Australian Journal of French Studies

Jean Paulmier, Gonneville and Utopia: The Making and Unmaking of a Myth

Australian Journal of French Studies (2021), 58, (1), 8–23.

Abstract

The first mention of Gonneville’s land occurs in Abbé Jean Paulmier’s Mémoires of 1664 petitioning the Pope to approve a Christian mission to the as yet undiscovered Terres australes. Central to Paulmier’s argument was the extract from a document purporting to be the travel account of a sixteenth-century navigator, Gonneville. The extract details how the unknown land was discovered after the navigator’s ship L’Espoir had lost its way and landed in the fabled Terres australes, south-east of the Cape of Good Hope. His utopian account of the unknown land played an important role in French voyages of discovery during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. After Cook’s refutation of the existence of a Great South Land, Gonneville’s land was identified in the nineteenth century as being in Brazil. Recent scholarship, however, has revealed that Gonneville and his story were probably invented by Paulmier. This article examines how and why the Gonneville story became part of the history of French exploration, then details the elements which led to its being discredited.

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Author details

SANKEY, MARGARET