for national and international audiences.

The river comes to me instead of my going to the river; and as it is to flow through the pages of the poem, I look upon this as a special benediction” (S. Longfellow, vol. 2, 67–68). 17 The path the Acadians take to Louisiana in Longfellow’s poem, although historically inaccurate,18 remains significant because it places them on the Mississippi River, the body of water that became the core of the nation as the United States expanded westward. It also reflects the Louisiana Purchase and the importance of this purchase to national history because of the value of the river’s mouth to the economic and military control of the nation.

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