Antonine Maillet


  1. Biography
  2. Why Should We Read and Study Maillet?
  3. Literature & Analysis
    • “On Lotteries” from La Sagouine
    • Analysis of “On Lotteries”
    • “On Priests” from La Sagouine
    • Analysis of “On Priests”
  4. Questions and Considerations for Reflection
  5. Strategies for Teachers
  6. Further Reading
  7. Copyright


Antonine Maillet is generally recognized as being one half of the literary impetus for the Acadian Renaissance of the early 1970s. (The other half is Ronald Després, who, like Maillet, published his first work in 1958.) Born in Bouctouche, NB in 1929, Maillet attended schools in and around Moncton, then did graduate work at Université Laval, where she received a PhD in 1970. Her doctoral study focussed on the linguistic and folkloric traditions of ancient Acadie. In her 1971 radio play La Sagouine, she put that old culture onto the tongue of a simple but feisty scrubwoman, thereby expressing the soul of a nation. Acadians heard and knew instantly that their struggles had become allegory for defiance and survival. Since that time, Maillet has been the leading writer of Acadie, playing a major role in shaping the collective unconscious of the Acadian people. Acadian history, folklore, and speech are her interests, each raised to epic status in her many novels and plays. While her spirited and colourful depictions of Acadian history and character are well known, however, they are not without controversy, the extent to which they are representative a source of ongoing debate in Acadie. That said, she is revered among her people, lionized in Quebec, and was the first non-European to win the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary award. It can be said without exaggeration that she put Acadie on the world’s literary map. No New Brunswick writer, French or English, has had higher international notice, acclaim, or success. She is to Acadie what Gabriel García Márquez was to Colombia.

On most author pages we direct readers to the appropriate entry in The New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia. Though an Antonine Maillet entry is in production, it is not yet finalized. Please check the NBLE periodically for updates.

Why Should We Read and Study Maillet?

  • Simply put, we read Antonine Maillet because she is the best writer New Brunswick has thus far produced. And while statements of that kind always invite challenge, there are mountains of evidence to support the claim. Most compelling, perhaps, is her enormous scope, which is more ambitious than any other New Brunswick writer. (Even a Canadian equivalent is difficult to name.) Her work encircles an entire people – their history, language, and stories – and it imagines for them a tableau of origins that mix fact, fiction, truth, and supposition. She is, as a result, the most daring and courageous New Brunswick writer to date. If that is not enough to entice consideration, then nothing is.
  • We should also read Maillet as a point of entrance into Acadian history and identity. Granted, she is a writer of fiction, and often the fantastic, her influences the comic satirists François Rabelais and Molière, but her invention of “Acadie” as trope has no equivalent in the history books or in popular imagination. She has, in effect, created a people’s identity from scraps of history and story. Reading her work raises the vital question about whether or not other accounts (for example, “official” history) are more accurate or legitimate. Put another way, which account tells us more about the 1755 Acadian Expulsion: Loyalist history books, the version of the victors; Longfellow’s Evangeline; or Maillet’s Pélagie-la-Charette? While the first, being non fictional, has an implied claim to truth, the last two do not – yet, they are arguably truer in what they reveal about the emotional and psychological experiences of a people sent forcefully into exile. So which are the better touchstones of history and identity? And who is the more legitimate interpreter of history: the professional historian or the imaginative storyteller? Is poetry really truer than history, as the ancient philosophers believed? Maillet’s work, we suggest, provides as useful an entrance into Acadian history and identity as readers are likely to find. To understand more fully a people’s past, as well as their struggles, aspirations, aptitudes, and dreams, her work is a valuable starting point.
  • Lastly, Maillet’s Pélagie-la-Charette (1979), the novel for which she is best known and for which she won the Prix Goncourt, commands special attention. Translated into English in 1982, the novel presents itself as a starting point of post-Expulsion history, that history retold and altered in the novel as time goes forward. Containing all the flare, fantasy, grotesquerie, and wit of Maillet’s work, the novel is Homeric in establishing founding myths, dispositions, tropes, heroes, and geographies for an entire people. For English readers wanting to learn more about the founding myths of Acadie, Pélagie is a must read. It also has powerful verbal and narrative energy.

Literature & Analysis

from La Sagouine

“On Lotteries”

Jos-à-Polyte just won the lottery! Yes he did, just as sure as I’m standing here, Jos-à-Polyte took home the jackpot. It don’t happen too often in these parts; around here you got to grab a piece of luck as it flies by. This is the first jackpot in our neck of the woods since Frank-à-Thiophie won it.

            That was a few years ago now, that lottery won by Frank-­à-Thiophie, but no one I know has ever forgotten it. Everyone hereabouts has that day fixed in his memory like his own birthday, that’s for sure. One hundred thousand bucks, if you can believe it! We ain’t used to having buckets of money fall on our heads like that. So when it did happen, a hundred thousand in one go, well it nearly knocked old Frank-à-Thiophie arse over teakettle, I can tell you that. They had to stick his head in a pail of vinegar. I remember because I got the vinegar afterwards and made my pickles with it.

            Poor old Frank. He’s what you might call the luckiest man ever born in a caplin shack. He never suspected how hard good luck was going to hit him. Not only that, he never even bought the ticket himself. No, it was Dominique’s wife gave it to him for spending an afternoon weeding her peas for her. If she’d’ve known it was the winning ticket she’d’ve taken off her gloves and weeded her whole garden herself. But how could she have known, eh? Anyways, she said it was hardly fair, a hundred thousand bucks for weeding three rows of peas. Of course, the law had to step in. But for once the poor was in the right.

            The poor. It’s just a manner of speaking, because after that you could hardly call Frank-à-Thiophie poor. Maybe that’s why the law found in his favour. You should’ve been there, it was all Mister Colette this and Mister Colette that, no more Frank-à-Thiophie, not a hint of it. Now it was Mister François-à­-Théophile Colette. And he had to pay the judge and the lawyers, did Mister Colette, and then he had to pay his taxes to the government, right there on the spot, in front of everybody. Course, with a hundred thousand bucks he could afford it, no problem. He didn’t hardly miss it.

            He could afford a lot of things after that, yes sir, a lot of things. At first, of course, he was so bowled over he didn’t know which end was up. But he found out quick enough. Pretty soon there was a whole line-up of people trying to sell him all sorts of things. The first thing he bought, I know because I was there when he bought it, was a tractor. Seeing as how he’d won the lottery by weeding peas, the salesman said it only made sense that a farmer like him should own his own tractor. And what good’s a tractor if you don’t have a combine? So the salesman sold him a combine, too, one of them big machines that does everything: ploughs, sows, weeds, cuts, picks . . . oh yeah, you gotta say he was pretty well outfitted, was Frank-à-Thiophie, for a man who didn’t even own a hayfield.

