Evangeline: American and Acadian Icon.
What links Stowe’s Uncle Tom Cabin (1852), the Quebecois writer and translator Pamphile Lemay (1865), the white Louisiana Creole Sidonie de la Houssaye’s novel Pouponne et Balthazar (1885), a tourist guide inviting Bostonian to visit a “Land” in Nova Scotia (1894), the Cadian Louisiana judge and writer Felix de Voohries (1907), the first Canadian (and lost) feature film (1913), the role played by Dolores del Rio in a Carewe’s feature film (1929), two statues erected in tiny villages distant of thousands of miles – namely Grand-Pré in Nova Scotia and St-Martinville in Louisiana -, the only opera authored by Otto Luening (1932), William Faulkner’s Absalom Absalom! (1936), the Acadian writer Antonine Maillet - first non-French winner of the prestigious literary Goncourt award (1979), a newspaper that was during almost a century the only daily French newspaper in the Canadian Maritime Provinces (1885-1981), several museums in Canada and Louisiana, thousands of personal or institutional web pages and, more trivially, some soda, chocolate, coffee and bread brands?
The link between the elements of this heteroclite list is a fictional character and story created 160 years ago by the American poet, language professor and scholar Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Evangeline.
Evangeline is symbolically and metaphorically very powerful, which partially explains the interest she has been raising for so long. Evangeline has first been understood as the quintessence of the newborn nation, an ideal of outsiders brought together in the New World as the consequences of persecutions, in order to create a new community and nation. This article aims to show how the fictional character has been appropriated again and again in that vein – whether flattered or disparaged - by different nationalist discourses in search of a figure that could incarnate their creation myth or own newly born imagined communities and identities, adapting the icon to their own context and goals.