Contemporary Canadian Literature and Intercultural Learning. Analyzing Louise Penny's novel "Bury Your Dead"

Anthology, 2013

59 Pages


Table of Contents:

1. Preface

2. Louise Penny’s E-mail

3. Matthias Dickert: Intercultural Learning

4. Matthias Dickert: The author

5. Matthias Dickert: Detective Stories

6. Students‘ topics (listed up alphabetically)
6.1 Jan Frederik Beyer: Québec - Confident Francophone Nation within Canada between Federal Partnership and Sovereignity
6.2 Antonia Bunde: Louise Penny Bury Your Dead
6.3 Lars Fiedler : France in America – the culturally exceptional position of Quebeck
6.4 Sarah Höhn : Les Têtes à Papineau
6.5 Sarah G. Holzmann: Independence of- and different cultural identities in Canada
6.6 Jan Kaufeld: French-Canadian identity in Québec
6.7 Julius Kinzig: Frenchmen in Canada
6.8 N. N: To die in French
6.9 Vanessa Massling: Je me souviens - History of the Québec-problem
6.10 Matthias Muth: New France – More than
years of French
6.11 Marcel Sebbin: The Forgotten Literature: The Angloquebeccer Literature
6.12 . Nicole Siwiak: The matter with the two languages
6.13 Lena Wagner: French Canadians
6.14 Luca Werner: France in the United States of America
6.15 Simone Wirth: Québec - Between identity and plurality
6.16 Marco Zellmann: The Franco-Canadian time bomb

7. Conclusion

1. Preface

Canada has only recently become a topic of literary interest in modern grammar schools in Hessen. It was thus logical that schools, teachers and students were confronted with a fairly unknown topic that belongs to what is referred too as English-speaking literature.

Canadian literature is, strictly speaking, part of what is commonly considered to be ‘Literature of the Colonies‘, a term that sums up literature from Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Canada in this respect still holds a key position for European readers simply because of its historic links to England and France and its deep roots in native elements, all of which seem to have enriched its historical, cultural and literary variety. All three influences have contributed to the key term of present Canadian literature which seems to focus on the concept of survival and its manifold presentations in past and present day Canadian writing.

It is thus not astonishing to spot this notion of survival in all types of writing, and detective stories, in general, also do not seem to be an exception. It is therefore natural for the reader to trace and find this notion in Louise Penny’s novels, too.

Louise Penny herself is considered to be one, if not the most outstanding contemporary Canadian representative of this type of writing, and it wassimply a question of time when she came into the focus of public attention. Books like Still Life(2005), Dead Cold (2006), The Cruellest Month (2007), The Murder Stone (2008), The Brutal Telling (2009), Bury Your Dead (2010), A Trick of the Light (2011) soon gained her the reputation of a fine writer.

Most of her novels, however, include another aspect central for modern language learning in the socalled Oberstufe.

The talk here is about what is generally called ‘Intercultural Teaching and Learning‘ because the critical reader working here gains a lot of historical, cultural and social insight into Canada and the Canadian soul. It is at this crossroad where Penny steps in. With the elegance of a Shakespearian pen of the 21st century she presents various characters and thus teachers and students alike can learn a lot about the different dimensions – individual and collective – of the Canadian psyche. This results in knowledge, feeling and respect for Canada and Canadian mentality which are conveyed in a convincing and authentic way.

2. Before we started our project I tried to contact Louise Penny. Here is our correspondence on June 30th 2013.

Dear Mrs Penny,

I am simply taking the liberty of writing to you since I'm working on one of your novels (Bury Your Dead) with some of my students here in Germany. I am a teacher for English, and my school here in Gelnhausen has somehow developed into a Canadian stronghold.

We do host Consul Reissner from the Canadian Consulate in Düsseldorf once a year (for a roundtable discussion with our students), and I have personally developed an academic link to Professor Kuester at Marburg University (the former President of Canadian Studies here in Germany). Professor Kuester organizes a Canadian Studies Day once a year, and two months ago he could welcome Professor Robert Campbell (University of Mount Allison) and Sarah

Carter (University of Alberta).

So if you tour Europe let me know. I organize a meeting at Marburg (a beautiful town which you and your husband would like to see!).

The main reason for my email, however, is the course I am planning for the coming term. I picked Bury Your Dead in order to write a book with my students.

I have chosen 15 topics that I found in your novel, and each student has to write a text about it (e.g. History of Québec, French Anglo relationship etc.).

It now came to my mind that you as the author could write some sort of preface so that my students would be highly motivated.

I am looking forward to an answer and between all the best for you and your family!

