ABSTRACT

Historically, concepts of what constituted a “frontier” developed differently in Canada and the United States. Portrayals in literature of those who inhabited these geographic spaces also are typified by notable differences between the former French and English colonies, yet U.S. literary critics today sometimes conflate the two situations, apparently under the assumption that what applies to the United States pertains in the same way to Canada. The historical reality is far more nuanced. As one example, among the Englishmen who spent time among native cultures, marriage into the culture of “the other” was rare; by contrast, the practice was not at all uncommon among the French who predated the English in Canada. A comparison of two nineteenth-century works—Forestiers et voyageurs by Canadian author Joseph-Charles Taché and The Pioneers by U.S. author James Fenimore Cooper—develops these observations to show how English-origin ideas of “frontier” and “frontiersman” cannot be assumed to apply in discussing Canadian works of literature.

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