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HUMANITIES 171 Catharine Parr Traill. Briefe aus den Wtildern Kanadas. Translated by Peter Meier Philipp Reclam, jun. 1989 A year before the collapse of the Communist state in Germany, the 'German Democratic Republic,' the East German branch of the famous publishing house Reclam published a translation ofCatharine ParrTraill's autobiographical report The Backwoods ofCanada: Being Letters from the Wife ofan Emigrant Officer (London 1846) under the above title, which means 'Letters from Canada's Forests.' This book, ably and fluently translated by Peter Meier and containing an epilogue by Marianne Miiller, is another testimony to the fact that Canadian studies in Germany reached a remarkable state of sophistication by the end of the 1980s, not only in the West but, to a lesser degree, also in the East. The pleasantly objective epilogue offers quite a bit of information in only eleven pages. Muller concisely outlines the political situation of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, ending in France's loss of Canada to Britain, touches on the separate development of French-Canadian literature , and then concentrates on English-Canadian colonial literature, as embodied by the members of the Strickland immigrant family: Catharine Strickland, who in 1832 married an officer named Thomas Traill, her sister Susanna, who in 1831 was married to the officer John Moodie, and their brother Samuel Strickland, all three being authors of autobiographical books which are generally regarded as important historical documents in their illustration of English-Canadian pioneer life in the bush of Upper Canada. Miiller mentions the whole scope of Catharine ParrTraill's literary work (eight books of different genres: practical handbooks for settlers, botanical studies, animal stories, and books for children, as well as articles written for Canadian and British periodicals) and singles out her books Canadian Wildflowers (1868) and Studies of Plant Life in Canada (1885) as classic descriptions of the Upper Canadian flora of the nineteenth century. The sisters Catharine and Susanna are seen as characteristic examples of colonial pioneer writers and put into the difficult cultural context of their time, the large majority of the reading public for English literature being in Britain and increasingly also in the United States. The epilogue's author also attributes a representative role to the Strickland sisters for a second reason, namely in the context of women's studies. She notes that a very substantial part of English-Canadian colonial literature was ~tten by women, resulting in the interesting phenomenon that early life in English Canada has largely been presented from a female perspective. Whereas such women writers of the first phase of Canadian literature as Frances Brooke, Elizabeth Simcoe, and Anna Jameson described life in 172 LETTERS IN CANADA 1991 Canada from the standpoint of temporary visitors, the work of the Strickland sisters belongs to the second phase, namely the period of firsthand accounts of the hard, strenuous life of the early settlers in the bush, rendered by mostly upper-class immigrants, who as a rule were illprepared for the rough pioneer life. The genesis and reception of Traill's book are outlined, its conten ts summarized, and its genre and function analysed. Miiller praises the 'quiet dignity' ofTraill's letters, their socially differentiating, enlightening function, the large amount of detailed information, her love of nature, her gift of precise observation and clear description, arid her relatively openminded attitude towards the Indians; but she criticizes her conservative views about social hierarchy manifested, for example, in many remarks of unconscious complacency and in her sense of a civilizing and Christianizing mission towards the natives. The final paragraphs of the epilogue sum up the perspective of the author, the relevance of the book's contents, the justification of this German translation, and the range of its potential readers. As I said above, the book has to be seen in the context of the lively Canadian studies in Germany. Although early works on Canada (Lescarbot , Hennepin, etc.) had been translated into German in the seventeenth century, and although the output of German language writings on Canada has steadily increased in the twentieth, 'Kanadistik' as systematic, organized multidisciplinary research and teaching exists only since the beginning of the 1980s. The treaty on cultural co-operation signed in 1975 by...


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