Greetings Matthias Dickert

Dear Matthias,

Please, call me Louise.

What a splendid idea, having the students write their own book. I am overjoyed that the 'spine' of your book will be provided by BURY YOUR DEAD. How thrilled, too, to hear of your connections with Canada. That makes my heart soar.

In terms of a preface, will this do?

I wrote BURY YOUR DEAD sitting by a fireplace in the mountains of Quebec, Canada. It was winter and blizzard after blizzard came down from the north. Sometimes freezing us, sometimes snowing us in. Sometimes it was simply breathtakingly beautiful. That clear, crystalline, brittle cold. I wanted to capture my love for Quebec. For Canada. Even for winter. The bitter cold and the deep comfort that comes when Sitting safe by a fire, with a dog, a tea, a companion. And a book. I always hope my books are sensuous. That they engage all the senses. I'd love you to feel the cold scraping your cheeks, to smell the wood smoke, to taste the rich cafe au laits, and to hear the Quebecois language, like music. Beautiful, melodic. When I have a book I'm never alone. It is companion, travel guide, healer. Emily Dickinson said that novels are frigates. They can take us to places we could never normally go. The literary journey is, of course, both eternal and internal. You get to sit at home in Gelnhausen and 'visit' my country, my culture. The history, the geography, the cuisine of Quebec. A place you might never get to actually visit. But a book also takes us deep inside ourselves. It exposes thoughts, feelings, fears, longings, love. I'm so glad you have found BURY YOUR DEAD, and that you clearly know that while it is a crime novel, it is actually about life, about choices, about memory and the importance of honouring the past and letting it go. Mostly, though, I am overjoyed that you are writing your own book, inspired by the journey of Armand Gamache, and your own rich journeys.

Merci, mes ami(e)s. Danke.

Louise Penny

3. Intercultural Learning

The background of Louise Penny's novel Bury Your Dead (2010) cannot be taken as a means to give a precise description of the developments and genesis of the concept of intercultural learning.

It yet has to be pointed out right away that this term is used on a wide ranged scale and it must, therefore, be defined in an exact way whenever and wherever it is used. It is undoubted, however, that intercultural learning in times of globalization and migration has obtained a key position in human sciences and modern forms of teaching.

Language learning, in general, is not only restricted to communication with other persons, it is also connected to what can be called the other part of this other person. A key element of this other part is the knowledge of a foreign culture, even if this is only done in parts. Literary critics thus have to look at the development of language learning which in the ideally goes from an objective to a more process-orientated learning. The (again ideal) result from this is a partially and temporarily taking-over of a protagonist’s perspective. It is, therefore, exactly this (I would call it) playing with perspectives which helps to understand intercultural learning and its aims in general.

The presentation, juxtaposition and reflection of people's points of views are thus of vital importance for any process in intercultural learning, esp. when they are linked with specific historical, social or political information.

The steps here taken enable readers to reflect and judge upon their position, to compare perspectives and to develop their own which includes another perspective as well.

Part of this perspective automatically becomes ones own cultural and historic background, in short, a person's total context, which is somewhat mixed with elements form other sides. The aim of this mix is an understanding, acceptance and tolerance of different cultural backgrounds, something which is known in German to be ‘Interkulturelle Kompetenz‘.

Possible aims for modern language learning at schools are:

1. To part with the ethnocentric position, a term deeply rooted in colonial thinking
2. A solid basis for tolerance
3. An acceptance of ethnicity linked to the ability to change rigid patterns
4. A knowledge of generally known parameters, such as gender, class or religion, which cause differences between cultures


Braun, Ida Youselfi, Hamid Reza ( 2011)

Interkulturalität. Eine interdisziplinare Einführung. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft

Derboven, Wibke/Kumbruck, Christel (2009)

Interkulturelles Training. Heidelberg: Springer

Götz, Klaus ( 2006)

Interkulturelles Lernen/Interkulturelles Training. Mering:Hampp

Lüsebrinck, Hans-Jürgen ( 2008)

Interaktion, Fremdwahrnehmung, Kulturtransfer. Stuttgart: Metzler

4. T he author

Louise Penny is one of the most outstanding contemporary Canadian authors alongside Dionne Brand, Kyo Maclear or Alice Munro who has recently been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was born in Toronto in 1958 and took to writing books after her university years. Penny soon specialized in detective stories in which she incorporated classical Canadian aspects such as diversity, liminality or a status of inbetweenness.

Within a very short period of time (about 10 years), she obtained a reputation close to P. D. James or Elizabeth George. Her breakthrough came in 2005 with the novel Still Life. Penny has already been selected for several literary awards, and her output of books is amazing since she seems to publish a book almost every year.

