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American Literature Jesuit Relations
by
Micah True

Introduction

As Jesuit missionaries fanned out across the globe during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, they sent accounts of their work and of the cultures that they encountered back to Europe. Initially conceived as mandatory annual reports for circulation only within the Society of Jesus, such texts sometimes came to be published, serving to inform Europe’s reading public of events in distant places and helping to rally spiritual and material support for the missions, which were a key part of the Catholic Reformation. The famed Jesuit Relations from New France are among the best known of these published reports, at least partly due to the unparalleled regularity and longevity of the series. Beginning in 1632, a new installment appeared every year, without interruption, until external pressures forced cessation of publication in 1673. Several similar texts that were published prior to 1632 are also sometimes considered part of the corpus. As required of all such missions, the superior in New France assembled each year’s Relation on the basis of letters from missionaries in what is today Quebec, Ontario, and upstate New York. The manuscripts were then sent to France on the merchant ships that departed the colony each autumn, where, upon reaching Paris, they were edited again and published. The available evidence suggests that the Relations were widely read and much appreciated by France’s reading public. In the early 21st century, the texts serve as prime examples of the relation or récit de voyage, a genre inspired by travel that was popular in 17th-century France, with some 1,500 texts published by the end of the century. And because the Jesuits enjoyed a monopoly on mission activity in New France for several decades, coinciding with the publication of the Relations, the texts also are the single most important source of ethnohistorical information on the Iroquoian and Algonquian cultures that the missionaries encountered, as well as on contact between Amerindian and French cultures in New France. Eight different missionaries signed the texts over the course of the published series, although the longtime mission Superior and compiler of the Relations, Paul Le Jeune, often overshadows the others in scholarship.

General Overviews

Each of the major modern editions of the Jesuit Relations—Campeau 1967–2003 and Thwaites 1896–1901—contains a general introduction to the series. In Campeau’s case, each volume contains a discussion of the texts it includes and the historical events that they treat, adding up to the most detailed and exhaustive general overviews available, despite the occasional partisanship of the author, himself a Jesuit. Thwaites’ introduction considers the mission and its Relations in the broader context of the colonization of the Americas. Donnelly 1967 offers a close examination of the history of the published series from the 17th- to the mid-20th century, and is especially useful as an introduction to the Thwaites edition. Both Wroth 1936 and Rigault and Ouellet 1980 analyze, in English and French respectively, a number of key issues surrounding the Relations, such as the problem of authorship, the role of printers in Paris, the reception of the texts, and their enduring scholarly value. Pouliot 1940 places the series in the broader context of Jesuit mission reports, and examines the circumstances of their publication. Dubois 2009 and Greer 2000 are brief and accessible summaries, useful for alerting students and scholars to the general characteristics of the texts and their religious and historical stakes.

  • Campeau, Lucien, ed. Monumenta Novae Franciae. 9 vols. Rome: Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu, 1967–2003.

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    Each volume includes an introduction to the historical context of the Relations and to the other texts that it contains, as well as prefaces to each Relation. Subjects treated vary across the volumes, but generally include some commentary on the texts contained in the volume and their historical and religious value. In French.

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  • Donnelly, Joseph P. “Introduction.” In Thwaites’ Jesuit Relations: Errata and Addenda, Edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites, 1–16. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1967.

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    One of the best and most influential general introductions to the Relations. Provides details on how the texts were composed and published, and on their Publication History and Reception from the 17th to the 20th century.

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  • Dubois, Laurent M. “The Jesuit Relations.” In A New Literary History of America. Edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollers, 50–54. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

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    Brief and engaging overview of the history, purpose, contents, and form of the Relations, appropriate for students. Uses the Jesuit Missionary Jacques Marquette’s famous 1673 voyage down the Mississippi River to illustrate the religious, intellectual, and historical importance of the Jesuit mission to New France and its Relations.

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  • Greer, Allan, ed. The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.

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    Contains a concise and accessible introduction to the Relations and their historical context, suitable for students. Includes sections on the Society of Jesus, Amerindian groups, the Relations and their readers, the history of colonization and missionization, and the problems posed by cultural differences.

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  • Pouliot, Léon. Etude sur les Relations des Jésuites de la Nouvelle-France (1632–1672). Montreal: Desclée de Brouwer, 1940.

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    Book-length study of the Relations, with a useful description of the series in the broader context of Jesuit mission publications, the history of their publication and reception, and chapters devoted to their historical and religious significance.

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  • Rigault, Claude, and Réal Ouellet. “Relations des Jésuites.” In Dictionnaire des Oeuvres Littéraires du Québec. Edited by Maurice Lemire, 637–648. Montreal: Fides, 1980.

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    Includes discussion of the composition of the texts and the problem of authorship, the roles of original publisher Cramoisy and the French state, the evolution of the genre, and the Relations’ historical and ethnographic value.

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  • Thwaites, Reuben Gold, ed. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France 1610–1791. 73 vols. Cleveland, OH: Burrows Bros, 1896–1901.

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    Volume 1 contains a general preface and historical introduction that together provide background on the Jesuit mission’s place in the colonization of North America, the Amerindian groups described in the Relations, the Jesuit mission to each group, and the series itself.

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  • Wroth, Lawrence C. “The Jesuit Relations from New France.” Papers of the Bibliographic Society of America 30.2 (1936): 110–149.

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    Situates the Relations in the global Jesuit tradition of missionary reports and examines the sparse clues about their reception. Includes long sections on their composition and historical and ethnological value, as well as the original printers Cramoisy and Boullenger and the discontinuation of the published series. Reprinted as a book also in 1936 in Chicago.

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Reference Works

A number of tools are at the disposal of scholars who wish to study the Relations. Particularly important are resources intended to help scholars surmount one of the major challenges to studying the series: its sheer volume. Campeau 1967–2003 and Thwaites 1896–1901 (cited under General Overviews) each offer an index that can be used to locate passages on particular themes or people, and The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1610–1791, the online collection of Thwaites’ translations hosted by Creighton University, can be searched for words or phrases. Donnelly 1967 (whose “Introduction” is also cited under General Overviews) is an important companion to the popular Thwaites edition that corrects and clarifies many of the mistranslations and other factual errors contained therein. For more on the shortcomings of Thwaites and other editions, see Publication History and Reception.

Bibliographies

For sheer convenience and quantity of citations, Laflèche 2000 is an excellent starting point for scholars researching particular themes or authors of the Relations. The volumes of Campeau 1967–2003 also offer extensive lists of publications related to the Relations. McCoy 1937 is a catalog of the known variants and reprints of the original Relations published in the 17th century.

  • Campeau, Lucien, ed. Monumenta Novae Franciae. 9 vols. Rome: Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu, 1967–2003.

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    Each volume contains a bibliography of historical documents and contemporary scholarship related to the material presented therein.

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  • Laflèche, Guy. Bibliographie littéraire de la Nouvelle-France. Laval, QC: Editions du Singulier, 2000.

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    Extensive bibliography of texts produced in and about New France, along with modern scholarship on the subject, including the Jesuit Relations. Especially useful: lists of Jesuit writings, modern editions, and scholarship on various topics in the Relations and on individual missionary authors.

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  • McCoy, James C. The Jesuit Relations of Canada, 1632–1673: A Bibliography. New York: Burt Franklin, 1937.

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    Catalogue of the 17th-century published variants of the Relations. McCoy identifies distinct editions of each text, as well as variants of editions caused by mid-publication corrections. Serves to illustrate the early popularity of the series, since it shows that most installments were reissued several times.

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Primary Texts

A wide array of options awaits both researchers and students who wish to consult the Jesuit Relations. Complete or nearly complete multivolume editions exist in both French and English. Single installments in the series also have sometimes been republished, usually in volumes aimed at a general readership or students. And finally, many collections of excerpts from the entire series have appeared in both French and English, and can serve as a rapid orientation to the Relations and a useful introduction for students.

