Kristijonas Donelaitis and Lithuanian Poetry of the Nineteenth Century: Variants of Reading
The reception theory by Hans Robert Jauss is applied in the article that aims to analyse how Donelaitis’s works were evaluated and interpreted by Lithuanian poets and readers in the nineteenth century. The article discusses genetically and typologically common thematic, ideological, and creative poetic connections. By maintaining the methodological principle of reception, i.e., the horizon of expectation, the scope of the article is limited to only those Lithuanian poets of the nineteenth century who entered the history of Lithuanian literature as readers of Donelaitis’s works (Simonas Stanevičius, Silvestras Gimžauskas, Vincas Kudirka, Pranas Vaičaitis, Maironis). It should be noted that the relation of the nineteenth-century poets and readers with the creative legacy of Donelaitis is manifold and therefore it is possible to speak about the revived Donelaitian tradition in Lithuanian poetic texts of the nineteenth century. Poetic works by Stanevičius and Donelaitis are united by the Kantian ideology of Enlightenment, which highlights the axiological content necessary for a national community. These two authors are brought together by the actualisation of the legacy of antiquity, the choice of narrative strategies typical of Aesopian fables, application of the cataloguing principles of epic poetics, common poetics of salutations- glorifications, and the significance of the evangelical love. Both Donelaitis and Gimžauskas highlight the significance of national identity and moderate way of life, the dominant of Christ-centred faith and Christian poetics (common metaphor of the protecting divine hand). Typological unity of Donelaitis’s and Kudirka’s poetic works is revealed through the dominant of rational mentality, attention to the concreteness of human existence, significance of the agricultural way of life and everyday work, and the evangelical idea of equality. As for Vaičaitis and Donelaitis, they both create epic narratives that convey the repetition of the cosmogonic action, the cyclical perception of existence emphasising the significance of reviving life. Epic narratives of both authors glorify divine existence by idyllically joyful poetics. Both authors employ the theme of the paradise lost on earth, which they both explain by the loss of sanctity and moral downfall of humanity. Reception of Donelaitis’s works can be observed in Maironis’s poetry and texts on literary criticism, thus Maironis can be viewed as a reader and evaluator of Donelaitis. It is worth noting that Maironis held contradictory opinions about Donelaitis’s work: he both adored and criticised it. On the other hand, the poetics of Lithuanian autumn and winter scenery in Maironis’s early manuscript poem “Lietuva” (Lithuania) is based on Donelaitian stylistics of material rustic epic narrative. The literary name of Donelaitis is glorified in Maironis’s poems “Lietuva” (Lithuania), “Tarp skausmų į garbę” (Through pain to glory), and “Jaunoji Lietuva” (Young Lithuania). However, the poem “Tarp skausmų į garbę” (Through pain to glory) maintains that Antanas Baranauskas’s poetry meets the aesthetic criterion, obligatory to creative works, better than Donelaitis’s works do. Interestingly, Maironis’s literary criticism published in the third decade of the twentieth century barely shows any unfounded criticism of Donelaitis, while his works are included in the world heritage together with Goethe, Schiller, and Shakespeare. Here Maironis also accentuates the significance of Donelaitis’s work to the development of Lithuanian literature and compares it to the impact that Dante’s The Divine Comedy had on Italian literature. Discussing the specificity of Donelaitis’s works in his critical reviews, Maironis paid considerable attention to indicating possible literary contexts, especially the idyll and the epic of antiquity. He emphasised the importance of “the strong-impact atmosphere” in which a creative work is born. Thus, according to Maironis, Donelaitis had created his own poetic tradition which influenced the future generations of Lithuanian poets and writers.