«By Robert Hilliker M. A., Brown University, 2003 B. A., University of British Columbia, 2000 Thesis Submitted in partial fulfillment of the ...»
Mullaney’s work on the “rehearsal of cultures” offers us a salient framework in which to understand Morton and Lescarbot’s publications, and the ritual performances that preceded them, as part of the project of constructing a national identity. In Mullaney’s conception, “rehearsal of cultures” refers to the early modern practice of recreating—or “staging”—alien and rural customs as a means of determining which to ignore, which to suppress, and which to assimilate into the dominant cultural code. Mullaney explicates The majority of recent work on Lescarbot focuses, generally rather narrowly, on the “Theatre de Neptune.” For example, Bernard Andrès and Rick Bowers basically recount the stages and immediate context of the work’s initial performance, and seem all too ready to accept that it “celebrates a mutualized sense of power … in which each culture appropriates the desirable and exploitable elements of the other” (Bowers 485, 483; compare Andrès 15); Paolo Carile offers a more thorough literary and intellectual contextualization of the “Theatre,” but still limits its larger import by characterizing it as “un divertissement colonial” (144).
Lescarbot, for example, directly cites the French polyglot Jean Bodin, who played a vital role in the production of early modern theories of climate. Meanwhile Morton’s obvious debt to William Wood’s New England’s Prospect, which addresses the climate question directly, makes it unlikely that he was unaware of this theory. For more on early modern climate theory and the Americas, see Karen Kupperman’s “Puzzle of American Climate in the Early Colonial Era” and “Fear of Hot Climes in the Anglo-American Colonial Experience.” this concept by recounting the recreation (and subsequent destruction) of a pair of Brazilian villages for Henri II and Catharine de Medici’s 1550 entrée royale to Rouen.
He then implicitly links this process with a “proliferation [of] written accounts of public ceremonies” in the second half of the sixteenth century (14), citing such texts as Laurent Joubert’s Erreurs Populaires (1578) and Philip Stubbes’ Anatomie of Abuses (1583) that “rehearse” through their elaborate recapitulation the very practices they deride. Though his account of Henri II’s entrée royale points us to some of the colonial aspects of this early modern ethnographic discourse, Mullaney’s primary focus is on the intranational consolidation of monarchical power, not its transatlantic reach. More significantly still, Mullaney short-circuits the connection between printing and the rehearsal of cultures by contending that the proliferation of written accounts of rituals in fact occurs because “traditional forms of public ritual were on the wane” (14), not because, as his own work suggests, they are being selectively transformed and remotivated in service of imperial expansion.
Lescarbot’s vision of a transatlantic French empire, bound (and bounded) by a shared literacy, plainly indicates why such a link exists: how else but through writing and printing to translate an empire across an ocean? This vision was certainly unusual enough for its time; as Joyce Chaplin has noted, Francis Bacon was one of few early modern natural historians to causally link developments in printing and navigation with the colonization of the New World (1).47 The role of improved navigation in imperial Though Chaplin does not provide the citation herself, she is clearly referring to the famous Aphorism 129 from Bacon’s Novum Organum, which appears, notably, as an epigraph to the introduction to Mary Fuller’s Voyages in Print. The passage reads, in translation: “We should note the force, effect, and consequences of expansion is clear enough: ships serve as a vehicle for the transmission of people and goods. The role of printed books is analogous: they are vehicles for ideas and textualized customs that serve as mechanisms of social control. This is precisely what scholarship by Richard Helgerson, Mary Fuller, and others has demonstrated by drawing our attention to how “Elizabethan and Jacobean voyage texts [were] central to forming an idea of an English nation” (Fuller 1).48 Yet Lescarbot also calls for Christian “Bards … with the fleur-de-lis in their hearts” to be sent across the ocean to New France, a trope which brings us back to Mullaney’s insistence on the inseparability of the ethnographic performance from the writing that records it: what Lescarbot’s text aims at, as his figurative language makes clear, is nothing less than the inscription of Frenchness on the land and people of the Americas through the embodied, ritual performance of a French identity. That Lescarbot announces this in an ethnographic account of the customs of the Native Americans themselves indicates how national and transatlantic empire are intertwined in the project, invention which are nowhere more conspicuous than in those three which were unknown to the ancients, namely printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these three have changed the appearance and state of the whole world” (cited by Fuller 1). The original Latin: “Rursùs, vim et virtutem et consequentias Rerum inventarum notare iuvat : quae non in alijs manifestiùs occurrunt, quàm in illis tribus, quae Antiquis incognitae; et quarum primordial, licèt recentia, obscura et ingloria sunt: Artis nimirùm Imprimendi, Pulveris Tormentarij, et Acûs Nauticae. Haec enim tria, rerum faciem et statum in Orbê terrarium mutaverunt” (147-8). Chaplin has, of course, demonstrated the limited impact of gunpowder in the AngloAmericas prior to Bacon’s Rebellion and King Philip’s War (i.e., 1675-6), but, as both she and Fuller note (following Stephen Greenblatt’s observations in “Invisible Bullets”), guns did operate as a kind of “cultural magic” even if their efficacy as weapons was limited by their inaccuracy and unreliability (Fuller 1; see Chapter 3 of Chaplin’s Subject Matter in addition to Greenblatt’s essay).