Editions and Translations

Thwaites 1896–1901 remains the standard English translation. It is now available online at The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, hosted by Creighton University. Campeau 1967–2003 is the most rigorous edition available in French, although at least for the present it ends with the 1661 Relation due to the editor’s death. For this reason and others, Thwaites’ facing-page text in the original French continues to be preferred by many scholars (for more on the scholarly debate over which edition should stand as the standard, see Publication History and Reception). In addition to these two modern editions, the original 17th-century Relation de ce qui s’est passé en la Nouvelle France Relations are available in the digital collection of the French national library.

  • Campeau, Lucien, ed. Monumenta Novae Franciae. 9 vols. Rome: Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu, 1967–2003.

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    The most rigorous scholarly edition of the Jesuit Relations. Features the texts and related material in the original French and sometimes Latin and Italian. Due to Campeau’s death and lack of a replacement editor up to the early 21st century, the edition ends with the 1661 Relation.

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  • Relation de ce qui s’est passé en la Nouvelle France. 1610–1791. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Gallica.

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    The digital collection of the French National Library contains downloadable scanned images of the original 17th-century editions of the Relations. Useful for scholars who prefer to cite the originals rather than one of the critical editions, or researchers interested specifically in the early editions.

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    • The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1610 to 1791.

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      The Relations are available online in various formats and editions, but Creighton University’s digitization of the Thwaites translations, without the original French, is the most convenient.

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      • Thwaites, Reuben Gold, ed. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France 1610–1791. 73 vols. Cleveland, OH: Burrows Bros, 1896–1901.

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        Standard English translation of the Relations. Its facing-page French text also remains popular. Care should be taken to verify the translations, as they often are flawed. Reprinted by Pageant Book Company in 1959.

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      Individual Relations

      Le Jeune’s 1634 text—perhaps the single best-known Relation due to its riveting account of the author’s arduous winter spent among the Montagnais—has been published independently of the rest of the series several times; Beaulieu 1999 offers an incomplete and modernized version of this text that may be useful for students. Laflèche 1973 presents the same Relation in a scholarly edition based on an alternate source, a contemporaneous handwritten copy that differs somewhat from the version published in the 17th century. One of the other rare texts to be published on its own in a modern edition is Bressani’s Italian Relation from 1653, found in Guardiani 2011. In that case, the new edition was born of the editor’s dissatisfaction with the rigor and readability of the versions presented in the major editions of the series. These volumes offer an accessible introduction to the series through some of its most unique individual installments.

      • Beaulieu, Alain, ed. Un Français au “royaume des bestes sauvages.” Montreal: Comeau and Nadeau, 1999.

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        Comprises large excerpts of Paul Le Jeune’s 1634 Relation, based on the original edition published in Paris by Cramoisy. Typographical modernization enhances the readability of the text. Although not a complete edition, the volume offers a readable account of Le Jeune’s famous sojourn among the Montagnais. Suitable for students.

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      • Guardiani, Francesco, ed. Breve relatione d’alcune missioni de’PP. della Compagnia di Giesù nella Nuova Francia. Ottawa, Canada: Legas, 2011.

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        Conceived as a correction of the Thwaites and Campeau editions of Italian Jesuit Francesco Bressani’s 1653 Breve Relatione, which preserve an older style of Italian and contain errors introduced by the editors. Punctuation and spelling are modernized, creating an accurate and readable version of the only New France Relation written in Italian.

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      • Laflèche, Guy, ed. Le missionaire, l’apostat, le sorcier: Relation de 1634 de Paul Le Jeune. Montreal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1973.

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        Based on a contemporaneous handwritten copy of the 1634 text, one of the few manuscripts to have survived. A convenient and scholarly presentation of an alternate version of what is perhaps the single best-known Relation.

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      Selections

      Each of the three collections of excerpts in English listed in this section represents a different methodological approach; they should give some sense of the wide variety of selections that are available. Kenton 2010 is based on the Thwaites edition and is organized chronologically, aiming to present the entirety of the Jesuit tenure in North America. Greer 2000 is a less extensive collection that is arranged thematically and would be suitable for students. Randall 2011 is perhaps the most creative of the three. Rather than reproduce text from one of the editions of the Relations, the volume paraphrases Thwaites’ translations, seeking to restore the conversational quality that the editor finds in the original French. Also notable is Thérien 1996, which brings Jean de Brébeuf out of Paul Le Jeune’s shadow as another New France Jesuit worthy of study in his own right.

      • Greer, Allan, ed. The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.

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        Based on the Thwaites edition, but corrected using Campeau’s Monumenta Novae Franciae, with an updated vocabulary. Greer opts for relatively long passages from the Relations— focusing on Jesuit writing about the Montagnais, Huron, and Mohawks—and on particular recurring themes: war, disease, nature, religion, etc. Suitable for students. Also cited under General Overviews.

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      • Kenton, Edna, ed. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in North America (1610–1791). Whitefish, MT: Kessinger, 2010.

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        One of several collections of excerpts prepared by Kenton based on the Thwaites edition. Texts are arranged chronologically, and span the entire period of Jesuit activity in colonial North America, not just the decades in which the Relations were published.

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      • Randall, Catharine, ed. Black Robes and Buckskin: A Selection from the Jesuit Relations. New York: Fordham University Press, 2011.

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        Paraphrases selections from the Thwaites translation. The emphasis is on shaping the texts’ style, not accurately establishing or representing their content. Of interest is an appendix on the problems of translation posed by the missionaries’ vocabulary of conversion.

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      • Thérien, Gilles, ed. Ecrits en Huronie. Saint-Laurent, QC: Bibliothèque Québecoise, 1996.

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        Collection of writings by Jesuit missionary Jean de Brébeuf. Includes his Relations, correspondence, spiritual writings, texts in the Huron language, etc. Can serve as a general introduction to Brébeuf, who, despite his prominence in the mission, is generally eclipsed by Le Jeune in fame.

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      Journals, Letters, Dictionaries and Other Documents Related to the Mission

      As a number of scholars have noted, the common emphasis on the published series of Relations from 1632 to 1673 is artificial to some degree. French Jesuits in New France produced many other texts—correspondence, journals, pedagogical materials, etc.—that can be just as revealing of life in the colony and interactions between Frenchmen and Amerindians. The most exhaustive collection of texts related to the mission and to the Relations is Campeau 1967–2003. Trudel 2003 offers a smaller, but important selection of texts related to New France and the Jesuit mission in broad historical perspective. Journal entries for the period 1645–1668 that were not intended for publication, and that provide a contemporaneous and complementary record of events to the Relations, are included in each of the major editions and were separately published in Laverdière and Casgrain 1973. Manuscript dictionaries that the priests used in teaching each other Amerindian languages are available online from the Musée de la Civilisation and reveal much about the Jesuit approach to Amerindian languages and cultures, as does Steckley 2004. Texts produced in many other Jesuit missions throughout the world were published alongside New France texts in the early 18th century in the multivolume Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses, écrites des missions étrangères, par quelques missionnaires de la Compagnie de Jésus For more on Jesuit activity elsewhere in the world and its relationship to the New France mission, see The Jesuit Mission and its Relations in Global Perspective.

      • La collection de manuscrits, Séminaire de Quebec. Musée de la Civilisation

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        Scanned images of manuscripts in Huron, Algonquin and Iroquois bilingual dictionaries, and other Jesuit linguistic materials. An important supplement to the linguistic data in the Relations that also reveals much about how the missionaries perceived and made sense of their Amerindian interlocutors.

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        • Campeau, Lucien, ed. Monumenta Novae Franciae. 9 vols. Rome: Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu, 1967–2003.

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          Contains hundreds of documents related to the Jesuit mission—letters, contracts, inventories, etc.—that provide context and additional details to the material in Relations themselves. In French, Latin, and occasionally Italian.