            So of course he had to go out and buy some land, and build buildings on it to keep all his new machinery in. Cost a lot of money, but it wasn’t money Frank was short on. Bought himself a washing machine and a refrigerator and a grammerphone, everything electric. We went down there to see him start up all his machines that first night and to listen to the grammerphone. But of course nothing worked. He didn’t have no electricity in his house.

            It wasn’t long after that when an insurance agent came to see him. Now, we’d all heard of insurance agents before, but we’d never actually seen one. They didn’t tend to come around here. But after that, well, they sure made up for all the times they didn’t come before. Every night a new agent would show up and take a fresh stack of papers out of his briefcase, all written up in advance, and all you had to do was sign your name or make your X onto them and the rest of your life was assured. And every new one was better than the last, so that at the end of six days Frank-­à-Thiophie was insured up to his eyeballs and over his head. He had his fingers insured, he had life insurance, flight insurance, fire insurance, he even had his children insured, even though he was a bachelor. It was guaranteed no one could so much as touch him without some insurance company would pay him a lump sum of money. Which of course was all hogwash, because now that Frank was rich no one would dare touch a hair on his head.

            Except for the dentist, maybe. The dentist fixed him up with three rows of gold teeth. His mouth was so full of teeth he couldn’t hardly chew. So one day he throws his teeth down the outhouse and leaves his face with a big hole in the middle of it, made him look all disfigured-like, poor Frank. And he went to a massage parlour, too, and a choirpractor, and between the two of them they pummelled and twisted more bones than he had in his body, and he came back all crippled up and hunched over.

            But it didn’t take him long to get over it, old Frank. By spring he’d already started putting on airs. Oh yes! Stopped chewing tobacco and started smoking cigars, and there’s even them as was saying—but you can’t go around believing everything you hear—saying that Frank-à-Thiophie was rolling cigarettes with dollar bills. Now where’s the sense in spreading around stories like that? It’s like Gapi says, there ain’t no one around here, lucky or unlucky, who’d smoke a cigarette with the Queen of England’s face on it. Anyways, after winning the lottery he didn’t roll cigarettes at all, he bought tailor-mades at the store.

            Got himself a new set of clothes, too. And he didn’t get them at the Irving, neither. He went all the way into town, he did, said he wasn’t going to go around dressed like everyone else no more. Clothes make the man, they told him, so he took a look at what clothes he had and he got rid of them. Sold his old mackinaw, sold his overalls, sold his old fishing boots that you tie on with a rope, and off he goes into town. That night when he got off the bus and walked through the village even the Saint hardly recognized him. He had on a yellow shirt with a necktie, a felt hat, shoes that clicked on the pavement and pair of cross-checked pants, looked like a pansy from the States. By the jumping, if you put a good set of clothes on a scarecrow you can hardly tell the difference between him and a senator. Frank got so dandified he looked like a schoolteacher, so he did. They even give him glasses to wear, them double-vision kind, you know. He couldn’t see worth a damn but he looked pretty good. People even started asking him to give speeches. Well, wouldn’t you know it but old Frank-à-Thiophie wasn’t such a dummy after all. It’s like Gapi says, nothing like a hundred thousand bucks to smarten a fella up real quick. I think it was the Richelieu Club that invited him to their banquet and asked him to say a few words at it. The Richelieus are supposedly this bunch of rich people that get themselves all upset over poor people, and they thought now Frank was rich he’d have something interesting to say about the poor. And he would have, too, he’d’ve had quite a bit to say about the poor, but that was when he still had that jawful of gold teeth in his mouth and he couldn’t say a word, not one word. They gave him a good round of applause anyways, seeing as how he was the guest of honour and everything, although he never had much honour as far as anyone around here could tell.

            He’d never in his life had nothing, had Frank. He wasn’t used to nothing. But he could learn. A person can learn anything he wants to if he goes at it slow enough. Frank, now, he told himself he could learn to drive. Drive! Why not? Didn’t Jos have a garage, and wouldn’t he be happy to sell Frank-à-Thiophie anything he wanted to drive around in? And wouldn’t he also sell him gas, and oil? Frank had always been a great one for walking. So they started in on him to buy a car. It seems they wanted him to buy Dominique’s old Buick, which they said was like new. All they’d had to do to it was put on a new set of tires, change the top, give it a lick of paint and replace the engine; that’s why it was like new. Anyways, it didn’t stay like new for long, mainly because they forgot to tell Frank where the horn was. So the first night he took it out, after he’d hung his fox tail and his three kewpie dolls from the rear-view mirror and loaded the back seat with all the youngsters on his street, well, maybe he forgot to line up his wheels straight, or maybe his windows was dirty, hard to say, but in any case he swore later that he never saw the nuns’ cow. There was a few questions asked, such as what was his like-new Buick doing in the cornfield behind the convent in the first place. But Frank, he just wasn’t used to having things, that was what it was. So when he saw the barb-wire fence come up so sudden-like in front of him, it never occurred to him to stop or back up. He was used to only having his legs, see, so he thought he’d just jump over the fence. What they know for sure is, he stepped on the gas. Anyways, the nuns charged him for the cow, the fence and fifty bushels of corn. The garage didn’t charge him much for taking back the Buick. They told him that if they wanted to they could have charged him five hundred bucks to fix it, but the Buick wasn’t worth that much anymore, and at that price he was better off giving the car back. Gapi, of course, pointed out at the time that . . . Well, you know Gapi, he’s always grumbling about something.

            It’s like the story of the little black kids and the little Chinese kids. This happened when the Missionary Sisters came by collecting for the Save the Children campaign. They had a name—Mr. François Colette, Esquire—and someone sent them up to Frank-à-Thiophie’s. Well, they showed him how he could save a lot of souls for the small sum of twenty-five cents, told him he wouldn’t have to bother about nothing, not even about bringing the black kids or the Chinese kids over here. They’d look after everything, the Missionary Sisters would: they’d buy the kids, baptize them, raise them up, and save their pagan souls, all for twenty-five cents, imagine that. Of course they also told him that the more pagan souls he saved the more saved his own soul would be. Well, Frank had a few regrets blocking his stomach nights, just like everyone else, so he set out buying up black kids and Chinese kids. Every time he remembered one of the sins of his past life he added a quarter to the pile. After a while it seems he owned quite a few tribes and they were going to make him the prime minister of China and Africa, according to Gapi. And he still didn’t feel any less guilty, the poor sinner. Seems no matter how good a person is he can always find another sin down at the bottom of his soul somewheres. Me, I don’t think it does us any good to go rooting around down there. Gapi’s with me on that. Anyways, as for Frank-à-Thiophie, them African and Chinese babies pretty much broke his bank.

