Writing a New France, 1604-1632
Empire and Early Modern French Identity
The focus of this study is the exciting period of French overseas exploration directly following the stagnation caused by the Wars of Religion. The book examines the early period of French involvement in Northeastern America through readings of key texts, principally travel and missionary accounts. Among the works examined are travel writings by Marc Lescarbot (Histoire de la Nouvelle-France) and Samuel de Champlain (Voyages), and missionary works by Gabriel Sagard (Dictionnaire de la Langue Huronne, Histoire du Canada), Jean de Brébeuf, and Paul le Jeune (early Relations de Jésuites). Through a careful examination of these texts, the author discerns a French "rewriting of the self" in relation to the American other, represented by both land and people. America, Brazeau argues, allowed a consolidation of past markers of identity, and forced a radical rereading of others, due to the difficulties presented by the Canadian wilderness and its natives. Writing a New France, 1604-1632 sheds fresh light on a significant moment in French colonial history while providing an innovative contribution to the understanding of early modern French identity and cultural contact.
Brian Brazeau is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and English at The American University of Paris, France.
'... offers a nuanced and fascinating account of what a "New France" might have meant to French writers in the early 17th century. Brazeau shows that accounts written in the early years of attempted settlement (before 1636), when expectations for a "New France" in North America were high and when travellers were only just beginning to encounter the realities of North American geography and Native Peoples, are particularly rich in attempts to bring these realities into harmony with their vision of a renewed "Old France"... This is a refreshing new reading of the récits de voyage.' Jane Couchman, York University, Canada ’For the period in question, this kind of territory is still least chartered in France: Brazeau's book should encourage more scholars to explore the terrain.’ Renaissance Quarterly 'Brazeau’s work leaves the reader thoroughly intrigued and wanting more evidence to test out his theories about the role these metaphors play in the colonialist and nation-building enterprise. His book admirably distills numerous developments in colonial and post-colonial theory to help the reader begin to see how the articulation of Frenchness depended heavily upon the colonial encounter. It is a welcome addition to the body of works seeking to describe how the colonial enterprise was shaped and altered by the land, the culture, and the individual people that it found.' H-France '[Brazeau's] work stands as an extremely worthy exploration of seventeenth-century cultural history nothwithstanding this desire to endow it with contemporary relevance... [His] work will be of interest to literary theorists, historians and indeed those working in the postcolonial field.' Studies in Travel Writing ’... this book reminds us that New France did not just suddenly come into being with the arrival of the French in North America - it had to be created - and makes a strong case that these early writers established the basis for future understandings of this imaginary lan