Monday, January 3, 2011

A New Beginning- Part 2- Selected Passages From Writings By Gerard J. Brault

  Making the Rounds to Neighboring Homes on Ash Wednesday

                                 By Edmond  J. Massicotte~1911                                 

         "  In the nineteenth century, nationalistic ideologues in Quebec developed the concept that French~Canadians were duty bound to preserve their cultural identity. For many, this notion became indistinguishable from the view that French~Canadians were called upon to fulfill a sacred mission, namely to preserve Catholicism in America, and that this mission could best be accomplished by maintaining their mother tongue and customs, and by staying on the land. This view came to be called, La survivance.
        This messianic and agrarian ideology was associated with the myth of a 'Golden Age', at a time when inhabitants were devout, hard working farmers, toiling in peace and harmony, benevolently, watched over by wise old parish priests. A series of sketches by Edmond J. Massicotte transposed this long ago period of happiness and and prosperity to the recent past. For example, La be'ne'diction du Jour de l'An (1912) is a dramatic rendering of the traditional New Year's Day blessing. Massicotte's drawings depict real~life people in authentic settings, but like Norman Rockwell's illustrations of the American scene, they are suffused with sentimentality and nostalgia.

La be'ne'diction du Jour de l'An
 By Edmond J. Massicotte~ 1912
               At first, Anglo~Saxons in Canada (les Anglais) posed the main threat. But, beginning almost in the middle of the nineteenth century, emigration to New England loomed as an equally disturbing menace. Better than anyone else, Louis He'mon (1880~1913) summed up turn~of~the~century French~Canadian survivance ideology in his novel,  Maria Chapdelaine, first published in 1914. (A Frenchman, He'mon only lived two~and~a~half years in Quebec before being accidentally killed by a train at the age of thirty-three.) On the surface, the story of a young woman's gradual resignation to frontier life in Quebec's Lake St. John country, portrayed in realistic terms as filled with endless toil and danger, the novel is also a paean to deep-seated loyalties. There is a celebrated passage at the end of the novel, notably the proud affirmation "Nous sommes venus il y a trois cents ans, et nous sommes reste's"   (We came three hundred years ago, and we stayed), strikes a responsive chord in most French~Canadians to this day."

1. The french-Canadian Heritage In New England by Gerard J. Brault
 2.Images- Edmond J. Massicotte, Nos Canadiens d'auttrefois: 12 grandes compositions (Montreal: Granger Fre`eres, 1923.
3. Guide officiel des Franco-Americains 1931(Auburn Rhode Island: Albert Belanger, 1931)
4. Gerard J. Brault, "Etat pr`esent des e'tudes sur les centres franco-ame'ricains de la Nouvelle-Angleterre (Quebec City: Hardy, 1891) referring to Vicero.

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