            After that he started getting lots of bills. That’s because, like, one day he goes to the Saint and says, “If you go get your hair curled I’ll pay for it.” Well, you know the Saint, she was off like a shot, had every hair on her head up in curlers. She was only sorry she didn’t have longer hair so she could have more of it to curl. When Johnny’s wife Laurette saw that, well, she got into the act, and pretty soon everybody was getting their hair curled, and Frank picking up the tab. Then there was those who couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, or the dentist, or the massage parlour, or the choirpractor, well, they went, and the doctors and such sent their bills to Frank-à-Thiophie. Had so many envelopes going to his place he didn’t know where to hide them. And then there was the Boy Scouts selling apples and the priest coming around for his tithe. The priest even mentioned Frank in one of his sermons on the mount, if you can believe it! Thanked him in public for the clock tower he paid for out of his own pocket. Yes sir! Twenty-two beautiful bells it had, all ringing together at the same time and playing hymns from Christmas to New Year’s. They call that a carry-on, and it was Frank-à-Thiophie’s money that paid for it.

            Well, come August month, Frank was leaning on his barrel and he got to thinking. What he thought was, it was high time he bought something for himself, something he’d always wanted, while he still had some of his money left. Up until then, he never had time to think much about himself. But one thing he’d always wanted for himself was a house, a nice big house with brick siding onto it, with an upstairs and a downstairs and a full basement and an attic. And he wanted one with an indoor toilet, and hot and cold running water, and a pantry, and a big dining room, and a summer kitchen as well as a winter kitchen. That’s the thing he wanted most, did Frank, a big house with a porch all around of it he could sit out on in his rocking chair and watch the world go by.

            So that’s what he had built. His own house. He had half a dozen contractors come by with their plans and their carpenters, and they built the whole shebang in two months flat: the attic, the indoor plumbing, the pantry, the dining room and cupboards, three fireplaces, a basement, a summer kitchen and a winter kitchen, and a porch going all the way around the outside of it. It was the most beautifullest house you ever saw, and the biggest, too. People came all the way from Saint-Norbert and Pirogue just to look at it. No one came to spit on Frank­-à-Thiophie after that, no sir. He’d made himself a big shot and people respected him for that.

            But then one day a couple of months later he gets this big, thick letter from the government in the mail, a big, thick envelope full of pink and green papers with writing all over them, English on one side and English on the other, big writing so you didn’t need glasses to read it. And well written, too. So well written no one could figure out what the heck they was on about. In the end, Frank-à-Thiophie, he had to take his big, thick letter to the priest. The priest took him into his office and sat down, and Frank stood across the desk from him and waited while the priest read the letter, and when he’d finished reading it he explained the whole thing to Frank. And when Frank found out how much he had to pay, he realized he was going to lose his house. It was a damned shame. He hadn’t been in that house three months.

            He didn’t have no money left, that was it. Not a penny. And he was still getting everybody’s bills coming to him. So he had to cancel his insurance, and he had to sell his machinery, and the tractor, and the grammerphone. In the end they even came and took his telephone and cut off his electricity. He had nothing left. He had to go back to living in his caplin shack. He died there last spring. When we heard about it we all went out expecting to hear the bells tolling for him on the carry-on, maybe a nice Christmas song. But the bells didn’t make a sound, because it seems Frank­-à-Thiophie hadn’t paid his tithe, either.

            Well, now, don’t you go waiting up for me. I’m going up to pay a little visit to Jos-à-Polyte; I hear he just won the lottery.

Analysis of  “On Lotteries”

Some context is necessary to understand what Maillet is doing in La Sagouine. First, the work celebrates the rich character and history of Acadian speech. Because much of that heritage had been lost by the time the work aired on radio, the published version in French (1971) came with a long glossary of words in the original 15th-century dialect of the Acadian ancestors. The dialect originated in the Poitou region of western France and was brought to the New World by the first French settlers. As Maillet describes it, “I give [La Sagouine] to you just as I found her. I haven’t touched her up. I’ve left her with her wrinkles and cracks and with her language intact. She doesn’t speak joual or chiac or international French. She speaks the common language of her father and grandfathers, handed down straight from the sixteenth century. She’s not aware that she’s her own dictionary, her own race, her own flip side of the coin” (La Sagouine 9). That English readers encounter the work in translation means that Maillet’s intention of showcasing a linguistic heritage is lost. Not lost in English translation, however, is the wit, inventiveness, and force of that dialect. It is salty, coarse, and highly playful, a barometer of defiance and intellect.

Also key is to understand the form of La Sagouine, which consists of sixteen monologues that were written originally for radio. The work thus has an essential oral character. Accompanying dialect is the delivery of that dialect, which shapes meaning. These are not just monologues, then, but dramatic monologues, their telling enlivened by the teller. Viola Léger, the friend and classmate of Maillet’s youth, made a lifetime career (thirty years) of playing the stage character of La Sagouine. “I may have created La Sagouine,” admitted Maillet, “but Viola gave her soul.” Readers must therefore imagine the intense and entertaining physicality of the monologues as they are both spoken and enacted.

Formally, the dramatic monologues of La Sagouine give Acadians a voice. Not only did they hear their language spoken, but they also heard their deepest thoughts expressed. The simple scrubwoman, in other words, said aloud what Acadians had only said among themselves. The work thus becomes a collective voice – not wholly accepted as representational, mind you, but collective nevertheless. Only a solitary labourer, in this case a scrubwoman, could perform that task, for she is bored (amusing herself with wit and observation), uncensored (thinking she is alone), and old (enacting a ritual of old age that sees her reviewing her life as an act of contrition and reconciliation). No higher-class character could perform the task, nor could any form other than the dramatic monologue contain her inner dialogues. The form is perfectly chosen. With her pail and mop, and a ready tongue, she lets loose on the world, giving us insight into her station and the station of many of her people. What she says may not be attractive or melodious, but it is real. Who said literature had to be charming anyway? (The educated classes, of course, with all their pretentions and exclusions.) La Sagouine, by contrast, is a literature – indeed, a lyricism – of the underclass.