Though somewhat less has been written on this question in the scholarship on New France, Lescarbot’s career has served as a model for scholars seeking to advance similar arguments about the link between colonial empire and intranational politics. In particular, Éric Thierry’s recent biography of Lescarbot announces the role of writing (and, by implication, publishing) in its very title: Un Homme de plume au service de la Nouvelle-France. The course of Lescarbot’s career, from student in the regional center of Vervins to lawyer in the Parlement de Paris to French diplomatic envoy in Switzerland, and the fact that it was furthered by a series of published compositions and translations, makes this connection clear.
carried out in ethnographic writings such as Lescarbot’s, of constructing and enforcing a national identity—precisely what early and mid twentieth-century ethnography, with its scientific pretensions, obscures by constructing a conceptual firewall between its “civilized” European and Euro-American practitioners and its “primitive” subjects (as James Clifford has shown in The Predicament of Culture). That Lescarbot carried out such an ethnographic performance himself, composing and performing in an elaborate “entrée royale” in honor of the Port Royal colony’s founder, Jean de Biencourt, Seigneur de Poutrincourt, and staging the obeisance of the Native Americans as part of this ceremony, indicates the lack of such an absolute division in Lescarbot’s own thought.
If the expansiveness of Lescarbot’s vision is unusual for his time, however, he is certainly not alone in using ethnographic writing to further his colonial ambitions. Earlier French explorers and settlers such as Jean de Léry and André Thevet had used their ethnographic observations about Native Americans to couch religious arguments for and against the Reformation, while English authors from Thomas Hariot to John Smith give varying amounts and types of information about the Native Americans, according to whether their purposes are primarily scientific, strategic, or promotional. The Spanish Jesuit José de Acosta deserves a special mention here since his Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias, newly translated into French, served as an important model for Lescarbot’s Histoire.49 The French translation, by Robert Regnault Cauxois, was first published in 1598, appeared in a revised edition in 1600, and was subsequently reprinted in 1606, 1616, 1617, and 1621; an Italian translation was published in 1596; distinct German translations appeared in 1598, 1601, 1602, and 1605; a Dutch translation of 1598 was reprinted in 1624; and an English one appeared in 1604. Numerous Latin editions were published as well, including, most notably, one in 1602 as part of Theodore de Bry’s America series.
Though Acosta’s text had first appeared in Latin as De natura novi orbis in 1588, most of the vernacular translations are based on the Spanish edition of 1590, entitled Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias.
Among his various French and English counterparts, however, Thomas Morton stands out as having most fully incorporated an emphasis on the ritual performance of national identity into an ethnographically-informed colonial polemic.50 Morton’s New English Canaan, like Lescarbot’s Histoire, consists of a combination of historical and ethnographic information, as well as useful notes about the flora and fauna of the Americas. Unlike Lescarbot, Morton does not try to situate his own colonial experience in a redaction of previous accounts of the New World, yet a number of textual references indicate his awareness of contemporary publications about the Americas, particularly William Wood’s New England’s Prospect, which Morton obliquely refers to as the “wodden prospect” at several points throughout the New English Canaan (27, 28, 53, etc.). Further, Morton engages in an explicit polemic against his primary colonial competitors, the Puritans of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, thus echoing Lescarbot’s own attacks on his Jesuit counterparts. Finally, Morton provides as the centerpiece of his text an account of his May Day celebrations of 1627, including an enigmatic poem that he nailed to his Maypole as part of the elaborate ceremonies, as well as the violent reaction of his Puritan antagonists.
Examined against the context in which they were published, Lescarbot’s and Morton’s works stand apart not in their use of ritual performance to produce and maintain a coherent national identity, nor in their publication of learned treatises on the flora, fauna, I am not, I should note, the first Americanist to have placed Morton and Lescarbot side-by-side: Rosalie Murphy Baum suggests “juxtaposing” the pair as part of a course integrating French and English colonial writings (119, see 121), and Norman Grabo offers them up as a (brief) example of how the American “frontier” could be “absorbed … into natural experience by treating it as literature” (280, see 278-281).
geography, and inhabitants the New World as a means of authorizing a particular version of colonial engagement; rather, it was the combination of these two facets that distinguished these authors from others on the increasingly crowded shelves devoted to the newly-discovered continent. Bacon is a good reference point here, since he is clearly concerned, as Ralph Bauer contends, with “the building of a cohesive national infrastructure supporting an overseas empire that would allow England to compete in the geo-political contest against her European neighbors” (16), but in his disparagement of courtly theatrical productions—which pitted him against his king and the character of his time—he fails to recognize the radical potential for these genres to influence the customary behaviors that are a key part of such an infrastructure.
Given the rationalist bent of Bacon’s thought, his priorities are unsurprising; for him, it is new, empirically-derived technologies that serve to further human potential and power, not elaborate and expensive courtly theatrical productions, which he implicitly relegates to the realm of purely aesthetic entertainments by insisting that they ought to appeal to the senses without emptying the pocketbook (Essays 175). In the ever-widening wake of Stephen Orgel’s Illusion of Power, however, we now recognize that these performances occupied a central place in the politics of early modern Europe, that they were “not entertainments in the simple and dismissive sense we usually apply to the term” but “expressions of the age’s most profound assumptions about the monarchy” and about political authority more broadly (Orgel 8). Bacon, for all his insight elsewhere in his writings into the workings of state, underestimates theatrical performances as a means of exerting power within a body politic.
Meanwhile Morton, in staging a masque-like celebration of Mayday at his New England habitation, and Lescarbot, with his “entrée royale,” demonstrate how powerful ritual performance could be in the New World; in fact, ritual performance was perhaps doubly important for these colonial authors because of their need to prove that living in the New World would not alter their national and religious identities. Their subsequent publication of the written accounts of these performances as part of their larger accounts of the New World not only reinforces Mullaney’s sense that printing is part of the “rehearsal of cultures,” but also indicates how these authors conceived of these performances as having a metropolitan audience in addition to their colonial one. As Lescarbot’s appeal to Henry IV implies, such publication is necessary to increase “empire” both within and without a nation’s boundaries: as a monarch seeks to exert greater social control over his or her subjects through the promulgation of ritual practices, the need to publicize those rituals becomes as important as the rituals themselves.