By Maria Hebert-Leiter
From antebellum instances, Louisiana's distinct multipartite society incorporated a felony and social area for middleman racial teams equivalent to Acadians, Creoles, and Creoles of colour. In changing into Cajun, turning into American, Maria Hebert-Leiter explores how American writers have portrayed Acadian tradition over the last a hundred and fifty years. Combining a examine of Acadian literary historical past with an exam of Acadian ethnic background in gentle of contemporary social theories, she bargains perception into the Americanization method skilled by way of Acadians--who over the years got here to be referred to as Cajuns--during the 19th and 20th centuries. Hebert-Leiter examines the complete background 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 upon stereotypes in Acadian characters, yet as Hebert-Leiter indicates, the anomaly of Louisiana's classification and racial divisions additionally allowed writers to deal with advanced and controversial--and occasionally taboo--subjects. She emphasizes the fiction of Kate Chopin, whose brief tales comprise Acadian characters authorized as white american citizens through the 19th and early 20th centuries. Representations of the Acadian in literature replicate the Acadians' course in the direction of assimilation, as they celebrated their ameliorations whereas nonetheless adopting an all-American concept 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 advanced individuals who healthy into conventional American society whereas reflecting its cultural variety. Hebert-Leiter explores this transition in Ernest Gaines's novel a meeting of outdated males and James Lee Burke's detective novels that includes Dave Robicheaux.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 attention-grabbing cultural dynamism, making it a pivotal a part of any background of yankee ethnicity and of Cajun tradition particularly. Concise and available, turning 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)
Longfellow’s Evangeline uses a form of imaginative geography, not to set aside Acadians and their lands as strange and different, but to claim this people and their lands as American. Evangeline inverts the postcolonial impulse to define difference by assimilating Acadians into American culture. By covering the entire geographical area of the nation, Longfellow 28 / Becomi ng Caj u n, Becoming A m er ica n c arefully constructed a work that spoke to contemporary American readers. Evangeline travels “Far in the West,” where “Westward the Oregon flows and the Walleway and the Owyhee” (1082).
Cutter’s examination of this trope may revolve around ethnic writers, but it also enlightens our understanding of literature written by Anglo-Americans who began this translation process by collecting folklore and songs, translating such stories into English, and 40 / Becomi ng Caj u n, Becoming A m er ica n publishing such collections for mass distribution, making the Other part of American literature, a colonization process of which Evangeline is an example. Cable wrote Bonaventure with the intention of enriching the lives of Louisiana Acadians since he believed that liberty in the United States extended from speaking English and identifying oneself as American.
5 She addresses these southern fears in conjunction with northern images of the dangerous southerner: “[T]he creole metaphor also marks the southerner as a dangerous border figure, someone who might look like an American and claim to be so (with greater fervor than other Americans at times) but who carries within him- or herself traces of the displaced and who might at some point act traitorously to undermine the progressive nation” (xvi). Although Ladd makes this argument through her discussion of southern writers and their redemptive narratives, this point also sheds light on the American publishing world following the Civil War and its interest in local color’s representation of the South in fiction.