- New Brunswick at the Crossroads: Literary Ferment and Social Change in the East ed. by Tony Tremblay
In his introduction, Tony Tremblay declares that there 'has been a dearth of critical efforts to understand' the 'provincial culture and heritage' of New Brunswick (p. 3). But there are hundreds of scholarly articles dealing with New Brunswick in the journal Acadiensis, numerous theses have been completed at the University of New Brunswick on provincial topics, Acadiensis Press has published a series of important studies including a two-volume history of Atlantic Canada, and the Éditions d'Acadie at the Université de Moncton produced 400 titles during its short-lived existence. The five specific studies in this volume draw somewhat unevenly on this substantial existing literature. Gwen Davies's well-researched chapter on 'Loyalist Literature in New Brunswick, 1783–1843' examines the shift in literary culture that began to take place in the 1840s with the death of the first generation of Loyalists and the arrival of large numbers of non-Loyalist immigrants. I do, however, query her conclusion that the majority of New Brunswickers in the 1840s considered New Brunswick rather than England as their nation. This is not the impression one gets from reading the provincial newspapers of the period or the debates over Confederation. Two chapters deal with Acadian nationalism. Chantal Richards focuses on the period from 1864 to 1955 and gives us some interesting information about the rise of an educated elite but she makes some rather obvious errors (such as declaring that the Acadians formed a third of the New Brunswick population in 1871 when the actual figure is half that). Marie-Linda Lord examines the reimagining of Acadian nationalism in the late nineteenth century and what she describes as 'the "Monctonization" of Acadie' (p. 152), but she might have given us a little more detail about the conflicting loyalties of the Acadian population, particularly of the substantial number who were descended from more recent Québécois immigrants, and might have explained why the campaign for a separate Acadian province generated such little support. Thomas Hodd covers familiar ground, showing the important role that mid-nineteenth-century Fredericton played in creating the Confederation school of poets. In 'Mid-Century Emergent Modernism 1935–1955', Tony Tremblay gives us a more original study, examining the emergence of the school of Saint John artists and their impact upon Alfred Bailey who played a critical role in creating the Fiddlehead School and in helping to turn the University of New [End Page 232] Brunswick into a centre for regional and local studies. But I am not convinced that Bailey and those he inspired 'were seeking to partition the nation into the regions and separate histories that constituted its truer essence' (p. 125). The Bailey that I knew at University of New Brunswick was obsessed with maintaining unity among diversity and absolutely opposed to any form of Balkanisation. Unfortunately the 'Foreword' to the book seems to have little to do with the interesting collection of essays that follows and I am still trying to understand how David Creelman came to the conclusion in the Afterword that the essays show 'an inherently postcolonial dynamic at work' in New Brunswick (p. 159).