Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

John W. Lowe, III


This dissertation attempts to establish a literary canon for the first French period of Louisiana's colonial history (1681-1763). The study examines works by writers who heretofore have not been analyzed as colonists of long residence in the New World but as Continentals who happened to spend some time in the Americas and then wrote about their experiences. The present analysis argues that many of these authors, by virtue of the significant time they spent in Louisiana, their devotion to and interest in the promotion of the colony, and their common concerns, should be examined principally not as European literati but as American (i.e., New-World) writers. Viewed as such, the first colonial scribes push Louisiana literature's birth to a date much earlier than that traditionally upheld by scholars. Instead of Julien Poydras' poems in the late 1770s, Henri de Tonti's and Nicolas de La Salle's narratives of the 1680s can be viewed as inaugurating Louisiana literature. One of the themes treated throughout eighteenth-century Louisiana writings--the relationship between French and Indian--commences in Tonti's and Nicolas' discourses. Another common theme, that of the relationship between those who rule and those who are ruled, develops soon after. These themes of Franco-Indian and governor-governed relationships give rise to the first great fiction of Louisiana literature: the legend of Louis Juchereau de Saint Denis, an historical figure whose activities inside and outside Louisiana embody popular notions of how French and Indian and how rulers and ruled should interact and whose deeds some authors hyperbolize into tall tales expounding idealized myths. As black slavery becomes an integral part of colonial life, issues concerning black-white relations and disenfranchisement enter into the writings. Authors examined in the dissertation include Henri de Tonti, Nicolas de La Salle, Marie-Madeleine Hachard, Mathurin Le Petit, Pierre Vitry, Bernard Diron Dartaguiette, Andre Penicaut, Le Page du Pratz, Dumont de Montigny, Jadart de Beauchamp, and Jean-Bernard Bossu.