“On Lotteries,” the fifth of the monologues, presents La Sagouine’s memories of what happened when Frank-à-Thiophie won the lottery, the dream (and curse) of the labouring classes. “It nearly knocked old Frank-à-Thiophie arse over teakettle,” she recalls. “They had to stick his head in a pail of vinegar. I remember because I got the vinegar afterwards and made my pickles with it” (45). The $100,000 that Frank wins is significant, as are the jackpots of today, but those who contemplate the lottery know what happens: you are damned if you play and damned if you don’t. Those who rely on windfalls rarely win. So is the case with Frank-à-Thiophie, who is “hit hard” with “good luck” (45). The pun is classic Maillet.

Simply put, his good fortune attracts gadflies and parasites alike, “a whole line-up of people trying to sell him all sorts of things” (46). He buys tractors for a farm he doesn’t own, then must buy land. He buys appliances for a house he doesn’t have, then must build structures to keep his gadgets dry. “But of course nothing worked” because he “didn’t have no electricity in his house” (46). Insurance agents then come calling, selling him coverage from head to toe – “he even had his children insured, even though he was a bachelor” (47). And so it went with Frank. He fell victim to service clubs, charities, and even the church, whose pious Missionary Sisters told him that “the more pagan souls he saved the more saved his own soul would be” (50). Soon “he owned quite a few tribes and they were going to make him the prime minister of China and Africa” (50).

When the government steps in to claim its share of his winnings in taxes his make-believe world crumbles, and he is reduced once again to beggary, returning to his fishing shack. There he dies. But his death is not marked by the ringing of the bells he purchased for the church because, reduced to nothing, “he hadn’t paid his tithe” (52).

The fable is well known among working and under classes everywhere but loses no poignancy or truth in the retelling, for this is not merely a tale of the lotteries but an allegory for a class society. Capitalism ensures that money concentrates and stays at the top. The vast majority of social institutions, including those run by the church and state, are complicit in this. To have money without the protections of class – without, that is, the generational, familial, and social apparatus to cultivate and protect it – is to be preyed upon mercilessly. And contrary to populist Republican and Neo-Liberal myth, wealth does not “trickle down.” It congeals at the top, where all manner of social structures are designed to keep it. The poor like Frank-à-Thiophie learn that lesson the hard way. One does not have to be a Marxist to know this – and Maillet is certainly not espousing a political philosophy here. She is merely observing a social pattern.

Writ larger, she is saying that Acadians were kept in financial bondage by design. They were not just poor but “structurally” disadvantaged by banks, church doctrine, and state systems of education and taxation. That vast conspiratorial bureaucracy is the apparatus of capitalism that ensnares Frank-à-Thiophie and every citizen kept down by class inequity. The experience is universal, which is how La Sagouine has been received. “When Viola Léger,” said Maillet, “went all around Europe and Canada, everybody felt she belonged to them. She is the image of a woman, the underdog, unjustly treated, fighting for survival, fighting in the name of a whole people, descended from deported ancestors, dying almost of hunger... She represented a multitude of people who suffer injustice and she did it in such a way that it was funny” (“La Sagouine Coming Home”).

Louis Robichaud, the first elected Acadian premier of New Brunswick, ensured that the condition of the province’s many Sagouines was addressed through programs of equalization. As post-Robichaud readers, we hear and see the legacy of Robichaud between the lines of La Sagouine’s speech.

“On Priests”

Now I’m going to tell you something important . . . No, I know it’s just a monkey talking, but Sagouine or no Sagouine, I’m going to tell you something. It’s not like I done a lot of travelling in my short lifetime, and maybe I ain’t seen a lot of things, neither. I’m not saying I know a whole lot. I can sign my name and flip through a newspaper, if it’s in French, and that’s about it. But I’m going to tell you something anyways, and it’s important: It ain’t a good idea to speak ill of priests! It’s what I’m always telling Gapi, there’s no good can come from speaking ill of priests. They’re God’s presentiments here on earth, priests are, and they can do a lot of harm. You seen what happened to my cousin Caï, eh, and to old Yophie? You never heard two more disrespectable rogues in your life when it came to bad-mouthing priests. Old Satan himself’d have to take a back seat to them two, and if anyone loves chewing out priests it’s that one. And look what it’s turned him into. No, like I say, priests can do a proper lot of damage.

            Now you take my late father, who’s been dead these forty years or more and was almost eighty when he died. When he was alive he always warned us when we was little not to meddle in the affairs of priests . . . On account of he knew a few stories that were being spread around the parish about a priest who kept two women living in his house, servants so he called them. Well what of it? my father told us. Can’t a man have who he wants to live in his house without everyone making a big to-do about it? Ain’t his rectory big enough to hold all the women of the parish and all the men and children to boot? Far as that goes there’s room in there for all the cattle and pigs as well. And the whole thing done up in brick, real brick brick, too, not that insult-brick made to look like brick. No sir, if you want to see a real rectory, that’s the one to go look at. We can’t complain on that score.

            In the old days the place’d fill up the first Friday of every month, priests come from all over to hear everyone’s confession. Oh yeah, they’d come down from Chocpiche and from Prairie and the Cap and Pirogue and Saint-Hilaire. There’d be so many priests in the village they’d put the whole bunch of us through a fine-toothed comb in no time at all. We’d all be clean as the driven snow by the end of it. It’s not a big space, a confessional. About as big as three lobster traps put together. Go ahead, try and fix your mind on the sins of your soul when you’re squeezed into a lobster trap. Ha! You can twist around in there all you like, trying to see through the little holes they have worked into them, some kind of wooden lattice thing with a sheet of cellophane behind it so the priest don’t catch nothing from you. They say some of them young priests couldn’t stand the smell of dirty socks and they’d faint dead away. I guess they weren’t used to the odour of our sanctity, poor things. Living up there in that big rectory all year, where the only thing they could smell would be Bon Ami and a bit of lemon oil. Oh no, them priests come from a different class from us.

            Anyways, we’re not the kind to go sticking our feet under their noses anyways. That’s why when the churches got too filled up we just stopped going. We tried to do our Easter observances so we could still be buried in holy ground. And we still gave something for our tithes. I mean, you’d think after doing Easter and giving tithes we’d be allowed into a cemetery at least. As for the rest of it, well, we’d work something out. Or not. Wasn’t always easy, I got to admit. Like in confession, for example, when they start going on about firm intentions. Firm intentions this and firm intentions that. Do you have firm intentions to stop offending God? the priest would ask us. Well, it’s like he’s telling you to change your whole way of living. How does he expect us to do that, eh? Change our way of living, well sure, if we could afford to do it we would. If we didn’t have to work so hard that’d be another way of living for a change.

