Aspects of the Calvinist-Jansenist complex in characters in Canadian fiction
Van Wyck, Mary Elizabeth
The purpose of this thesis is to study the presence of Calvinist and Jansenist sentiments and their influence on the lives of principal characters in the French- and English-Canadian novel. In particular, it will focus on the character of the prêtre manqué, a character who is victimized by the worst aspects of Calvinist or Jansenist doctrine. The work will deal with some characters who are in fact clerics, but the term prêtre manqué will also be used in a larger sense to include those characters who are priests or ministers by temperament, in the sense that they spend their entire lives trying to abide by the dictates of a severe and repressive religious code. A total of ten novels will be examined in detail. The first chapter serves to give the reader an historical perspective, providing details about the lives of John Calvin and Cornelis Jansen and the religions to which they gave their names. It also points out how it was that certain of Calvin's doctrines came to and survived in North America, influencing certain aspects of Protestantism. How the other major Canadian religion -- Catholicism -- was directly influenced we do not really know. Unfortunately, we have no records that document the perpetuation of Jansenist sentiments in the New World. It is more than coincidental that they have expressed themselves in the Catholic religion but no one, as yet, will openly admit to their assimilation. In the second chapter the term prêtre manqué is defined. In addition to this, the way in which American culture is expressed in American literature will be contrasted with the way in which Canadians see themselves and express their feelings in their literature. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth chapters serve as in-depth examinations of particular manifestations of the Calvinist or Jansenist phenomenon. Specifically, these chapters deal with the prêtre manqués' attitudes toward pleasure, sex, work and the system. The conclusion aims to suggest that Canadien literature is now less inclined to dwell so relentlessly on this part of our cultural past. It would seem that our society, and therefore our literature, is moving in new directions, and for this reason we can perhaps look forward to establishing a national literature which will command ever greater attention.