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Dr Peter O'Brien delivers lecture on Le Brun's Letters from Canadian Barbary

Posted by Classics Department on March 21, 2013 in Speakers

This talk introduced a little-known (and never translated) piece of 17th century Canadiana that embodies an early modern attempt to envision new-world phenomena through the lens of Graeco-Roman antiquity. The Franciad of the French Jesuit Laurent Le Brun (1608-1663) is a cycle of Latin poems in the form of letters from "Nova Gallia", goddess of New France, to persons of power in Europe. In her epistles, Nova Gallia reports on First Nations life in New France and pleads for help. The poems follow classical Roman models in form, with Ovid's Black Sea Letters and Heroides taking pride of place. In content, Le Brun follows contemporary accounts of First Nations life, and in particular the Jesuit Relations. the result is a curious hybridization of viewpoints that both showcases the Jesuit's poetic virtuousity and serves his Christian humanist approach to missionary work and imperialist enterprise. 

Dr O'Brien is Assistant Professor of Latin Literature in the Classics Department at Dalhousie University. His reasearch has focused on imperial speeches in the work of, Ammianus Marcellinus, as well as other literary aspects of the fourth century AD historian, particularly his knowledge of and allusions to the Augustan epic poet Virgil.