Dr Peter O’Brien will deliver the final classics seminar of the term on Thursday, 21 March 2013, 7.00 PM. in Room 1184, Department of Classics, Marion McCain Arts and Social Sciences Building. His topic is "My ink is made of white snow: Le Brun’s letters from Canadian Barbary".

This talk introduces a little-known (and never translated) piece of 17th-century Canadiana that embodies an early modern attempt to envision a new-world phenomena through the lens of Graeco-Roman antiquity. The Franciad of the French Jesuit Laurent Le Brun (1608-1663) is a cycle of Latin poems in the form of letters from "Nova Gallia", goddess of New France, to persons of power in Europe.

In her epistles, Nova Gallia reports on First Nations life in New France and pleads for help. The poem follows classical Roman models in form, with Ovid’s Black Sea Letters and Heroides taking pride of place. In content, Le Brun follows contemporary accounts of First Nations life, and in particular the Jesuit Relations. The result is a curious hybridization of viewpoints that both showcases the Jesuit’s poetic virtuosity and serves his Christian humanist approach to missionary work and imperialist enterprise.

Dr Peter O’Brien is Carnegie professor of Latin literature at the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University. He is a graduate of the King’s Foundation Year Programme, the Department of Classics and Boston University. He is co-ordinator of the ancient section of the Foundation Year Programme. 

A reception will follow the talk.