Her most important novels are: Still Life (2005), Dead Cold (2006), The Cruellest Month (2007), The Murder Stone (2008), The Brutal Telling (2009), Bury Your Dead (2010), A Trick of the Light (2011).

5. Detective Stories

Detective stories represent a special type of novel in which the reconstruction of a crime (or crimes) is (are) at the focus of attention.

A detective working on a case is chosen as the main character and he (she) is working to solve the case in order to restore law and order which have been destroyed at the beginning. English speaking literature has a long tradition of detective stories and they can be traced back to writers like E. A. Poe , Charles Dickens or Conan Doyle, who started a process which highlighted with the works of Agatha Christie.

It is in fact Dickens, who is said to have introduced the first well-known character of this genre with Inspector Bruchet in his novel Bleak House (1853). It was yet Dickens’s protégé Wilkie Collins (1824–1889) who is finally regarded by critics as godfather of the English detective story with his novel The Moonstone (1868).

It was A. E. Poe’s merit, however, to have formed the central figure of the detective in the shape of C. Auguste Dupin, who should become the literary prototype of the future generations of detectives to come. Dupin paved the way for detectives such as Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes or Christie’s Hercule Poirot.

The Golden Age of the detective story is set between 1918 and 1930 and it was also during this time that Dorothee L. Sayers and Margaret Allingham wrote their finest works.

A closer look at the role of the Canadian detective story shows that it disposes – like her English and American counterparts – of a great variety and a large number of highly respected authors. In short, this genre has gained a wide popularity among readers and also disposes of a great literary quality along a long tradition in Canadian literature.

Interesting to note is that most writers concentrate their books in specific Canadian regions or towns, thus automatically bringing in a lot of intercultural elements along a profound information of what we here in Germany call ‘Landeskunde‘.

Giles Blunt (The Delicate Storm; Black Fly Season; Crime Machine) focuses his books in Ontario. Gail Bowen prefers Saskatchewan (A Golden Kind of Death; A Killing Spring; Verdict in Blood). Kathy Reich (Death du four; Bare Bones) and Louise Penny with their books both prefer Québec and Montreal as places of action.

Interesting in her own way is Maureen Jennings who has picked out the Toronto of the 19th century in her Murdoch Mysteries which consist of seven novels thus linking historical elements with crime fiction in a special way.

At present Louise Penny can be seen as a member of this tradition which seems to have gained an astonishing renaissance which (in the 20th century) has been shaped by female writers. Her detective Gamache is a multi facetted character whom she uses to connect the investigation of crimes with typical Canadian features such as diversity. In her typical description of Canadian life centred around crimes, Penny, however, also succeeds in connecting the detective story with life as such, failed choices, memory and the respect for those long gone before us.

The choice to work on Bury Your Dead from an intercultural point of view was accompanied by a selection of topics closely related to Québec and its special role in Canada. Since Penny limited the place of action to the Québec area herself, it seemed a logical conclusion to do the same, always keeping in mind, however, that Bury Your Dead is also about life in general and the rules it follows.

The students of my Leistungskurs were therefore offered a selection of topics which should help to stress the element of intercultural learning. The topics they wrote about were closely related to the French side of Canadian society as well. My aim here was to throw light on many elements that ruled and still influence French life in Québec thus being vital parts of Canadian society. A minor effect of this was, of course, to gain detailed information on French aspects, which too often seem to be neglected in Germany as far as books related to Canada are concerned. This double effect, here information of the importance of French influence in Canada, there its incorporation in contemporary Canadian literature should help to see the possibilities of intercultural elements in literature for secondary modern teaching. It should also deepen the horizon of students on their own knowledge of Canada an element which can also be seen to be of little importance in contemporary teaching.

The length of the papers due to be handed in was restricted to two or three pages which should help the students to focus on the main information.

6.1 Quebec - Confident Francophone Nation within Canada between Federal Partnership and Sovereignity

Jan Frederik Beyer

The Quebec-problem has been a constant topic in Canadian politics for 40 years. Even though many attempts were started, so far nobody has been successful in finding an acceptable solution for the francophone state, within the federal partnership or abroad, as a sovereign state. As one of the four founder provinces of Canada, Quebec was dominated by the Catholic Church, politically conservative and directed against trade unions and reforms.

