A Literary and Linguistic History of New Brunswick


286 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-86492-052-0




Edited by Reavley Gair, Richard Guerin, Robert Whalen and Dominique Paratte
Reviewed by Neil Querengesser

Neil Querengesser taught in the Department of English, University of Calgary, Alberta.


Reavley Gair clearly explains the purpose of this volume in the introduction: “This book is an attempt to describe the history of the New Brunswick imagination, in order to bring to the people of this province an awareness of the strength and the continuing importance of their heritage.” Whether all the essays in this collection work toward that end may be debatable: some seem certainly to be of more interest to the specialized scholar than they would be to the general populace. Nevertheless, what emerges is a fairly detailed look at the important language groups of New Brunswick, with an equal emphasis on their linguistic and literary qualities.

The first five articles in the collection provide a solid base for comparative studies of the province’s languages. Roy Right and Laszlo Szabo analyze the Micmac and Maliseet languages respectively. Szabo’s article also includes a transliteration/translation of one of the several Maliseet oral accounts he has preserved in written form. Louise Péronnet’s “Acadian Forms of Speech” begins with an overview of the linguistic studies of the language, and discusses its phonic, lexical, and grammatical aspects. A. Murray Kinlock’s “The English Language in New Brunswick 1784-1984” takes a fairly extensive look at the English dialect spoken in New Brunswick, with the qualification common to articles of this sort that the term “dialect” should no longer be considered as denoting a substandard type of speech. In a similar vein, Anthony B. House studies English as a minority language in his article “English Language in Francophone New Brunswick.”

The next 12 chapters focus on the province’s literary history. Both Acadian and English poetry are examined closely in articles by Yves Bolduc, Fred Cogswell, Barrie Davies, and Robert Gibbs. Laurent Lavoie and Mary E. Smith discuss Acadian and English drama in New Brunswick, and Ronald Labelle and Hans Runte provide studies of Acadian folklore and novels. Finally, Don Conway and Fred Cogswell trace the various forms of English prose writing in their essays, and Anne-Marie Robichaud examines “The Public Speech and the Essay in Acadia.” The collection is rounded off by Henri-Dominique Paratte’s “Discovering Two Literatures: Some Remarks about Translations of the Two Major Literatures of New Brunswick.” While this book is primarily an intensely introspective examination of the literary and linguistic history of one province, it also gives a clear indication of the contributions made by the events and personalities of that province over the last two centuries to the literary history of Canada.


“A Literary and Linguistic History of New Brunswick,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35165.