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        • Laverdière, C. H., and H. R. Casgrain, eds. Le Journal des Jésuites publié d’après le manuscrit original conservé aux archives du séminaire de Québec. 3d ed. Montreal: François-Xavier, 1973.

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          Collection of journal entries made by Jesuit missionaries in New France between 1645 and 1668, apparently the only period for which Jesuit journals have survived. Originally published in 1871. Text available online.

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        • Lettres edifiantes et curieuses, écrites des missions étrangères, par quelques missionnaires de la Compagnie de Jésus. Vol. 12. Paris: Chez Nicolas Le Clerc, 1717.

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          A multivolume collection of texts written by Jesuit missionaries throughout the world, including New France. Originally published in the18th century. Text available online.

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        • Steckley, John L., ed. De Religione: Telling the Seventeenth-Century Jesuit Story in Huron to the Iroquois. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.

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          Longest known text composed in Huron-Wendat, written by a French-speaking Jesuit in 17th-century New France. Its treatment of topics like the nature of God and the natural world, death, and the afterlife supplements such material in the Relations. Includes facing-page English translations.

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        • Trudel, Marcel, ed. La Nouvelle-France par les textes: Les cadres de vie. Montreal: Hurtubise HMH, 2003.

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          Collection of documents related to civil and religious life in colonial New France, with Trudel’s commentary. Notably includes the founding charter of the trading monopoly that operated during much of the Jesuit tenure there.

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        Publication History and Reception

        The Relations and the major modern editions of the texts each had their own unique path to publication, inspiring much scholarship and commentary. The first major modern edition of the Relations, published by Augustin Côté in 1858, is described in Giguère 1954, which illuminates the historical and governmental context that led to the edition that made the Relations widely available for the first time. Donnelly 1967 (also cited under General Overviews) and Pouliot 1940 both trace the publication history of the series up through the Thwaites edition, in English and French respectively. But the two Jesuit priests take divergent views of Thwaites’ work. Pouliot defends the edition from its critics and calls it a beautiful monument to the glory of Jesuit missionaries. Donnelly, in contrast, acknowledges the edition as a major contribution but shows himself skeptical of Thwaites’ skill as an historian and editor. More recent commentators have been less charitable. Korp 1995 claims that the edition’s poor translations serve to misinform readers about Amerindian cultures. Codignola 1996 dissents from Korp’s analysis of the translations, but finds the Thwaites edition deficient in other ways, showing that Thwaites relied on other books, translations and transcriptions in preparing his edition instead of honoring his own promise to use original sources. In comparing Thwaites’ work to Campeau’s edition, Codignola offers a strong argument in favor of adoption of the latter as the standard for scholars.

        • Codignola, Luca. “The Battle Is Over: Campeau’s Monumenta vs. Thwaites’s Jesuit Relations, 1602–1650.” European Review of Native American Studies 10.2 (1996): 3–10.

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          Surveys how scholars have used the Thwaites and Campeau editions and argues for more widespread adoption of the latter. Argues that the earlier edition does not meet current scholarly standards.

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        • Donnelly, Joseph P. “Introduction.” In Thwaites Jesuit Relations: Errata and Addenda. Edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1967.

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          Traces the publication history of the Relations from the 17th to the mid-20th century, and examines the genesis of the influential Thwaites edition. Contains a portrait of the qualifications and career of Reuben Gold Thwaites, arguing that he was less a scholar than an entrepreneur.

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        • Giguère, Georges-Emile. “Sous les auspices du gouvernement Canadien.” 8: Revue de l’Histoire de l’Amérique Française 3 (1954): 359–379.

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          Recounts the historical circumstances that led to the publication of the Côté edition, which made the Relations widely available after fires destroyed a complete collection held at the Quebec Parlement.

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        • Korp, Maureen. “Problems of Prejudice in the Thwaites’ Edition of the Jesuit Relations.” Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historiques 21.2 (1995): 261–276.

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          Examines the translations in the first four volumes of the Thwaites edition, and argues that incorrect translations and faulty annotations pervade the text. Makes the case for a new English translation. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        • Pouliot, S. J. Léon. Etude sur les Relations des Jésuites de la Nouvelle-France (1632–1672). Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1940.

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          Includes a chapter on the history of the series, including its initial preparation and publication in the 17th century, the 1858 edition, and Thwaites. Includes analysis of the role that earlier collections played in the assembly of the 19th- and 20th-century editions.

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        Catholic Reformation

        Missionary outreach was an important part of the Catholic Church’s effort to reform and strengthen itself in the wake of the Council of Trent—usually referred to as the Catholic Reformation or the Counter-Reformation. Members of the Society of Jesus and other Catholic orders fanned out across France and the world beyond its borders seeking to combat the influence of Protestantism, as well as to expand Catholicism into new territories. The Jesuit Relations and similar texts have been understood as part of this broader effort to revitalize the Church. Missionary reports—often carefully edited by Church authorities—circulated widely, serving to excite readers about the progress of the faith and to rally material support for missionary efforts. Dompnier 1985 offers a concise overview of this religious context, including the role of Jesuit missions therein. Codignola 1995 examines missionary work in the New World—including that of the New France Jesuits—in the context of Christianity’s efforts to spread itself around the world, both during and before the Reformation. Deslandres 2003 examines mission work in the Americas as part of a broader effort associated with the Reformation, especially by comparing New World missions to those carried out within France. In an atmosphere of heightened missionary fervor, the Jesuits were not without competitors for control over the New France mission. The second chapter of Blackburn 2000 offers an overview of the competition between Jesuits and other missionary groups for access to New France, within the broader context of the Reformation.

        • Blackburn, Carole. Harvest of Souls: the Jesuit Missions and Colonialism in North America, 1632–1650. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000.

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          Chapter 2 examines the competition between the Jesuits and their rivals over access to New France, and places such competition in the broader context of the Catholic Reformation.

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        • Codignola, Luca. “The Holy See and the Conversion of the Indians in French and British North America, 1486–1760.” In America in European Consciousness: 1493–1750 (Institute of Early American History and Culture). Edited by Karen Ordahl Kupperman, 195–243. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

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          Considers the missionary work conducted by the Jesuits and other groups in the New World in the context of Christianity’s long tradition of transmitting its message to nonbelievers, including the expansion of such efforts during the Catholic Reformation.

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        • Deslandres, Dominique. Croire et faire croire: les missions françaises au XVIIe siècle. Paris: Fayard, 2003.

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          Examines French missionary work in the Americas, including that of the Jesuits in New France, alongside missions carried out inside France during the Catholic Reformation.

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        • Dompnier, Bernard. Le venin de l’hérésie: Image du Protestantisme et combat Catholique au XVIIe siècle. Paris: Le Centurion, 1985.

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          Chapter 8 offers a good overview of the surge in missionary activity—by the Jesuits and other groups—that accompanied the Catholic Reformation, particularly within France.

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        Textual Approaches

        The Relations have long been prized primarily as a source of ethnological and historical information on the Amerindian inhabitants of New France and the colony itself. A parallel strain of scholarship, however, has read them as texts, literary or paraliterary works that are as interesting for their rhetorical or formal characteristics as they are as a source of ethnohistorical data. Perhaps most notably, the Relations have long served as a favored example of early modern French travel narrative. For works on that subject, see Travel Writing. Laflèche 2000a, Laflèche 2000b, and Laflèche 2000c—a series of three articles—surveys many of the literary approaches taken to the Relations since a resurgence of interest in them that took place around 1970, and is therefore a good starting point for those interested in how the texts have been used by scholars of literature. Clements 1994 is an investigation of the texts’ role in the birth of Native North American literature. Pioffet 1997 reads the texts in relation to the epic genre. The introduction to Laflèche 1973 (also cited under Individual Relations) offers a structuralist reading of the Relation contained in that volume. Sayre 1997 takes a comparative approach, reading the Relations and other French colonial texts alongside English narratives. Melzer 2012 employs the Relations and other texts like them in investigating the stakes of the New World for France’s famous Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns, especially as related to France’s status as a formerly colonized land that was beginning itself to colonize other places.

