Crafting Quebec’s Seventeenth-Century Past: A Birch Bark Letter by Twentieth-Century Hospitalières

Robin Macdonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines a letter written by the Quebec City Hospitalières to the Society of Jesus in 1925. Written on birch bark, the letter stands out from other notes of congratulation received by the city’s Jesuits on the tercentenary of their arrival at Quebec. Drawing on queer theory ― in particular, Sara Ahmed’s theory of “affective economies” ― this article analyses the ways in which this letter was crafted in order to shape feelings about ― and to colonize ― the seventeenth-century past. Feelings, Ahmed argues, are not “in” objects, but are created through “circulation.” As an object for which circulation is embedded in its purpose, the Hospitalières’ letter provides a useful case study for the examination of the ways in which encounters with objects could shape feeling in twentieth-century Quebec. While the Hospitalières claimed to be able to feel the seventeenth-century past ― and sought to evoke these feelings in the letter’s recipients ― they were, in fact, crafting a feeling for it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-240
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018


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