            Like I say, it ain’t that easy, in fact it ain’t easy at all. Like when they says to us, they says, “Stop making homemade beer in your cellars,” well, where do they expect us to make it? It’s not like we can afford to drink anything else. We can’t go out and buy wine or rum, or any of that stuff that comes in a fancy glass with a cherry floating on top of it, what do they call that? No, it’s homemade beer from our own cellars for us or it’s nothing at all. Then they tells us, “No swearing or performing sinful acts before the children.” Well, as for swearing, I says to him right there in the confessional, I says, “You got a point there, Father,” I says to him. “How can I swear, by the Jesus Christ, when I can’t hardly even speak English?” And as for the other thing, the performing sinful acts before the kids, well, again, where . . . ? When you ain’t got but two beds in the house and they’re both practically stacked up one on top of the other. I mean, we put out the lights, but . . . it ain’t that easy.

            It ain’t easy to explain to a priest, in any case. We’re not highly educated, you know, we don’t know a lot of big words, and so we don’t always know how to talk to priests about things like that. When he’s up there giving his sermon, a priest can sound like the doctor’s wife, trotting out all them long words and turning all them fancy phrases. Illiterature, is what they call it. Now us, we never saw a scrap of illiterature in our lives. We use the words that come out of our mouths and that’s it, we don’t go chasing around after different ones. We got these words from our fathers, and they got them from their forefathers. Passed them on from yap to trap, as you might say. Which is why we find talking to priests so hard.

            I wish I could explain to them why it was my daughter didn’t get married that time. How could she when she didn’t even have a pair of shoes to put her feet into? Anyways, it wasn’t her turn for the white dress. There was only the one wedding dress in the whole village, and the Saint’s girl had just published her banns. My Angélique had to wait her turn. And by the time the dress was ready she was already showing and she couldn’t get into it no more. Had to wait for the baby to be born. Well, it turned out it was twins, and when her fiancé saw that he lit out like someone stepped on his tail. So Angélique, she had to go looking for another one. Well, you try and find a young man these days who’ll give up everything he’s got so’s he can take care of a pair of twins, eh? And twins that ain’t even his . . . No, you’re darn right it ain’t easy. And by the time you get out of the confession box after confessing all your own sins as well as those of your husband and all your kids, well, you ain’t exactly looking forward to the first Friday of the next month, I’ll tell you that for nothing.

            And the poor priest, too. You got to figure it can’t be that easy for him, neither, having to figure out what it is you’re trying to tell him. He wasn’t raised like the rest of us. Oh, they may not all have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but they probably always had three square meals a day, most of them, and they probably always had a bed to sleep in at night. And for sure they got an education. So there he is, the priest, thinking we’re all going to go in there and behave just like anyone else. He even said as much one Sunday, when he goes up into his pulpit and tells us that before we can get a clean soul we have to have clean bodies first. That’s what he says: no cleanliness, no godliness. Well, how does he think we’re going to stay clean for twelve months a year, living in a fishing shack all winter and picking clams and oysters out of the mud all summer? No, he’s got to get out more, that one, see a bit of life. But what it means is that your soul, well, it’s like everything else. You can’t count on it. You can’t count on nothing, really.

            Except maybe on yourself, to look after yourself, to make your own way in life. That’s why it’s so hard. You don’t always know what’s best, and there’s no one around to tell you. Oh, you know there’s laws and certain rules of behaving, and you’ve got to rely on those, but sometimes...

            You never knew old Desroches, did you? Used to live up the Amoureux Road there, been dead quite a while now. Well, he spent a good deal of his life outside the church on account of he was excommunioned from it. Yes, and a terrible thing it was, too. I remember how it happened, and then my father, he used to talk about it, too.

            It was the thunder’s fault, is what my father used to say. You see, the thunder burned down the church. There’s them as says it was old Dollard’s ghost that rose up out of its coffin and set the fire, and then there’s others say it was the priest himself that did it. But you can’t go around listening to what every drooling idiot that lets his lips flap in the wind has to say. No, my father, he always maintained it was the thunder that started the fire and should be blamed for burning down the church.

            Anyways, however it happened, the church burned down and we had to figure out a way to get it rebuilt real quick. Of course, this time the folks from down the village there said we should move the church closer to the bridge because that’s where all the shops were, and the post office. And them from out around the bay wanted to keep it on the Point because they said it was closer for them. So what’s your opinion? Is it better to put the church where the most people are, or where you think the most people will come to it? Hard to say, ain’t it? Well, there was a big fight over it.

            Now people fought about a lot of things in them days, it’s true, and if it had stopped there no one would’ve minded too much. But of course it didn’t stop there. It was old Desroches who’d built it, the church, I mean, the one that burned down. He built that church and he carved it with his jackknife, and he almost felt that the church belonged to him. Well, you go take a man’s church away from him that built it with his own hands and carved it with his own jackknife, and you burn it down, and then you move it down to the bridge without so much as giving him any say in the matter . . . Oh, he shook his fist in the priest’s face, he did, old Desroches, and the priest had him excommunioned. And for the rest of his life he lived outside the Church.

            Now I ain’t saying that a person has the right to raise his fist to a priest, I ain’t saying that. And I ain’t saying the bishop wasn’t in his right mind to excommunion a Christian and deprive his soul of everlasting salvation. What I will say, though, and what my father used to say, too, is that old Desroches was not a bad man, and it’s a damn shame that he’s going to burn in the fires of Hell for all eternity just because he lost his temper one night out on the Point. That’s what I mean when I say it ain’t always easy to know what’s right. And a person might want to ask himself in the end if it’s always true that the Good Lord speaks to us through the mouths of priests.

            One time there was a priest who came here from the old country on what they call a mission. Seems they came over every year, but we never went to see them, no, I mean if we didn’t have nothing to put on to go out amongst ourselves, how were we going to get dolled up enough to show ourselves to a pack of strangers? But this one, they said, wasn’t like them other ones, this one was different. He was a saint, they said, a real saint, like you could stick up there on the altar. They said he could perform miracles. Well, we thought, we have to go see this for ourselves. And God is my witness, no sooner did we walk into that church than we knew it was true. That priest recognized each and every one of us! “Blessed,” he calls down to us from up in his pulpit, “blessed are the poor and the famished and the badly clothed and them as has spent time in prison.” Well, we didn’t think we was as blessed as all that, but anyways, we’d seen what we’d come to see.