        • Clements, William M. “The Jesuit Foundations of Native North American Literary Studies.” American Indian Quarterly 18.1 (1994): 43–59.

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          Traces the beginning of the textualization of Native North American oral performance to Paul Le Jeune’s 1633 Relation, which included a French translation of a speech by an Amerindian interlocutor. Concludes that the Relations contain valuable information on Amerindian storytelling practices. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        • Laflèche, Guy, ed. Le missionaire, l’apostat, le sorcier: Relation de 1634 de Paul Le Jeune. Montreal: Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1973.

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          Introduction contains a structural analysis of Le Jeune’s Relation. Traces the relationships between chronology and geography, between documentary and literary passages, and between Jesuit hopes and triumphant descriptions of their work and the unhappy episodes they also recounted.

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        • Laflèche, Guy. “L’analyse littéraire des Relations des Jésuites.” Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec 30.1 (2000a): 103–108.

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          At times polemical in tone, this article surveys trends in literary scholarship on the Relations from 1970 to 2000, in sections that are organized around the M.A. and PhD theses that appeared during that period. Includes sections on Paul Le Jeune as an author, as well as psychoanalytical, comparative, rhetorical, and ethnological approaches.

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        • Laflèche, Guy. “L’analyse littéraire des Relations des Jésuites.” Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec 30.2 (2000b): 89–93.

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          Second installment in Laflèche’s survey of literary approaches to the Relations. Includes sections on Amerindian eloquence, conversion, rhetorical devices, and the texts’ relationship to epic. Should be read with Laflèche 2000a and Laflèche 2000c.

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        • Laflèche, Guy. “L’analyse littéraire des Relations des Jésuites.” Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec 30.3 (2000c): 101–109.

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          Third and final installment in Laflèche’s survey of literary approaches to the Relations. Focuses on the work of particular scholars, including Réal Ouellet, Gilles Thérien, Pierre Berthiaume, Guy Laflèche, Alain Bealieu, etc. Should be read with Laflèche 2000a and Laflèche 2000b.

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        • Melzer, Sara. Colonizer or Colonized: The Hidden Stories of Early Modern French Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

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          Reads 17th century French relations de voyage—the Jesuit Relations chief among them—in relation to France’s efforts to define itself simultaneously in relation to Amerindians and to the models of Ancient Greece and Rome.

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        • Pioffet, Marie-Christine. La tentation de l‘epopée dans les Relations des Jésuites. Sillery, QC: Septentrion, 1997.

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          Analyzes the Relations in relation to the epic genre, focusing on the missionaries’ representations of war, the supernatural, and their own heroic portraits of themselves.

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        • Sayre, Gordon M. Les sauvages Américains: Representations of Native Americans in French and English Colonial Literature. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

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          Takes a comparative approach to colonial literature in North America, considering the Relations and other French texts alongside colonial English accounts.

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        Travel Writing

        As texts that served to inform Europe of distant peoples and events, the Relations have much in common with the odd assortment of texts that are often grouped under the heading “travel writing,” and many scholarly interventions have examined them in that light. Atkinson 1924 may have inaugurated this line of inquiry with its pioneering study of the relationship between New World travel writing and the philosophical developments of Enlightenment France. More recently, Doiron 1995 and Ouellet 2010 have studied the phenomena of physical displacement and travel accounts, respectively, in books that prominently feature the Jesuit Relations. A broader survey of the poetics of travel writing can be found in the essays that make up Pioffet 2008, some of which consider the Jesuit Relations. True 2012 argues for a reading of the texts in relation to a colony-centric voyage instead of a Eurocentric one.

        • Atkinson, Geoffroy. Les Relations de voyages du XVIIe siècle et l‘évolution des idées: Contribution à l‘étude de la formation de l‘esprit du XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Champion, 1924.

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          Study of travel writing that draws on numerous 17th-century travel accounts, including some culled from the Relations. Traces how such texts informed the philosophical ideas of the following century.

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        • Doiron, Normand. L’Art de voyager: Le déplacement à l’epoque classique. Sainte-Foy, QC: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 1995.

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          Begins with a summary of early modern interpretations of Ancient Greek and Roman ideas about travel, and then seeks to discern the rules of travel and travel writing that were operative in the French 17th century. Draws examples from the Jesuit Relations.

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        • Ouellet, Réal. La Relation de voyage en Amérique (XVI-XVIIIe Siècles): Au carrefour des genres. Quebec City: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2010.

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          Examines the Jesuit Relations and other New World travel narratives as a genre. Analyzes aspects including appeals to authority in liminal material, the translation of experience into text, the act of describing novelties, reported Amerindian speech, etc.

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        • Pioffet, Marie-Christine. Écrire des récits de voyage (XVe–XVIIIe siècles): Esquisse d’une poétique en gestation; Actes du colloque tenu à Toronto du 4 au 6 mai 2006. Quebec City: Presses de l’Université Laval, 2008.

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          Collection of essays investigating the rhetorical characteristics of the relation or récit de voyage as a genre. Several essays consider the place of the Jesuit Relations in the larger context of 17th-century travel writing.

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        • True, Micah. “Travel Writing, Ethnography, and the Colony-Centric Voyage of the Jesuit Relations from New France.” American Review of Canadian Studies 42.1 (2012): 102–116.

          DOI: 10.1080/02722011.2012.649922Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Argues for a reading of the Relations as travel writing in light of a little-known aspect of their publication and circulation: each text appears to have been sent back to New France after being edited and published in Paris. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        Hagiography

        Eight Jesuit missionaries were tortured and killed while working in New France and eventually were elevated to sainthood, a fate that was sometimes overtly hoped for in the Relations. Accordingly, many scholars have interpreted the Relations and their contents through the lens of hagiography. Laflèche 1988–2005 reedits sections of the Relations that recount the edifying deaths of various missionaries, and provides useful context in the form of Bibliographies, textual variants, and images. For the Francophone scholar, these volumes are the most convenient place to begin a study of martyrdom and hagiographic writing in the Relations. Anglophone readers may find a clear and engaging introduction to the topic in Greer 2005, which examines the life of an Iroquoian woman who converted to Catholicism and the Jesuit priests who recorded her life for posterity. Scholars have suggested a number of ways in which the Relations might profitably be read in relation to the hagiographic tradition. Boss 2003 shows how the texts themselves might be understood to function as relics, and therefore as a spiritual, and not merely textual, link between the mission and the wider Catholic community. Greer 2000 argues for the importance of the hagiographic orientation of the texts for their ethnohistorical qualities, especially as concerns gender and race. Berthiaume 1995 claims that the Relations were modeled on the hagiographic tradition, and that the texts should be regarded more as an effort to establish the holiness of potential saints than as protoethnographic accounts of Amerindian cultures. Finally, a stimulating set of articles on the topic can be found in Poirier, et al. 2011 including such novel approaches as the description of the relationship between the voyage and hagiography, the analysis of accounts of edifying deaths from the point of view of performance theory, and the redeployment of martyrdom stories from the Relations in texts penned in subsequent decades.

        • Berthiaume, Pierre. “Les Relations des jésuites: Nouvel avatar de la Légend doré.” In Figures de L’Indien. Edited by Gilles Thérien, 129–158. Montreal: Typo, 1995.

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          Argues that the Relations are modeled more on hagiography than on an effort to offer an objective or scholarly description of Amerindian cultures and events in the colony. Suggests that the texts obey the “schema” and “spirit” of hagiography as a strategy to make saints of the missionaries.

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        • Boss, Julia. “Writing a Relic: The Uses of Hagiography in New France.” In Colonial Saints: Discovering the Holy in the Americas, 1500–1800. Edited by Allan Greer and Jodi Bilinkoff, 211–233. New York: Routledge, 2003.

