The Acadian Renaissance

The most likely question to be asked about this module is Why include French literature in an English-language curriculum, even if that literature appears in English translation? That is a fair question, especially in New Brunswick, where, despite legislated bilingualism and all the promise it entails, a divisive biculturalism has been the norm. New Brunswick is a province of two solitudes (two dominant language cultures) where the politics of language has been used on both sides to serve ideological ends. Including Acadian literature in this English-language curriculum, then, serves a number of purposes. It recognizes that Acadians are a large, vibrant, and essential community in the province; it acknowledges that Acadians have advanced far beyond English New Brunswickers in their cultivation and preservation of cultural enterprise; it celebrates the world-class achievement of Acadian writers; and it reaches across the divide in the province to declare that building bridges between both language communities is vital for our future. Put simply, we will not advance as a province until we find better ways to come together.

Language is as important to Acadian writers as it is to Indigenous peoples. Both are working very hard to keep language, the storehouse of their culture and history, alive. For Acadians, writing in French or its various vernaculars (Chiac the most well known) is a political act in a province where being Francophone has led to secondary or at best minority status. A useful way to approach Acadian writing, then, is to think of it as an alternative consciousness within New Brunswick. That consciousness does indeed reveal the struggles of minority citizens, but it also reveals the enlivened, resilient, and deeply humane spirit of a vibrant people. The Acadian voices in this module are humorous and playful, and generally more daring linguistically and metaphorically than many of the Anglophone writers we’ve encountered. That is not to imply that Acadian writers are better or more experimental, but that their narratives and styles differ from the dominant Anglican/Protestant/Loyalist forms that we’ve encountered.

 

Because language shapes perspective, Acadian literature, even in English translation, offers English New Brunswickers a vista to different ways of seeing the province. We should be grateful for that perspective, just as Acadians should be grateful for the perspective we offer.

 

For the full Module Page on the Acadian Renaissance, click here.