            Oh, he was a holy man, all right, make no mistake, he was the real McCoy. When you get a man who’ll walk barefoot in the snow and never take a bite of meat unless you force it on him, and all because he made some vow not to, well then, that’s a real saint for you, and you can put him up on the altar just like he is, not even dead yet, by the jumping, yes sir! And talk! Sweet Jehosephat, that man could talk the ear off a brass monkey. He could preach you a sermon for three hours at a stretch and you could’ve heard a housefly buzzing up the centre aisle. He knew how to tell stories of Noah and Jonas so you’d think it was you who was stuck in the belly of that whale during the Great Flood, yes sirree. And then he’d say something long in Latin, make you think he first come into the world in Nova Scotia or something. Oh, he was a real saint. And all the town women fighting over who was going to have him over for dinner. They all had something they wanted him to touch, they all wanted their own personal miracle from him. The rest of us were just plain out of luck, I guess, because we didn’t have nothing to offer him to eat. Once, though, I did get to talk to him through the bars of the confession box. That’s when I learned it was even harder understanding him than it was one of our local priests. This mission priest, you see, he only knew about sins from Quebec.

            On the other hand, there was one of them came here once, he wasn’t exactly a priest, he was what they called a White Father. That’s because he wore a white soutane, you see, although I don’t know, maybe that meant it wasn’t a soutane. Anyways, we never once saw him taking confessions, or giving a sermon, or even collecting tithes. And he wasn’t what you might call a saint, neither. He didn’t go around barefoot and he’d eat anything you put in front of him, baloney, sausages, you name it. I know because he came over to our place for supper once. Nothing fancy about that one, no sir. He wasn’t a picky eater, and he didn’t stick out his little finger when he drank his cup of tea. He ate with us, talked to us just like I’m talking to you, he even played cards with us. And if anyone got a letter from the government or a warning from the police, it was him who looked after it. He didn’t go handing out his mother’s old clothes, neither, or some broken-down old chairs they had up in the rectory attic. He helped Gapi shingle the roof and stack duckweed around the base of the shack and split firewood for the winter. But he wasn’t a saint. He didn’t perform no miracles, at least not that I was aware of, and he didn’t go around telling us stories about saints, although he knew a few good ones. When it came time for him to visit our house it was like getting a visit from my own father, or maybe from the Moose or Pierre-à-Calixte. We never felt embarrassed in front of him, you know what I mean? He never cared a hoot if the beans were left over from the night before, or if we didn’t have the storm windows up, or there was no tablecloth on the table, or we didn’t have a brick chimley. He was what you might call a man just like any other man, was Father Leopold. We never had to pretend we didn’t have head lice or fleas whenever we saw him hiking up his soutane to step over our fence.

            Then one day he just up and left. Went down south somewhere to convert the heathen, so he did. It’s like Gapi said, maybe if they thought we was heathens they might send us someone like Father Leopold, too, to talk to us and tell us not to worry about last rites, he’d send us straight off to Heaven whenever we dropped dead. Oh well, we can’t all be heathens, I guess. Some of us have to wait our turn to see if anyone’s going to be holding the pearly gates open for us when we finally get there.

Analysis of  “On Priests”

La Sagouine introduces the sixth monologue, “On Priests,” as being especially “important” (53), that statement a clue to the central role that religion played in Acadian society. Its importance in her mind, however, reflects not just dominance but also hegemony, a bullying authority that is internalized. Her insistence that “It ain’t a good idea to speak ill of priests!” (53) suggests that fear governs her beliefs, which the end of La Sagouine affirms. Her criticism of priests and the church in this monologue is therefore by indirection, the various arcs of which suggest a gulf between what she believes rationally and what she has been made to fear emotionally. That disconnect between logic and emotion is familiar to all Catholics of a certain age.

The most sustained critique made is of the church as a class-based institution, the irony of that not lost on the intelligent La Sagouine. How could an institution that exists to minister to the poor and suffering, she wonders, be put off by “the smell of dirty socks” in the confessional (54)? And how could that institution restrict the poor from holy ground, denying burial in graveyards to those without financial means? People ask the same questions today, citing the glaring contradictions of the church and the fundamental disconnect between old men living in medieval palaces and actual people living in modern society.

The injustice, La Sagouine asserts, is imposing censorship on others with no thought to their difference. If “no cleanliness” means “no godliness,” then how do the priests “think we’re going to stay clean for twelve months a year, living in a fishing shack all winter and picking clams and oysters out of the mud all summer?” (56).

La Sagouine’s community sees its share of priests, from the saintly to the friendly, but never for long enough to win inner peace. Gapi, La Sagouine’s husband, muses that the church hierarchy, knowing of Acadians’ devotion, ignores them, concentrating its ministrations elsewhere. The inference is that the church exists solely to win new followers (collecting heathen souls) and censor the devout (punishing Acadians for that which they cannot control). “‘[M]aybe if they thought we was heathens,’” recalls La Sagouine of her husband’s speech, “‘they might send us someone like Father Leopold … to talk to us and tell us not to worry about last rites’” (60). The point is clear: Acadians are not only second-class citizens of the state, but also of the church.

What Gapi says later in “The Pews,” the eighth monologue, is summative: “‘Them front pews are for people with fur coats and silk neckerchiefs. Them as comes to church wearing gumboots and mackinaws, they got to make do with the chairs in the back. And the rest of us got to stand, just like we always done’” (76).

Questions and Considerations for Reflection

► Maillet’s “On Lotteries” raises a series of profound questions about the economic status of not just Acadians but also New Brunswickers, a people who have been subject to economic challenges and structural disadvantage since Confederation.

One of those questions – one we are not encouraged to ask – is how does money circulate? As many economists now agree, money circulates down to the lower classes in ways designed to have it circulate quickly back to the top. New Brunswick provides an example. On what do New Brunswickers spend most of their income? The answer is on housing, cars, gas and heating oil, food, and insurance. Yet how much of that money stays in the province? Very little, actually. Banks and insurance companies, now mostly entwined, have satellite operations here while their immense apparatus exists in Toronto. It is the same with car manufacturers. There are display rooms here where we shop and buy, but the vast manufacturing industry exists in central Ontario. Likewise with gas, oil, and food. We have, at best, a branch plant economy in the Maritimes where storefronts sell us what is made, managed, and imported from elsewhere. The main offices and multinationals are not here, nor are the crown corporations, nor the vast complexes of federal bureaucracy and government jobs. The money we make and spend here goes quickly elsewhere.

