Help for a Colleague

William Roberts (wroberts@LAB2.SMCM.EDU)
Mon, 22 May 1995 14:42:12 -0400

Greetings -

A colleague of mine in the French Department is working on a paper some
of you may have expertise in and could reply to her request for help.
Her address is included.

Thanks -

Bill Roberts
St. Mary's College of Maryland

On Wed, 19 Apr 1995, Barbara Knauff wrote:

> Hello,
> I hope to get some help concerning a engraving I have come across
> in Lahontan's *Memoires de l'Amerique Septentrionale* (1703). Louis-Armand
> de Lom d'Arce, baron de Lahontan, was a French naval
> officer and explorer who spent ten years in New France towards the close of the
> 17th-century (1683-93). After his return to Europe (Holland and Germany),
> Lahontan published, in a three-volume collection (1702-3) several works about
> his North American experience. In these texts, which can be classified neither
> as real nor as entirely imaginary travel writing, Canada and its indigenous
> inhabitants are represented from a multiplicity of ideological points of view,
> refracted through an impressive array of distinct textual media. Letters, the
> synthesizing travel relation, the dictionary and the philosophical dialogue
> each serve their turn to describe the alterity of indigenous Canada. Another
> element of this polyphonous oeuvre is a large number of engravings, most of
> them encyclopedic in style, often including scattered explanatory notes within
> the frame of the engraving.
> The engraving in question is featured towards the end of *Memoires de
> l'Amerique Septentrionale* and is a sample of
> what Lahontan terms Amerindian "Hierogliphes": symbols which were etched into
> trees to commemorate Amerindian victories in battle. The apparent purpose of
> this cryptic page is to extoll the virtues of the alphabetic writing system in
> comparison to a symbolic system which Lahontan terms opaque, cumbersome, and
> altogether "impertinens" [sic] (= "unreasonable" in 17th-century usage).
> My question is, simply, whether such pictographs, consisting of several
> bands of symbols, really did exist? Though I am using the excellent
> recent critical UP Montreal edition of Lahontan's work, I have found no
> reference to any sources in reality; and there are several reasons for
> suspicion, most notably the fact that the supposed AMerindian message
> glorifies a French victory in war. Any references to literature on the
> subject or individuals whom I could query would be greatly appreciated!
> Thanks in advance!
> Barbara Knauff
> Dept of Foreign Languages
> St. Mary's College of MD