In the 1960s, the liberal government of Jean Lasage restrained the church's power with their so-called ‘Révolution tranquille’ (silent revolution), which modernized the country by focussing on political, social and economical matters. In 1968, French became the second official language of Canada. At the same time, the first separatist movements were founded in Quebec, the Rassemblement pour l’Independence Nationale (RIN) and the Front pour la Libération du Québec (FLQ), which tried to achieve Quebec's independence by starting terroristic attacks, or for example by the kidnapping of a minister to force the media to grant their main themes transmission time.

In the Quebec Liberal Party - the democratic spectrum - national tendencies developed as well. In 1967, the former cabinet minister René Lévesque left and founded the separatistic Parti Québecois (PQ) in 1968. A certain orientation towards the left was the distinguishing feature of the Francophone nationalism in Québec and was represented by him. Two referendums concerning the separation from Canada were lost in 1980 and 1995, the first with nearly 60 % votes for "No", the second one with just 50,5 % extremely close. In 1998, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that a province isn't able to declare itself independent without governmental support, which means that there won't be a third referendum.

The federal government of prime minister Jean Chrétien (liberal party) started a different strategy Instead of making consessions towards the separatistic movements, they decided to override them. Undisguised warnings were directed to the government of Quebec, which is lead by the former leader of the Canadian Progressive Conservative Party since 2003, Jean Charest. Charest and his ministry often tried to enforce additional rights for Québec in constitutional negotiations to underline the special position of the francophone state.

The lack of a repressive central state is undoubtedly a weak spot of the Québecers. In the last years, all separatistic dreams were pushed aside by big economical topics. If Quebec approved to separate from the North, which is thinly populated by the First Nations, and the Anglo-Canadian west, the majority would agree to it. But the loss of the West with its big industrial potential and the North with its big amount of energy reserves would mean an economical desaster for Quebec.

In 2006 the conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared Quebec to be a "nation within united Canada", which - again - underlines Quebec's special role, even though they still remain a state within a federal partnership.

The big gap between the Anglo-Canadian West and the Franco-Canadian East can also be seen in Louise Penny's novel Bury Your Dead, which deals with an organized Anglo-Canadian minority living in Quebec city. Especially one of the mostly very old members of the group keeps describing the life as a war with the British Library they work for as the last stronghold of the English speaking society.

Irrespective of the results of another possible independence referendum Québec has established itself as a strong political, economical and cultural power, which is internationally perceived. Considering the past numerous failures all Canadian politicians shrink back from grasping the nettle - the reform of the constitution.


Source (German): "Österreichs Bundesheer - Québec - selbstbewusste frankophone Nation in Kanada zwischen föderaler Partnerschaft und Souveränität"

6.2. Louise Penny: Bury Your Dead

Antonia Bunde

About the author:

Louise Penny is a Canadian author who was born in 1958 in Toronto, Ontario. After her graduation from Ryerson University in 1979, at the age of 21, she started a career lasting 18 years as a radio host and journalist with the CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Her first job was in Toronto. After this, she moved to Thunder Bay in Ontario. Later on, she worked for some time in Winnipeg and Quebec. From there, her job took her to Montreal where she ended her career with the CBC. After her marriage with Michael Whitehead, she took up writing and left her previous career behind. Since she was a child, she had dreamed of writing, being an author and making money with this work. By now, she lives with her husband in an old United Empire Loyalist brick home. She published her first novel Still life in 2005 and already got 6 awards from 3 different countries (United Kingdom, Canada and the United States) for this novel.

Her mystery novels are set in the Canadian province of Quebec and the protagonist is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The novels are focused on his work at the Sûreté du Québec.

The series about Chief Inspector Gamache consists, by now, of seven novels which she has written between 2005 and 2011. Overall, she received 16 awards for all her novels, about six of them have been for her novel Bury Your Dead, published in 2010, which is the sixth act of the series. She says that Gamache was inspired by many different people, all slightly contributing to the picture she creates of him.

Summary: Bury Your Dead

The novel Bury Your Dead, written by Louise Penny and published in 2010, talks about three different action strands of the protagonist Chief Inspector Gamache, who normally works for the Sûreté du Québec. This book is the sixth of the series and here, Gamache is on leave and recovering from physical and emotional events that took place in the previous novel. He is known as a fine policeman, despite the fact that he is not officially working at the moment.

He is now in Quebec City and stays with his former boss and long time mentor Emilie. He does some historical research which gets him involved in an investigation of a local murder. Augustin Renaud, a man who has spent his whole life searching for the place Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Quebec, had been buried, is found dead in the sub-basement of the Literary and Historical Society Library. This institution is the place where all the books and papers of the history of the small English speaking community in Quebec can be found. After this murder, Gamache is asked by an old librarian to help them with the investigations because he is more sympathetic to the English community than other French people would be.