Quebec’s maîtres chez nous (or “masters in our own house”) philosophy addressed that situation. A form of economic nationalism, the philosophy and its policies sought to concentrate wealth in Quebec so that it could work for citizens there – and so revenues from resource extraction would stay in Quebec. In Acadie, the Caisses populaires acadiennes was founded with a similar intent. Modelled after Jimmy Tompkins’ and Moses Coady’s cooperative movement (the Antigonish Movement) of the 1920s and 30s, Acadie’s Caisses populaires provided capital to help rural Acadians reverse the inevitabilities of “structural” poverty.

La Sagouine’s deceptively amusing rant about the lottery does not reveal any of this economic history, but it certainly suggests it. All New Brunswickers would be wise to take note, especially in an environment where wealth transfers to “have-not” provinces are a source of such disdain. Yes, New Brunswickers are disproportionately served by federal transfers of wealth from richer provinces, but the structure of our economy is such that it quickly cycles back to those richer provinces. Every tank of gas we buy, as La Sagouine would know, sees our money cycle back.

► Maillet’s two monologues also invite readers to consider her humour. There are multiple ways of looking at that humour: as an index of grievance; as a way to speak safely of injustice; as self-effacement, corrective, linguistic and creative play; and as psychological relief from suffering. It is the latter that is the most compelling here, for La Sagouine, a 72-year-old scrubwoman who has lost 9 of 12 children, uses humour to stave off despair. Viewed in this light, readers will realize that humour often comes from the lower classes. That is why Canada’s great humourists are Newfoundlanders. In New Brunswick, Marshall Button’s “Lucien,” the Dalhousie mill worker or “blue-collar philosopher,” is similar to La Sagouine in deploying wit. Neither educated nor eloquent, he and La Sagouine use humour to manage drudgery and despair, both amusing themselves to a longer life than would be possible without laughter. Readers will want to think more about this, asking how Maillet’s humour works, what it accomplishes, and, as importantly, why so little humour is evident in the work of the province’s Anglophone writers.

Strategies for Teachers

Strategy 1: Performing a Monologue (Both Monologues)

La Sagouine was originally written as a script for performance. Ask students to select a section of one of the monologues to rehearse and perform. They may perform the section as written, or alter it to the voice or circumstances of a new character they create, a character, perhaps, in a similar social position as La Sagouine. Students should consider how to use their bodies, vocal tones, and props to do justice to Maillet’s script.

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Speaking and Listening: Address the demands of a variety of speaking situations, making critical language choices, especially of tone and style

Strategy 2: WebQuest (Both Monologues)

There are several videos of and about Antonine Maillet in the CBC Archives. A lesson plan provided for teachers on the CBC Digital Archives site suggests having students perform a WebQuest to answer the question What do all Canadians need to know about Antonine Maillet and Acadian Culture.” The resources that students will find in the digital archives are also appropriate for investigating other questions that might be relevant to what has come up in class discussions.

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Reading and Viewing: Use the electronic network and other sources of information in ways characterized by complexity of purpose, procedure or subject matter

Strategy 3: Historical Truth (Both Monologues)

Maillet’s work provides a very good opportunity for students to think about the truth-claims of history, specifically to critically examine who determines truth (see the second bullet above under “Why Should We Read and Study Maillet?”). For most people, history is regarded as unchanging fact, when really it is an ongoing process of interpretation, more organic than static. Language, disciplinary perspective, source availability, worldview, and interpretative ideology all factor into the stories that historians tell and do not tell. Historical fiction is one mode of interpretation, the fictional component of which often unsettles and contests the “official” record of things. Today, many historians agree that there is no reason to believe that the non-fictional account of history is “truer” than the fictional account of an insightful cultural insider like Maillet. Ask students to weigh in on this point, discussing whether it is legitimate to include historical fiction, such as Maillet’s Pélagie-la-Charette, in a history class. What are the advantages and disadvantages of opening history to fictional storytelling? What are the allowances and limitations of official “textbook” history? To further the discussion, select a passage from James Loewen’s well-known Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (1995), or an interview with Loewen.

If students find Loewen’s work interesting, then teachers may also consider introducing them to Chapter Three of Sam Wineburg’s Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past (2001). The chapter explains how historians read and rate the trustworthiness of texts differently from non-historians, and it gives an example of historians rating a fictional novel as more trustworthy than an American history textbook.

Extension: Engage students in a discussion about how the history of minority or oppressed peoples is covered, or not covered, in New Brunswick schools. One approach to Acadians in a New Brunswick history class might be to discuss the Expulsion first, then the Expulsion and its effect on the thinking of New Brunswick Premier Louis Robichaud. In a New Brunswick English class, that strategy would involve studying the Expulsion first, then reading the responses to it in the literature of this module. Why are some Acadians dissatisfied with a victimization or victims plus hero approach to their history? And why is it ethical – indeed, a moral imperative – for Anglophone students in New Brunswick to study different versions of Acadian literature and history?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Speaking and Listening: Articulate, advocate, and justify positions on an issue or text in a convincing manner, showing an understanding of a range of viewpoints
  • Speaking and Listening: Ask discriminating questions to acquire, interpret, analyse, and evaluate ideas and information
  • Reading and Viewing: Critically evaluate the information they access

Strategy 4: Societal Criticism Through Humour (Both Monologues)

Humour can afford a person great latitude to say things that she or he could not otherwise say. The constructed identity of the humourist or the character she creates also determines what truths she can challenge and contest. With that in mind, ask students to consider the great humourists or comedians today (distinguish great humourists from those who are appealing but insignificant). What communities do those humourists come from? How does humour protect what they say, and what is the message of their humour? Then, guide the discussion back to Maillet. What is the message of her humour, and how do La Sagouine’s age, class, menial job, and gender protect what she says?

If students are struggling with this exercise, model close analysis of a short passage. There are countless examples among the monologues. In “On Lotteries,” for example, the line “it was hardly fair, a hundred thousand bucks for weeding three rows of peas” (45-46) is both funny and deeply resonant with criticism. On the surface, the situation is funny in its irony (finally the little guy won!), but equally serious in critiquing the notion of what is “fair,” for indeed it isn’t fair to compensate someone’s hard labour with a presumably valueless lotto ticket. Consider, then, how people would react to this embedded criticism if, instead of coming from La Sagouine, it was communicated in an earnest and humourless editorial or speech? What does Maillet’s humour add to the identification of unfairness?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Reading and Viewing: Examine how texts work to reveal and produce ideologies, identities, and positions

Strategy 5: Structural Inequity (“On Lotteries”)

Have students consider what “structural” causes of inequity are. What are social and economic structures, and what leads to whole populations becoming structurally disadvantaged? Also, why can’t the structurally disadvantaged just “pull up their bootstraps” and get on with things? By extension, have students consider one of the dominant narratives about their province: that many New Brunswickers are just as happy collecting EI as hustling for work. This narrative is popular among people in “have” provinces that resent Canada’s system of wealth distribution (known as “wealth transfers”), but it has also been adopted by provincial politicians in New Brunswick as a way of fast-tracking their own policies.