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          Suggests that the Jesuit Relations and related materials were useful in establishing a relationship between the mission and the wider Catholic community, and that they may be thought of not only as textual objects, but as holy relics.

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        • Greer, Allan. “Colonial Saints: Gender, Race, and Hagiography in New France.” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd series 57.2 (2000): 323–348.

          DOI: 10.2307/2674478Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Argues that ethnohistorical uses of the Relations should take account of the hagiographic orientation of the texts, and that stories of martyrdom are loaded with significance for debates about gender and racial differences. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        • Greer, Allan. Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekawitha and the Jesuits. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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          Study of the life of the famous Iroquoian convert to Catholicism, drawing on the accounts of Jesuit priests who interacted with her. Greer emphasizes her position between two worlds, as a Mohawk woman but also a convert to Christianity. Good for students.

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        • Laflèche, Guy. Les Saints Martyrs Canadiens. 5 vols. Laval, QC: Editions du Singulier, 1988–2005.

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          A multivolume study of the history and legacy of hagiographic writing in New France. Includes excerpts from the Relations, textual variants, Bibliographies of scholarship on the topic, images, etc. The most detailed and exhaustive work available on the subject of hagiography and martyrdom in the Relations.

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        • Poirier, Guy, Marie-Christine Gomez-Géraud, and François Paré, eds. De l’Orient à la Huronie: du récit de pèlerinage au texte missionnaire. Sainte-Foy, QC: Presses de l’Université Laval, 2011.

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          Contains a section on new approaches to the topic of martyrdom in the Jesuit Relations, including studies of how missionary voyages are oriented toward the martyrdom of the travelers, theories of performance, rewritings of missionary hagiography in the late 17th century, etc.

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        Paul Le Jeune

        Some scholars of literature—Francophone scholars in particular—have chosen to focus studies of the Relations on the writings of the mission superior Paul Le Jeune, the most prolific of the New France Jesuits. The essays in Ouellet 1993 offer a range of approaches to Le Jeune’s work, including his use of war imagery and biblical citation, and analyses of his historiographical writing and heroicization of Jesuit protagonists. Ferland 1992 catalogues and briefly comments on more than twenty different rhetorical devices employed by Le Jeune. Le Bras 1994 is a sustained investigation of Le Jeune’s strategies in describing the Amerindian cultures he encountered in New France, and Deffain 1995 provides a scholarly portrait of Le Jeune as an author, including biographical and bibliographical data as well as comments on several recurring themes in his works.

        • Deffain, Dominique. Un voyageur français en Nouvelle-France au XVIIe Siècle: Etude littéraire des Relations du Père Paul Lejeune (1632–1641). Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1995.

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          Recites the scant biographical information available about Le Jeune and his role in producing the Relations. Devotes chapters to the historical situation in France at the time of the texts’ publication, and to Le Jeune’s ideas about colonization, nature, and Amerindians.

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        • Ferland, Rémi. Les Relations des Jésuites: un art de la persuasion: procédés de rhétorique et fonction conative dans les Relations du Père Paul Le Jeune. Québec: Les Editions de la Huit, 1992.

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          Identifies and briefly explains twenty-one different rhetorical features of the Relations written by Paul Le Jeune: irony, prosopopoeia, biblical citation, induction, comparison, portraiture, dialogue, indirect discourse, etc.

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        • Laflèche, Guy, ed. Le missionaire, l’apostat, le sorcier: Relation de 1634 de Paul Le Jeune. Montreal: Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1973.

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          Introduction analyzes the structure of Le Jeune’s most famous Relation, with emphasis on how it represents time, space, the missionary’s hopes for the mission, and the results obtained.

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        • Le Bras, Yvon. L‘Amérindien dans les Relations du père Paul Lejeune (1632–1641). Sainte-Foy, QC: Éditions de la Huit, 1994.

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          Studies Le Jeune’s methods of describing Amerindian cultures. Incudes chapters on the general characteristics of Le Jeune’s Relations, his rhetoric of alterity, ethnographic method, etc.

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        • Ouellet, Réal, ed. Rhétorique et conquête missionnaire: le jésuite Paul Le Jeune. Sillery, QC: Septentrion, 1993.

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          Collection of six essays examining Le Jeune’s Relations from a variety of perspectives: historiographical, psychoanalytical, use of war symbolism, biblical citation, etc. Useful introduction to the various approaches that scholars of literature applied to Le Jeune and his texts at the end of the 20th century.

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        Representation of Amerindian Cultures

        Accounts in the Jesuit Relations of Amerindian cultures—their religious beliefs, political structures, torture rituals, food practices, etc.—are a major source of the popularity of the texts among scholars, including both scholars of literature and ethnohistorians. Among social scientists, approaches to the texts have roughly followed theoretical developments in cultural anthropology. Tooker 1964 reflects the impulse among cultural anthropologists at the time to assemble all available information about cultural groups that were presumed to be disappearing, if not already gone. The book draws on the Relations and a contemporaneous work by the Franciscan missionary Gabriel Sagard to paint a portrait of the Huron-Wendat people at the time of contact with Europeans. Trigger 1976 makes more nuanced use of the Relations in its portrait of Huron-Wendat culture, reflecting an increased sensitivity among social scientists to the factors that complicate the Jesuits’ status as protoethnographers. Blackburn 2000 (also cited under Catholic Reformation) approaches the texts in a way that reflects contemporary cultural anthropological thought, in which Amerindian groups are not so much objects of study for Jesuit protoethnographers, but partners in a dialogue that informed the writing of the Relations. An alternative reading of Huron history is offered by Sioui 1994, himself an historian of Huron-Wendat extraction. Sioui challenges many of the conclusions reached by the Jesuits and scholars who subsequently drew on their portraits of Amerindian cultures, often by offering an alternate reading of the source material. In contrast to the works of ethnohistorians, who approach the texts from a variety of theoretical positions, Le Bras 1994 (also cited under Paul Le Jeune) treats the question of Amerindians in the Relations as a site of rhetorical analysis, focusing more on how Le Jeune wrote about the cultures he encountered than on what he wrote. Sayre 1997 (also cited under Textual Approaches) examines the subject in a comparative framework, analyzing depictions of Amerindian cultures in the Relations and other French texts alongside those in English colonial texts.

        • Blackburn, Carole. Harvest of Souls: The Jesuit Missions and Colonialism in North America, 1632–1650. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000.

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          Deploys the tools of historical anthropology and colonial discourse analysis in a study of the Relations, reading Jesuit-Amerindian interactions in colonial New France as a dialogue between missionaries and would-be converts, both in the mission field and in the pages of their annual texts.

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        • Le Bras, Yvon. L‘Amérindien dans les Relations du père Paul Lejeune (1632–1641). Sainte-Foy, QC: Éditions de la Huit, 1994.

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          Rhetorical analysis of Le Jeune’s portrayal of Amerindian cultures. Focuses on how the missionary author wrote about Amerindians, rather than on the ethnographic data in his texts.

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        • Sayre, Gordon M. Les Sauvages Américains: Representations of Native Americans in French and English Colonial Literature. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

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          Study of how Amerindian cultures were depicted in French and English colonial literature, including the Jesuit Relations. Useful for its analysis of the wider literary phenomenon of which the Relations are but one part.

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        • Sioui, Georges E. Les Wendats: Une civilisation méconnue. Sainte-Foy, QC: Presses de l’Université Laval, 1994.

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          Attempts to counter the long tradition, inaugurated by the Jesuits and their contemporaries, of defining Amerindian cultures from without. Sioui offers a cultural history of his own people, arguing against what he sees as various slurs against them by outside colonizers and scholars, including the authors of the Relations.

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        • Tooker, Elisabeth. An Ethnography of the Huron Indians, 1615–1649. Volume 190 of the Bulletin of the Smithsonian Institution. Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964.

