An Exploration of Evangéline: Poem, Myth and Pop song

by Karly Nevils

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ABSTRACT

Evangeline from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was published in 1847. The poem is based on the love story of Evangeline and Gabriel, and is set during the Grand Dérangement in Grand-Pré. The Grand Dérangement is the forced exile of the Acadians by the British Crown, occurring in 1755. The poem was an instant success in part due to the popularity of character-based literature at this time. Part of the appeal of the poem was the themes of Christianity that Longfellow inserted into the story. This research paper examines how Evangeline migrated from a story to a myth because of Acadian Elites linking the specific story of Evangeline to the Acadians’ cultural past. Acadian elites were able to transpose their identity in this story of the Deportation as result of the themes of the Grand Dérangement present in Evangeline. The manner in which artists have built on Longfellow’s Evangeline in their musical works is also explored. Each musician has a unique interpretation of the poem as well as the Acadian heroine, Evangeline.

KEY WORDS

Grand Dérangement, Acadian, Evangeline, Myth

BIOGRAPHY

Karly Nevils is currently completing her final year of undergraduate studies at Carleton University, working towards a combined major in Political Science and Canadian Studies. She is specializing in Canadian politics but in recent months has been concentrating on the Westminster system of democracy. Karly has been issued a number of awards for academic excellence at Carleton. In both 2012 and 2014, she received the Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club Scholarship. This scholarship has allowed her to encounter a number of politicians, such as Sharon Johnston, the spouse of David Lloyd Johnston, who was the 28th Governor General of Canada. She has studied Quebec society throughout university and maintains interest in Canadian Francophone culture. Recently, Karly designed a museum activity in partnership with museum experts from Université du Québec en Outaouais. This activity explores the portrayal of Evangeline in Music and is titled, The Migration of Evangeline in Music. This September, Karly will expand her expertise in research by studying Market Research and Business Intelligence at Algonquin College, located in Ottawa, Ontario.