Taking shelter in memoir amid the turmoil of history: reconstructing mental landscapes in autobiographical narratives

Mokslo publikacijos / Scientific publications
Document Type:
Knygos dalis / Part of the book
Anglų kalba / English
Taking shelter in memoir amid the turmoil of history: reconstructing mental landscapes in autobiographical narratives
In the Book:
Storytelling human: Lithuanian folk tradition today / compiled and edited by Lina Būgienė. Boston, Massachusetts : Academic Studies Press, 2020. P. 28-51
Pasakojimas; Atsiminimai; Autobiografiniai pasakojimai; Gyvenimo istorijos.
Memoirs; Storytelling; Autobiographical narratives; Life stories.
Summary / Abstract:

ENWith the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union, the natural development of this Baltic state was interrupted. This resulted in a profound shift in the country's political, social, and cultural life, and countless individual losses and traumas throughout the second half of the twentieth century. In order to eliminate resistance to both the totalitarian regime itself and to the communist regimes large-scale program of urbanization, industrialization, forced collectivization, and intensive farming of confiscated private land, the Soviet authorities carried out waves of mass deportations of Lithuanian citizens. Such policies also had a dramatic impact on the rural landscape and traditional way of life: tens of thousands people were forced to abandon their homes in villages and relocate to towns and cities. Such aesthetic perception may simply be a given for a more sensitive, poetic person who already knows how to discern beauty. But for a deeper aesthetic relationship to the visible world to develop, some greater mental distance, in terms of both space and time, is necessary. In memoir texts, such distance is often related to situations of loss, when everyday routine is destroyed by historical breaking points or dramatic changes in an individual's personal life. Mental distance marked by this kind of existential loss can produce an aestheticization of landscape that is characterized by the highest level of poetry and the idealization of places known in the past. At the same time, it is this distance that has resulted in a shift from folklore as a collective creative practice to more individual egodocumentary forms (autobiographical narrative, life story, memoir) conveying personal experiences. [...].This contrast in our chosen research objects-two rural people from the Dzūkija region and two intellectual literary figures from Žemaitija-necessarily raises certain methodological questions. All of these authors— both the two prominent Dzūkija region folklore informants Čepukienė and Zalanskas (who were still directly connected to the old agrarian worldview of village people) and the two intellectual Žemaitija-born writers Martinaitis and Daujotytė (who apply a researchers focus to explorations of the nature of folkloric selfhood) are connected by the fact that they represent not only the classical rural community as a space for traditional, anonymous oral literature. Perhaps even more importantly, they are also representatives of the culture of the written and printed word, and of forms of expression that are to a lesser or greater degree individual. All four are therefore creative people in a way that distinguishes them from the usual folklore informant. Although the research material we collected reveals certain differences of mentality, literary knowledge, and writing skill, the texts we examined are connected by the fact that, through one aspect or another, they all reveal the rural person's particular attitude toward the visible, natural, and traditional rural environment; they examine changes in worldview related to the decline of the old agrarian landscape and the emergence of a new attitude toward the surrounding world.Our analysis of autobiographical narratives will also seek to reveal how and which components of the visible environment are transformed, through experiential self-reflection, into constituent parts of a mental landscape, and which features of the visible world are highlighted as important within the mental plane. We will also ask what is the memoirist's axiological relationship to the landscape and how mental-values mechanisms function (in terms of practical relationship to landscape, aestheticization of landscape, and nostalgic idealization of landscape). We will explore how and to what degree the evolution of attitudes to the changing landscape are reflected in narratives of an autobiographical nature, and the general degree to which the development of those attitudes has been affected by the historical and sociocultural processes of the modern era. [Extract, p. 28, 31]

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2022-04-04 11:50:04
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