UConn ’21 graduate Elisabeth Bienvenue worked with UConn History Professor Nancy Shoemaker on their senior thesis that explored music and culture among New Englanders of Franco American descent. A job well done!
Elisabeth Bienvenue, “La Vie en Chant: The Role of Songbooks in Twentieth Century Franco-American Survivance”
Thesis Advisor: Nancy Shoemaker
The Chants Populaires des Franco-Américains were a collection of songbooks published by the Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste d’Amérique in Woonsocket, Rhode Island from 1929-1962. These songbooks should be considered as part of “la survivance” (“the survival”), a mindset in which the Franco-Americans of New England sought to preserve the French language, Catholic faith, and cultural ties to Quebec and Acadia in future generations. This paper argues that survivance was both a political and cultural phenomenon and that while the politicized survivance movement fell out of favor after the divisive reform effort known as the Sentinelle Affair ended in 1928, the cultural aspects of survivance endured for several more decades. While the songbooks serve as a powerful example of the importance of music and culture among Franco-Americans of the twentieth century, the songbooks themselves did not survive in mass distribution, but they successfully contributed to the movement to create a cultural legacy among New Englanders of Franco-American descent.