Extension 1: Show students a video of the famous “marshmallow test,” in which children are given a marshmallow and told if they are able to wait alone for a period without eating it they will get to have two marshmallows instead of one. Long-term results suggest that the children who wait for the second marshmallow tend to have more successful lives, supposedly because of the ability to delay gratification. This interpretation, of course, assumes that the clearly rational choice is to wait. However, there are perfectly good reasons that a child may not wait, such as distrust that the authority figure will follow through on the promise. Perhaps, thinks the child, he will not only fail to get a second marshmallow, but will also lose the first if he waits too long. In this case, the child is acting from past experience in a certain social setting. Can students think of an analogy to the “marshmallow test” in the real world? What kinds of structural disadvantage and social conditions might cause such rational calculation in the child who does not delay gratification?

Extension 2: Lotteries have been accused of being a disproportionate “tax on the poor” because lower income people have to expend a larger proportion of their incomes to buy tickets. For what reasons, then, do people “play”? Not only are lottery winners more likely to go bankrupt than the general population, but a 2016 study suggests that their neighbours are more likely to go bankrupt as well (Agarwal, Miked, and Scholnick). What insight does Maillet provide to this phenomenon?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Speaking and Listening: Articulate, advocate, and justify positions on an issue or text in a convincing manner, showing an understanding of a range of viewpoints

Further Reading

Agarwal, Sumit, Vyacheslav Mikhed, and Barry Scholnick. “Does Inequality Cause Financial Distress? Evidence from Lottery Winners and Neighboring Bankruptcies.” Working Paper No. 16-04. Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia (February 2016): 1-48.

Bottos, Katia. Antonine Maillet: Conteuse de l’Acadie ou l’encre de l’aède. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2011.

Boudreau, Shirley, et al. Derrière la charrette de Pélagie: Lecture Analytique du Roman d’Antonine Maillet, Pélagie-la-Charrette. Pointe de l’Eglise, NS: Presse de L’Université Sainte-Anne, 1984.

Bourque, Denis. “Le carnavalesque dans l’œuvre d’Antonine Maillet, 1968-1986.” Diss. Université de Montréal, 1994.

---. “Le carnavalesque et ses limites dans La Sagouine.” Revue de l’Université de Moncton 1 (1994): 9-19.

Drolet, Bruno. Entre dune et aboiteaux...un people: Étude Critique des Oeuvres d’Antonine Maillet. Montreal: Editions Pleins Bords, 1975.

Farrell, Alan F. “Le Monologue Splénétique de La Sagouine.” Québec Studies 19 (1994-1995): 113-21.

Jacquot, Martine L. “‘Je suis la charnière’: Entretien avec Antonine Maillet.” Studies in Canadian Literature 13.2 (1988): 250-63.

La Sagouine Coming Home.” Journal Pioneer [Summerside, PEI]. 22 November 2011. N.pag.

Loewen, James. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: Touchstone, 1995.

Lonergan, David, ed. Paroles d’Acadie: Anthologie de la littérature acadienne (1958-2009). Sudbury, ON: Prise de parole,‎ 2010. 41-60.

Lord, Marie-Linda. “Antonine Maillet: Une Géographie du Silence à la Parole.” Literary Atlas of Atlantic Canada / Atlas littéraire du Canada atlantique. Ed. J.A. Wainwright. Halifax: Dalhousie University, 2014.

Lyons, Rosemary. A Comparison of the Works of Antonine Maillet of the Acadian Tradition of New Brunswick, Canada and Louise Erdrich of the Ojibwe of North America with the Poems of Longfellow. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2002.

Maillet, Antonine. “On Lotteries.” La Sagouine. 1971. Trans. Wayne Grady. Fredericton: Goose Lane, 2007. 45-52.

---. “On Priests.” La Sagouine. 1971. Trans. Wayne Grady. Fredericton: Goose Lane, 2007. 53-60.

---. Pélagie: The Return to Acadie. 1979. Trans. Philip Stratford. Fredericton: Goose Lane, 2007.

O’Reilly, Magessa. “Une écriture qui célèbre la tradition orale: Pélagie-la-Charette d’Antonine Maillet.” Studies in Canadian Literature 18.1 (1993): 118-27.

Slemon, Jane. “Liminal Space of the Aboiteaux: Pilgrimage in Maillet’s Pélagie.” Mosaic 36.4 (December 2003): 17-33.

Stouck, David, and Janet Giltrow. “‘Survivors of the Night’: The Language and Politics of Epic in Antonine Maillet’s Pélagie-la-Charette.” University of Toronto Quarterly 71.3 (Summer 2002): 735-754.

Thibeault, Jimmy. “Entre mémoire et imaginaire: Le Soi à la recherche d’une parole-phare dans Le chemin Saint-Jacques d’Antonine Maillet.” Entre textes et images: Constructions identitaires en Acadie et au Québec. Ed. Monika Boehringer, et al. Moncton: Université de Moncton, 2010. 119-35.

Tremblay, Tony. “Antonine Maillet, Marshall Button, and Literary Humor in New Brunswick: Towards a New Hybrid that Can Subsume Ethnolinguistic Division.” Lire Antonine Maillet à travers le temps et l’espace. Ed. Marie-Linda Lord. Moncton: Institut d’études acadiennes, 2010. 91-108.

Viau, Robert. Antonine Maillet: 50 ans d’écriture. Ottawa: Éditions David, 2008.

Wineburg, Sam. Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2001.

For much more detailed primary and secondary source bibliographies, we normally direct readers to the appropriate entry in The New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia. Though an Antonine Maillet entry is in production, it is not yet finalized. Please check the NBLE periodically for updates.


We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Antonine Maillet and Goose Lane Editions for allowing us to use the two monologues above for this curriculum. Further use or distribution of these monologues, however, is a violation of Canadian copyright law and is strictly prohibited. Under no circumstance may literary material used in the curriculum be reproduced, distributed, or stored without the permission of the copyright holder.

Both monologues appear in Antonine Maillet’s La Sagouine. 1971. Trans. Wayne Grady. Fredericton: Goose Lane, 2007. [“On Lotteries,” 45-52; “On Priests,” 53-60.]

All contents except for poetry and fiction copyright © Tony Tremblay, James W. Johnson, and Alexandra Cogswell.