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

By Maria Hebert-Leiter

From antebellum occasions, Louisiana’s particular multipartite society incorporated a criminal and social house for middleman racial teams resembling Acadians, Creoles, and Creoles of colour. In changing into Cajun, changing into American, Maria Hebert-Leiter explores how American writers have portrayed Acadian tradition over the last a hundred and fifty years. Combining a research of Acadian literary historical past with an exam of Acadian ethnic historical past in gentle of modern social theories, she bargains perception into the Americanization approach skilled by way of Acadians—who through the years got here to be referred to as Cajuns—during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Hebert-Leiter examines the full 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 paradox of Louisiana’s classification 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 comprise Acadian characters accredited as white americans through the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Representations of the Acadian in literature mirror the Acadians’ course in the direction of assimilation, as they celebrated their alterations whereas nonetheless adopting an all-American inspiration of self. In twentieth-century writing, Acadian figures got here to be extra known as Cajun, and more and more outsiders perceived them now not easily as unique or mythic beings yet as advanced people 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 Hebert-Leiter explores this transition in Ernest Gaines’s novel a meeting of outdated males and James Lee Burke’s detective novels that includes Dave Robicheaux.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 phases of this interesting cultural dynamism, making it a pivotal a part of any historical past of yank ethnicity and of Cajun tradition specifically. Concise and available, changing into Cajun, turning into American offers a very good creation to American Acadian and Cajun literature.

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