Help for a Colleague
William Roberts (wroberts@LAB2.SMCM.EDU)
Mon, 22 May 1995 14:42:12 -0400
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.
St. Mary's College of Maryland
On Wed, 19 Apr 1995, Barbara Knauff wrote:
> 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 email@example.com
> Dept of Foreign Languages
> St. Mary's College of MD