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          Classic study that draws data from the Relations and a contemporaneous Franciscan text to provide a brief overview of the Huron culture as it existed at the time of contact. Posits the Jesuits as protoethnographers whose bias is easily detected and mitigated. Reprinted in 1991, (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press ISBN: 9780815625261)

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        • Trigger, Bruce. The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1976.

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          Authoritative ethnohistory of one of the Jesuits’ primary mission targets, making extensive and generally sensitive use of the Relations. Indispensable for studies of Iroquoian cultures as they existed at the time of contact with Jesuit missionaries.

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        Intellectual History

        An important area of scholarship on the Relations, and on Jesuit depictions of Amerindian cultures, concerns how the texts intervened in and shaped Europe’s debates about the inhabitants of the New World, not only during their own time but also in subsequent centuries. Chinard 2011 is a classic study in this vein that investigates the impact of the New World on philosophical and intellectual developments in Europe. Healy 1958 argues that the texts provided the favorable portraits of Amerindian nature upon which Enlightenment ideas about the noble savage were built. Dickason 1984 and Jaenen 1976 place the Relations in the context of a long tradition of European ideas about Amerindians, from first contact through the development of permanent and robust colonies. Melzer 2012 (also cited under Textual Approaches) employs the Relations in the author’s effort to gauge how France’s colonial discourse influenced cultural debates over its relationship to the ancient world. In a similar vein, Brazeau 2009 reads the earliest Relations and contemporaneous texts to trace the emergence of various ideas about French identity in the early modern period.

        • Brazeau, Brian. Writing a New France, 1604–1632: Empire and Early Modern French Identity. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2009.

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          Analyzes the earliest Relations, among other texts, to show how accounts of New France helped shape and define French identity at the time.

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        • Chinard, Gilbert. L‘Amérique et le rêve exotique dans la littérature française au XVIIe et XVIIIe siècle. Geneva, Switzerland: Slatkine Reprints, 2011.

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          Pioneering study of the representation of America in early modern French literature, containing a chapter on the Relations themselves and other chapters that treat the texts’ influence on the literary and philosophical works of the 18th century. Originally published in 1913.

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        • Dickason, Olive P. The Myth of the Savage and the Beginnings of French Colonialism in the Americas. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1984.

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          Traces the history of French conceptions of the Amerindians, and argues that positive and negative conceptions evolved side by side. Interprets claims about Amerindian “savagery” in continuity with the French folk “wild man” tradition. Includes a chapter on Jesuit missionary conceptions of Amerindians. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        • Healy, George. “The French Jesuits and the Idea of the Noble Savage.” William and Mary Quarterly 3d ser. 15.2 (1958): 144–167.

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          Classic article that examines the relationship between depictions of Amerindian cultures in the Relations and the reputation of such cultures in the following century as being exceptionally virtuous. Argues that the Relations provided the raw portrait of Amerindian virtue upon which the Enlightenment noble savage myth was built.

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        • Jaenen, Cornelius. Friend and Foe: Aspects of French-Amerindian Cultural Contact in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1976.

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          Traces the history of French-Amerindian contact as recorded in the Relations and other texts, and examines the intellectual, religious, and political consequences for each culture of exposure to the other.

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        • Melzer, Sara. Colonizer or Colonized: The Hidden Stories of Early Modern French Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

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          Argues that French colonial discourse, as exemplified by the Relations and similar texts, had a profound but usually unappreciated impact on early modern France’s emerging cultural identity, especially concerning its relationship to the literary and cultural models furnished by antiquity.

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        The Language Encounter

        Hanzeli 1969 studies the Relations and the handwritten dictionaries and other materials prepared by the Jesuits in order to reconstruct the training, methodology and assumptions that the priests brought to bear on their linguistic work. For more on the missionaries’ linguistic materials, see Journals, Letters, Dictionaries and Other Documents Related to the Mission. Steckley 2004 and Steckley 2007 use linguistic materials prepared by the Jesuits to better understand the cultures of the Iroquoian groups that the author wrote about. The two volumes are an important supplement to the information about the language encounter contained in the Relations. Gray 1999 draws on many contemporaneous sources, and can therefore serve as a useful introduction to the Relations’ general place in colonial linguistics and the Jesuits’ approach to linguistic difference relative to their contemporaries. Scholars of literature also have studied the language encounter, generally to show how Jesuit ideas about the unfamiliar tongues of the New World shaped their approach to the mission and their portraits of Amerindian cultures. Dorsey 1998 draws a parallel between Jesuits’ admiration for native languages and their accommodating approach to the mission, as well as their apparent precocious sensitivity as ethnographers. Leahey 1995 traces Jesuit efforts to learn the languages of would-be converts, and the relationship between that process and the portraits of Amerindian cultural practices in the Relations. True 2009 argues that descriptions of Amerindian languages—and Jesuit efforts to learn them—are deployed in the Relations as an exclusionary principle that could be used to assert the Jesuits’ authority and legitimacy as missionaries in New France, and to disqualify their Franciscan rivals. Randall 2001 considers how the missionaries’ efforts to translate doctrine into Amerindian tongues may have shaped the Relations.

        • Dorsey, Peter A. “Going to School with Savages: Authorship and Authority among the Jesuits of New France.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 55.3 (1998): 399–420.

          DOI: 10.2307/2674530Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Argues that the admiration that Jesuits expressed in the Relations for the languages they encountered was the motivation for their accommodation of certain elements of Amerindian religion, and that the link the missionaries drew between language and theology made them rigorous and sensitive students of Amerindian life. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        • Gray, Edward G. New World Babel: Languages and Nations in Early America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

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          Draws on the Jesuit Relations and other colonial texts to trace the emergence of the idea that linguistic differences could be attributed to variations in human character, and the implications of that idea for nation formation. Good general introduction to the stakes of the language encounter in the New World, and the Jesuits’ place therein.

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        • Hanzeli, Victor E. Missionary Linguistics in New France; A Study of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Descriptions of American Indian Languages. The Hague: Mouton, 1969.

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          Study of the Jesuit linguistic project in New France. Examines the linguistic training and methodology of the missionaries, the dictionaries and grammars that they produced, and the limited linguistic information included in the Relations. The best overview available of the Jesuit approach to Amerindian languages in New France.

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        • Leahey, Margaret J. “‘Comment peut un muet prescher l’évangile?’ Jesuit Missionaries and the Native Languages of New France.” French Historical Studies 19.1 (1995): 105–131.

          DOI: 10.2307/286901Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Study of the Jesuit missionaries’ efforts to learn Amerindian languages, and how those efforts are reflected in descriptions of native cultures in the Jesuit Relations. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        • Randall, Catharine. “Cathedrals of Ice: Translating the Jesuit Vocabulary of Conversion.” International Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue internationale d’études canadiennes 23 (2001): 17–35.

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          Examines the role of translation in the Jesuits’ efforts to teach the Catholic faith to Amerindians in New France, and how such translation may have left an enduring mark on the Relations. Journal available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        • Steckley, John L., ed. De Religione: Telling the Seventeenth-Century Jesuit Story in Huron to the Iroquois. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.

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          Edition and translation of a document composed in the Huron language for use in preaching Christianity to the Iroquois. Affords a precious glimpse into how Jesuit missionaries may have actually used the Amerindian languages that they so often commented on in the Relations.

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        • Steckley, John L. Words of the Huron. Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2007.

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          Ethnolinguistic study of the Huron-Wendat language, drawing on Jesuit linguistic materials. Useful supplement to Jesuit descriptions in the Relations of Amerindian languages and cultures.

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        • True, Micah. “Maistre et Escolier: Amerindian Languages and 17th Century French Missionary Politics in the Jesuit Relations from New France.” Seventeenth Century French Studies 31.1 (2009): 59–70.

