Stories, storytelling and storytellers in Newfoundland's French tradition: a study of the narrative art of four French Newfoundlanders

Thomas, Gerald (1977) Stories, storytelling and storytellers in Newfoundland's French tradition: a study of the narrative art of four French Newfoundlanders. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Francophone settlement on Newfoundland's west coast, part of the former French Shore, began in the latter decades of the eighteenth century. Acadians from Nova Scotia laid down roots in the interior of St. George's Bay, in the region of the present day communities of Stephenville and St. George's. They were followed throughout the nineteenth century by a trickle of fishermen from France and St. Pierre, a number of whom were deserters from the fishery. These settlers, many of whom spoke both French and Breton, founded the present communities of Cape St. George, Mainland and Black Duck Brook/winterhouses. These communities are still primarily francophone today. -- Between 1970 and 1977 considerable fieldwork was undertaken amongst the peninsula French, with emphasis on the collecting of folktales. In that period, several hundred variants of internationally known tale types were recorded, in both French and English. -- This study provides a survey of the history of French settlement on the Port-au-Port peninsula, and an overview of the French dialect spoken there. These are supplemented by a discussion of fieldwork techniques and experiences, adding further contextual perspective, but also underlining the problems of collecting folklore in a foreign language. -- Against this backcloth, the study focusses on the narrative art of four French Newfoundlanders: Mrs. Elizabeth Barter of Mainland, Mr. Frank Woods of West Bay, Mrs. Blanche Ozon and Mrs. Angela Kerfont of Cape St. George. In their different ways, the four narrators represent a little known aspect of storytelling tradition, the private or family context. -- Before the advent of television and other forms of entertainment in the early sixties, storytelling, in the public veillée, had been the most popular form of entertainment during the long winter nights. In this context, storytellers performed with dramatic gusto, commanding the undivided attention of their audience. Their public performance was marked, in the actual narrations, by a careful attention to the details of their tales and fidelity to the repetitive nature of their stories. -- In contrast to the public performer of former times, storytellers in the private or family tradition perform in a context which is not readily accessible to the collector. Once accepted, he is faced by the task of inducing reluctant narrators to tell their tales. They do not think of themselves as performers or storytellers in the manner of the older, public tradition. -- When telling tales, they tend to limit their use of gesture, now considered old fashioned, and there is usually considerable interplay of various kinds between narrator and audience. Perhaps because of changing tastes, most private narrators neglect aspects of tale narration formerly held in high esteem in the public tradition. Details are omitted, short cuts are taken. Nonetheless, the large body of narratives recorded from the four storytellers is evidence of the continuing vitality of the family or private tradition. Folktales are still told, although the telling of them reflects changing tastes and criteria, an inevitable consequence of a changing society.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 11537
Additional Information: Bibliography : leaves 813-823.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: 1977
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: French--Newfoundland and Labrador; Storytellers--Newfoundland and Labrador; Storytelling--Newfoundland and Labrador.

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