Quebec Studies

Echoes of Antiquity in Maria Chapdelaine

Quebec Studies (2000), 29, (1), 54–63.

Abstract

54 Echoes of Antiquity in Maria Chapdelaine By Constantina Mitchell Gallaudet University Louis Hémon's Maria Chapdelaine has long been recognized as a classic apology for the preservation of agrarianism and the values of Catholicism in early twentieth-century Quebec. Indeed, over the years, the novel's undisputed archetypal weight has given rise to a multiplicity of interpretations which have conferred mythic proportions on the work itself, as is evidenced in Le Mythe de Maria Chapdelaine. The thrust of the argument put forth therein by Nicole Deschamps, Raymonde Héroux, and Normand Villeneuve is however quite different from the path we propose to take in this study, as is the category of myth they examine. Briefly, Deschamps, Héroux, and Villeneuve convincingly argue that Maria Chapdelaine underwent a process of mythologization initiated early in the century by an élite group of reactionary intellectuals in Quebec in order that the novel might serve as a propagandist vehicle for the ideological agenda they espoused. Transformed into a "texte terrorisé par le discours du pouvoir" (15), "l'expression d'une société-musée qui vit de ses souvenirs" (218), it thus entered the complex discourse on the nature of Québécois identity. While Hémon's masterwork has become, for better or worse, in and of itself a French-Canadian myth, it also lends itself to analysis from the standpoint of classical mythology and Homeric imagery. Adopting a similar perspective, Claude Cassista et al compare the tragic tonality of Quebec's romans de la terre to Greek drama: "... comme les tragédies grecques, [cette tonalité] évoque une situation où l'être humain prend douloureusement conscience d'un destin ou d'une fatalité qui pèse sur sa vie, sa nature ou sa condition" (109). Antoine Sirois makes a compelling case for the consideration of myth in the analysis of Québécois literature. Myth criticism in its purest form, he remarks, is generally concerned with the study of a single myth or mythic archetype which an author consciously employs. As such, it is most appropriate for novels written since the 1970s, a point which Sirois demonstrates in his examination of Anne Hébert's Héloïse and Michel Tremblay's La Grosse Femme d'à côté est enceinte, among other works. 1 While earHer novels may not entirely fit this category, a tempered myth criticism approach, contends Sirois, nonetheless underscores the mythological dimensions that many of them possess. In Sirois's view, this is especially true of the romans du terroir, largely owing to the classical education that many authors of the period received: "Les romans de la première période n'illustrent pas pleinement, en général, la méthode prônée [i.e. myth criticism], mais celle-ci nous rend sensibles aux dimensions mythologiques de plusieurs d'entre eux. La série du terroir, à cause de la formation classique et chrétienne de nombre de ses auteurs, est pleine de réminiscences de mythes, d'archétypes et de symboles" ("La mythocritique" 352). The author of what has been called the first genuinely artistic roman de la terre (Servais-Maquoi 68) was no exception to this rule. The son of a professor and man of letters, Louis Hémon pursued a classical education at the lycée Louis-le-Grand and the Sorbonne. It is therefore not surprising that Maria Chapdelaine is infused with mythological resonances. The methodological framework that guides our analysis of them paraiQuébec Studies, Volume 29, Spring/Summer 2000

Access Token
£25.00

Albouy, Pierre. Mythes et mythologies dans la littérature française. Paris: Armand Colin, 1969. Mythes et mythologies dans la littérature française Google Scholar

Apstein, Barbara. "Actively Engaging Students with Homer's Poetry." Approaches to Teaching Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Kostas Myrsiades, ed. New York: MLA, 1987. 114-18. Approaches to Teaching Homer's Iliad and Odyssey 114 18 Google Scholar

Bourneuf, Roland. "L'organisation de l'espace dans le roman." Études littéraires III. 1 (1970): 77-94. L'organisation de l'espace dans le roman Études littéraires III 77 94 Google Scholar

Burckhardt, Jacob. The Greeks and Greek Civilization. Sheila Stern, trans. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. The Greeks and Greek Civilization Google Scholar

Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1985. Greek Religion Google Scholar

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1973. The Hero with a Thousand Faces Google Scholar

Cassista, Claude et al.Littérature québécoise des origines à nos jours. Ville Lasalle, Québec: Hurtubise, 1996. Littérature québécoise des origines à nos jours Google Scholar

Davidson, James. Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997. Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens Google Scholar

Deschamps, N., R. Héroux, and N. Villeneuve. Le Mythe de Maria Chapdelaine. Montréal: PU de Montréal, 1980. Le Mythe de Maria Chapdelaine Google Scholar

Durand, Gilbert. Figures mythiques et visages de l'oeuvre. De la mythocritique à la mythanalyse. Paris: Berg International, 1979. Figures mythiques et visages de l'oeuvre. De la mythocritique à la mythanalyse Google Scholar

Eliade, Mircea. Myth and Reality. Willard R. Trask, trans. New York: Harper and Row, 1963. Myth and Reality Google Scholar

Hanson, Victor D. and John Heath. Who Killed Homer? New York: The Free Press, 1998. Who Killed Homer? Google Scholar

Hémon, Louis. Maria Chapdelaine. 1914. Montréal: Boréal Express, 1983. Maria Chapdelaine Google Scholar

Homer. The Iliad. Richard Lattimore, trans. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1961. The Iliad Google Scholar

Homer. The Odyssey. Robert Fagles, trans. Intro. Bernard Knox. New York: Viking Penguin, 1996. The Odyssey Google Scholar

Jung, C. G. "On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry." The Portable Jung. Joseph Campbell, ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1976. 301-22. The Portable Jung 301 22 Google Scholar

MacEwen, Sally. "Homer as the Door to Critical Theory." Approaches to Teaching Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Kostas Myrsiades, ed. New York: MLA, 1987. 101-07. Approaches to Teaching Homer's Iliad and Odyssey 101 07 Google Scholar

Malkin, Irad. The Returns of Odysseus. Berkley: California UP, 1998. The Returns of Odysseus Google Scholar

Murnaghan, Sheila. "The Plan of Athena." The Distaff Side: Representing the Female in Homer's Odyssey. Beth Cohen, ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1995. 61-80. The Distaff Side: Representing the Female in Homer's Odyssey 61 80 Google Scholar

Sacks, David. A Dictionary of the Ancient Greek World. New York: Oxford UP, 1995. A Dictionary of the Ancient Greek World Google Scholar

Servais-Maquoi, Mireille. Le roman de la terre au Québec. Québec: PU de Laval, 1974. Le roman de la terre au Québec Google Scholar

Shek, Ben-Z. French-Canadian and Québécois Novels. New York: Oxford UP, 1991. French-Canadian and Québécois Novels Google Scholar

Sirois, Antoine. Mythes et symboles dans la littérature québécoise. Montréal: Triptyque, 1992. Mythes et symboles dans la littérature québécoise Google Scholar

Sirois, Antoine. "La mythocritique: sa pertinence en littérature québécoise." Critique et littérature québécoise. A. Hayward and A. Whitfield, eds. Montréal: Triptyque, 1992. 349-59. Critique et littérature québécoise 349 59 Google Scholar

Tener, Robert L. "Odysseus: A Matter of Identity." Approaches to Teaching Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Kostas Myrsiades, ed. New York: MLA, 1987. 125-31. Approaches to Teaching Homer's Iliad and Odyssey 125 31 Google Scholar

White, John J. "Myths and Patterns in the Modern Novel." Mosaic (Spring 1969): 42-55. Myths and Patterns in the Modern Novel Mosaic 42 55 Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Mitchell, Constantina