          DOI: 10.1179/175226909X459696Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Reads descriptions of the language encounter in the Relations as an effort by the missionary authors to legitimize their own efforts in New France, and to discredit their Franciscan rivals. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        Women

        The role of women in colonial encounters, both female missionaries and Amerindian women, has begun in recent decades to attract the attention that it deserves. Anderson 1991 argues that contact with the Jesuits and other colonizers resulted in Amerindian women losing power relative to their male counterparts. Devens 1992 argues that Amerindian women were leaders in resisting the revolutionary influence of missionaries and other outsiders. Sleeper-Smith 2001 takes a similar point of view, focusing specifically on the fur trade. Viau 2005 examines the role of women in Iroquoia, offering a corrective to the oft-repeated claim that Iroquoian societies were dominated by women, and arguing that female power may have been enhanced during the colonial period as men died off due to disease or warfare. A more general portrait of what it was like to be an Amerindian woman in the context of the missionization and colonization of New France can be found in Greer 2005 (also cited under Hagiography), a microhistory that examines one woman’s navigation of the pressures associated with contact and the hybrid identity that emerged. The role of the female missionaries who worked alongside the authors of the Relations also has attracted scholarly attention in recent decades. Choquette 1992 argues that such women enjoyed greater freedoms and influence than their counterparts in the Old World, suggesting that frontier societies afford unique opportunities to women, even those belonging to cultures that typically repressed them. Zemon-Davis 1995 describes how one female missionary, Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation, contributed to both the mission and to the Jesuit Relations, providing an account of the texts that does not reserve power and influence for male Jesuits alone.

        • Anderson, Karen. Chain Her By One Foot: The Subjugation of Women in Seventeenth-Century New France. London: Routledge, 1991.

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          Examines how Amerindian cultures were changed through contact with Europeans, including the Jesuits, focusing especially on how the status of women in such societies was eroded.

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        • Choquette, Leslie. “‘Ces Amazones du Grand Dieu’: Women and Mission in Seventeenth-Century Canada.” French Historical Studies 17.3 (1992): 627–655.

          DOI: 10.2307/286565Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Traces the role of female counterparts to the Jesuits in colonial New France, and argues that they enjoyed greater freedoms and flexibilities than were afforded women in France. More broadly, the article illustrates the opportunities of women in frontier societies, even those that are deeply patriarchal. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        • Devens, Carol. Countering Colonization: Native American Women and Great Lakes Missions, 1630–1900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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          Draws on the Relations and reads against the dominant tradition of understanding European-Amerindian contact as a history dominated by men, arguing that Amerindian women took an active role in resisting the efforts of missionaries and other colonizers.

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        • Greer, Allan. Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekawitha and the Jesuits. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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          Microhistory of the life of a Mohawk woman who converted to Catholicism under the tutelage of Jesuit missionaries, useful for students and scholars alike. Where other studies of Amerindian women in contact situations emphasize paradigms of resistance or revolution, Greer portrays his subject as the cultural hybrid that her bicultural name suggests.

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        • Sleeper-Smith, Susan. Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.

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          Examines the role of Amerindian women in coping with the changes produced in their cultures in the context of the fur trade, with particular attention to strategies based on marriage and kinship.

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        • Viau, Roland. Femmes de personne: Sexes, genres, et pouvoirs en Iroquoisie ancienne. Montreal: Boréal, 2005.

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          Argues, on the basis of the Relations and other sources, that women in 17th- and 18th-century Iroquoia were largely autonomous, particularly when compared to their European counterparts, and that contact with the Jesuits and others may have enhanced their power.

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        • Zemon-Davis, Natalie. Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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          Contains a lengthy chapter on the Ursuline missionary to New France Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation. Shows how women, and especially Guyart, contributed both to the mission and to the contents of the Relations. She cooperated with the Jesuits, but also forged her own path in the New World.

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        Religious Conversion

        The replacement of Amerindian religions with Catholicism is a recurring theme in the Relations, and has been the subject of much scholarship. Reconstructions of Jesuit methodologies based at least in part on the Relations can be found in Grégoire 1998, Gagnon 1975, and Jetten 1994, each of which studies a particular tactic employed by the missionaries. Goddard 1998 examines Jesuit conversion methods in comparison to their practices in rural Europe. Campeau 1987 recounts the history of the mission among the Huron according to the Relations, and repeats the missionaries’ claims that Amerindians willingly embraced Catholicism. Ronda 1977, on the other hand, reads the Relations and related sources to argue that Amerindians often reaffirmed their traditional beliefs in the face of pressure from missionaries, and resisted conversion as agents in their own right instead of passive recipients of Jesuit evangelization. Beaulieu 1990 attempts to transcend positive and negative stereotypes of both missionaries and Amerindians, and presents their dialogues over religion as a process of give and take between two distinct and well-developed knowledge systems. For the Anglophone reader, Leavelle 2012 offers a similar perspective, framing religious encounter as a process of mutual conversion. The author’s perspective also has the advantage of being somewhat broader than that adopted by Beaulieu, covering encounters across French colonial North America.

        • Beaulieu, Alain. Convertir les fils de Caïn: jésuites et Amérindiens nomades en Nouvelle-France, 1632–1642. Montreal: Nuit Blanche Editeur, 1990.

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          Examines the religious encounter between Jesuits and Algonquian groups. Seeks to overturn stereotypes of munificent or intolerant priests and bloodthirsty or naïve Amerindians by presenting encounter as a dialogue between two groups that each had its own deeply held set of beliefs.

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        • Campeau, Lucien. La mission des jésuites chez les Hurons, 1634–1650. Rome: Institutum Historicum, S.I, 1987.

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          Argues that missionaries succeeded in communicating Christianity to the Huron, who embraced it knowingly and enthusiastically. Generally accepts accounts of conversion in the Relations at face value.

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        • Gagnon, François-Marc. La conversion par l’image: Un aspect de la mission des jésuites auprès des Indiens du Canada au XVIIe Siècle. Montreal: Bellarmin, 1975.

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          Examines Jesuit uses of images in their efforts to persuade Iroquoian and Algonquian groups to convert to Christianity. Of particular interest is a long appendix including many images that apparently were deployed for pedagogical purposes in the New France mission.

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        • Goddard, Peter. “Converting the ‘sauvage’: Jesuit and Montagnais in 17th Century New France.” Catholic Historical Review 84 (1998): 219–239.

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          Situates Jesuit methods of converting Algonquian groups, as described in the Relations, in the broader context of the Society’s practices in rural Europe and its religious perspective. Argues that such conversions contributed to the disappearance of traditional beliefs and practices. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        • Grégoire, Vincent. “Pensez-vous venir à bout de renverser le pays’: La pratique d’évangélisation en Nouvelle France d’après les Relations des jésuites.” Dix-Septième Siècle 201.4 (1998): 681–707.

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          Surveys the obstacles that Jesuits reported in their efforts to Christianize Amerindians, and the strategies employed in overcoming those obstacles. Emphasizes the difficulties of intercultural communication and some of the novel ways Jesuits met those challenges: use of images, theater, games, etc.

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        • Jetten, Marc. Enclaves Amérindiennes: les “réductions” du Canada, 1637–1701. Sillery, France: Septentrion, 1994.

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          Examines the roots of Jesuit-created villages of Christian converts in New France in the Society’s South American missions, and argues that the practice produced a strain of Christianity that was distinctly influenced by the preexisting beliefs and practices of the New World’s native inhabitants.

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        • Leavelle, Tracy Neal. The Catholic Calumet: Colonial Conversions in French and Indian North America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

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          Reads religious encounters between Frenchmen and Amerindians as a process of cultural translation and mutual conversion, instead of the imposition of European beliefs and practices on the inhabitants of North America.

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        • Ronda, James P. “We Are Well as We Are: An Indian Critique of Seventeenth-Century Christian Missions.” William and Mary Quarterly 3d ser. 34.1 (1977): 66–82.