At the same time, the second story strand is on-going. Armand Gamache is concerned that he made a mistake in his last case, a murder in Three Pines, a small town near Quebec (''The brutal telling''). He thinks that his solution is incorrect and asks his colleague, Jean Guy Beauvoir, who is also on leave and recovering from injuries, to return to Three Pines and start a new investigation to see if they missed something. Gamache thinks that the wrong person went to prison and that this man is innocent and is convicted of a crime he did not commit.

The third story strand is the recounting of the events which led to Gamache and his colleague being on leave. This part is mainly told through Gamache's remembered conversations with another colleague of him and the reader does not get a lot of details until late in the book.

In an indirect way, the book also covers the topic of the differences and problems between the English and French speaking community of Quebec. The protagonist is very tolerant and able to speak both languages, English and French. He does not have any prejudices against the English, like many other characters he meets and talks to in this novel. Amongst others, this becomes apparent on pp. 61-62 when he discusses with Porter and tells him to treat the English with respect. Most of the time, when a conversation between him and an English speaking person starts, he asks if they should talk in English. You can also see the sympathy of the English community for him in the fact that they ask him for help and also accept him in their library.

The animosity between these two parts is clearly shown. Especially by the event of the murder of Augustin Renaud in the Literary and Historical Society which makes the French people even more suspicious than before. Still, there are also unfriendly statements coming from the English Society, leading to a mutual antipathy and a very high exertion from time to time.


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Contemporary Canadian Literature and Intercultural Learning. Analyzing Louise Penny's novel "Bury Your Dead"
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Weitere Autoren: Jan Frederik Beyer, Antonia Bunde, Lars Fiedler, Sarah Höhn, Sarah G. Holzmann, Jan Kaufeld, Julius Kinzig, Vanessa Massling, Matthias Muth, Marcel Sebbin, Nicole Siwiak, Lena Wagner, Luca Werner, Simone Wirth, Marco Zellmann
contemporary, canadian, literature, intercultural, learning, louise, penny, bury, your, dead
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Matthias Dickert et al. (Author), 2013, Contemporary Canadian Literature and Intercultural Learning. Analyzing Louise Penny's novel "Bury Your Dead", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 11/19/2013

    Mir gefällt, dass Dinge, wie das hierin beschriebene "Intercultural Learning", auch in einer Literaturgattung wie dem Krimi ("Detective Story") wiedergefunden werden können, in der man ein solches Thema auf den ersten Blick nicht unbedingt vermuten würde. Die Beziehung der Frankophonen und und Anglophonen Kultur (und sogar der der Inuit) wird in diesem Werk sehr schön beleuchtet!

  • guest on 11/18/2013

    Ich finde auch, dass es ein tolles Projekt ist, vor allem weil man das Ergebnis seiner Arbeit in Händen halten kann und man immer eine Erinnerung an unseren Englisch-LK hat :) Besonders gut gefällt mir, dass wir es Patrick gewidmet haben.

  • guest on 11/17/2013

    Sehr gute Idee, ein solches Werk mit einem Leistungskurs umzusetzen !
    Die Reaktion der Autorin auf den Vorschlag, ein solches Buch zu schreiben, ist fantastisch und motivierend.
    Mit freundlichen Grüßen

  • guest on 11/15/2013

    Schulen sollten ihre Schüler unterstützen, kreativ zu werden und ihr Potential mit Leidenschaft in Leistung umzusetzen. In jungen Jahren kann ein Schüler so richtig aufblühen, wenn man ihm nur die nötige Unterstützung gewährt. Daher sind meiner Ansicht nach gerade Projekte wie dieses förderlich und ein Vorbild für andere Klassen und Kurse. Bitte ausdrücklich nachmachen!

  • guest on 11/15/2013

    Wirklich beeindruckender Artikel!
    Das Werk überzeugt durch seine Themevielfalt, welche durch die unterschiedlichen Authoren besonders herorgehoben wird.
    Dickes Lob und weiter so!

  • guest on 11/14/2013

    Ich bin begeistert von Louise Pennys e-Mail! Sie hat mich damit wirklich in den Bann gezogen. Außerdem möchte ich mich für ihr Vorwort bedanken. Ich freue mich, dass sie so an uns glauben und uns unterstützen!
    Ich bin froh, dass wir dieses Projekt in die Tat umgesetzt haben!
    Liebe Grüße!

  • guest on 11/7/2013

    Tolles Projekt!
    Klasse Idee und super Umsetzung.
    Schön zu sehen, dass sich die Autorin selbst dafür so begeistern konnte!
    Liebe Grüße

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