          DOI: 10.2307/1922626Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          An effort to recover Amerindian responses to missionary attempts to convert them. Argues that Amerindians tended to reaffirm preexisting beliefs and resist conversion instead of bending to the will of the Jesuits. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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        Intercultural Exchange

        The Relations have long been a prime source for studies of contact between Amerindian and European cultures in the New World. Parkman 2005 is a classic study of Jesuit activity in New France that expands the scope beyond the mission to include the priests’ role in the more mundane aspects of colonization. Its dated perspective, which assigns agency exclusively to the missionaries and portrays Amerindians as the passive objects upon which they acted, has been contested in studies such as Axtell 1985. Axtell treats the history of North America—including but not only the Jesuit mission in New France—as an arena in which European and Amerindian actors influenced each other in their negotiations over commerce, politics, and communication. Delâge 1993 offers a similarly multifaceted view of colonial interaction, prominently including the Jesuit mission, but focuses more on economic exchange than Axtell, basing his work in social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory. Campeau 1987 (also cited under Religious Conversion) argues against economic interpretations of the missionaries’ work, and views Jesuit-Amerindian contact primarily through the lens of the allegedly successful implantation of Christianity in New France. White 1991, in contrast, conceives of intercultural contact as a process of mutual influence, in which European and Amerindian met on a “middle ground” that required each to compromise in order to interact fruitfully and find common meaning. Sleeper-Smith 2001 and Jacquin 1987 adopt a similar perspective, focusing, respectively, on the role of Amerindian Women in responding to European colonizers and on Frenchmen who lived among Amerindian groups, spoke their languages, and served as intermediaries between European and local cultures.

        • Axtell, James. The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

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          Takes a three-pronged approach to colonial history, focusing on how French, English and Amerindian groups influenced each other in their interactions. Several of the chapters deal more or less directly with the Jesuit experience in New France, and draw prominently on the Relations.

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        • Campeau, Lucien. La mission des jésuites chez les Hurons, 1634–1650. Rome: Institutum Historicum, S.I, 1987.

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          History of the Jesuit mission among the Huron according to the Relations. Generally accepts at face value Jesuit reports of their success in winning converts.

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        • Delâge, Denys. Bitter Feast: Amerindians and Europeans in Northeastern North America, 1600–64. Translated by Jane Brierly. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1993.

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          Draws on World Systems Theory to study contact and exchange between European and Amerindian groups in northeastern North America, prominently including the Jesuit mission to New France. Discusses economic systems in place in Amerindian societies prior to the arrival of colonial powers, and how they were reshaped through contact.

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        • Jacquin, Philippe. Les Indiens blancs: Français et Indiens en Amérique du Nord (XVIe-XVIIIe Siècle). Paris: Payot, 1987.

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          Examines the mutual influence of Amerindian and French cultures, focusing particularly on Frenchmen who chose to adopt an Amerindian lifestyle and language, often serving as intermediaries in the fur trade.

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        • Parkman, Francis. The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century. New York: Cosimo, 2005.

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          Parkman’s dated approach now is generally considered to be Eurocentric, consigning Amerindians to supporting roles and depriving them of agency in contact with Jesuits. Nonetheless, a pioneering study of Jesuit activity in the New World, the echoes of which can sometimes still be heard in contemporary scholarship. Originally published in 1901.

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        • Sleeper-Smith, Susan. Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.

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          Argues that in addition to being changed by contact with European cultures, Amerindian cultures developed strategies and behaviors to ensure their own continuity. Focuses particularly on the role of Women in developing ways to cope with changes produced by intercultural contact.

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        • White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

          DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511584671Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Studies intercultural contact as a process of mutual invention, in which both Amerindians and Europeans had to make accommodations in order to understand each other and interact profitably.

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        The Jesuit Mission and its Relations in Global Perspective

        Recent decades have seen a proliferation of studies examining the Jesuit mission in New France and its texts in relation to the Society of Jesus’ activities around the world. Abé 2011 compares an earlier Japanese mission to the Jesuits’ New France effort, and contests the common assertion that mission strategies in New France were based on examples from South America. Li 2001 compares the New France mission to the Society’s work in China, focusing on the reactions of the local populations in each case. Further comparisons to the examples of China and Japan can be found in Poirier, et al. 2011 (also cited under Hagiography). Cushner 2006 examines Jesuit missions throughout the Americas in the colonial period, including New France, drawing on the Relations and similar texts. Instead of attempting direct comparison between the various missions—Maryland, New France, Florida, Mexico, Peru, and Paraguay—Cushner’s study amounts to a survey of the sorts of things that happened in each mission.

        • Abé, Takao. The Jesuit Mission to New France: A New Interpretation in the Light of the Earlier Jesuit Experience in Japan. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011.

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          Draws on the Relations and other texts to argue that Jesuit missions in Japan may have furnished an important model for the New France mission, especially efforts to settle Amerindians into Christian communities.

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        • Cushner, Nicholas P. Why Have You Come Here?: The Jesuits and the First Evangelization of Native America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

          DOI: 10.1093/0195307569.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          A survey of French, English, and Spanish Jesuit missions in the Western hemisphere from the 16th to the 18th centuries, drawing on the Relations and similar texts.

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        • Li, Shenwen. Stratégies missionnaires des jésuites français en Nouvelle-France et en Chine au XVIIe siècle. Sainte-Foy, QC: Presses de l’Université Laval, 2001.

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          Compares the Jesuit mission in New France to the one in China. Contains a preliminary chapter on training that all Jesuit missionaries received, and four interesting chapters comparing the reactions of would-be Amerindian and Chinese converts to the Jesuits’ ministrations, according to the Relations and similar texts.

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        • Poirier, Guy, Marie-Christine Gomez-Géraud, and François Paré, eds. De l’Orient à la Huronie: du récit de pèlerinage au texte missionnaire. Sainte-Foy, QC: Presses de l’Université Laval, 2011.

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          Includes a section of six essays examining the New France mission in comparison to Jesuit missions in China, Japan, etc.

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        Novels and Films

        The Jesuit Relations have at least partly inspired several contemporary novels and films, which may be useful in introducing the mission and its texts to students. Doria-Russell 1996 takes up many of the themes in the Relations, including the fraught process of producing and publishing accounts of mission work, in a science fiction novel about a Jesuit mission to make contact with newly discovered life on a distant planet. The novel contains many allusions to the New France mission, and takes place in a context that brings into sharp relief the stakes of travel into the unknown. Moore 1985 is an historical novel inspired by the Relations and the scholarly work of Francis Parkman. Many of the biases and ideas that informed the Jesuit missionaries themselves are there on display, potentially making the novel a good introduction for students to the Jesuit approach to their Amerindian interlocutors. Beresford 2001 is a film adaptation of this novel that is similarly useful in a classroom setting. Vollman 1993 tells the story of Jesuit-Amerindian contact, but is much broader in scope.

        • Beresford, Bruce, dir. Black Robe, 1991. DVD. Santa Monica, CA: MGM Home Entertainment, 2001.

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          Film adaptation of Moore 1985. Useful as a rapid introduction to the mission, the challenges of intercultural contact, and efforts to write about it. Good for students.

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        • Doria-Russell, Mary. The Sparrow. New York: Ballantine, 1996.

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          Science-fiction novel that follows a small group of priests and laypeople on a mission to a newly discovered planet in the solar system closest to Earth’s sun in the mid-21st century. Stocked with allusions to the Jesuit mission to New France. Good for students. Sequel: Children of God.

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        • Moore, Brian. Black Robe. New York: Dutton, 1985.

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          Novel about a fictional Jesuit missionary on an arduous winter journey to Huron country in the company of a band of Montagnais. Reflects many Jesuit ideas about the relative ferocity of various Amerindian groups, and illustrates the pervasive influence of the Relations and of Francis Parkman. Film adaptation by Bruce Beresford.

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        • Vollman, William T. Fathers and Crows. New York: Penguin, 1993.

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          Massive historical novel tracing Jesuit-Amerindian contact in New France from both points of view. Draws heavily on the Relations as well as on modern scholarship inspired by the texts.

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        LAST MODIFIED: 11/27/2013

        DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199827251-0097

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