Some Comments on the Changes, Contradictions and Connections of Literary Theories in Lithuania
The paper presents a brief history of literary theories that have been used in Lithuania for the last century (1918–2018). Certain general patterns of development are visible in Lithuanian literary studies: movements from positivist (M. Biržiška) to anti-positivist (V. Mykolaitis-Putinas) history and from Marxist history (K. Korsakas) to postmodern New Historicism. The mid-20th century marked the first applications of modern literary theories (first in exile, later among those who stayed in occupied Lithuania). A. J. Greimas became an eminent theoretician in exile, having established a world-famous school of semiotics in Paris. A large number of Lithuanian scholars worked in this field in Lithuania and abroad (J. Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis, Rimvydas Šilbajoris, Vytautas Kavolis, Bronius Vaškelis, Violeta Kelertienė, Ilona Gražytė-Maziliauskienė, Viktorija Skrupskelytė, Tomas Venclova, Vanda Zaborskaitė, Kęstutis Nastopka, Albertas Zalatorius, Vytautas Kubilius, Viktorija Daujotytė, Irena Kostkevičiūtė), but except for the Greimas Paris School of Semiotics, which created its own field, literary theories had mostly a practical and educational impact on interpretations of Lithuanian disciplines.
After the restoration of Lithuanian independence in 1990, the renewal of literary theory reached its peak that lasted for about two decades. The J. Greimas Semiotics Studies and Research Centre (now the A. J. Greimas Centre for Semiotics and Literary Theory) was established at Vilnius University in 1992, books written by A. J. Greimas were translated into Lithuanian and the publishing of academic journals “Semiotika” and “Baltos lankos” started. The so-called second wave of postmodern theories (intertextuality, narratology, feminism, postcolonialism, sociology, anthropology, new historicism deconstruc tion, reader response) has attracted the attention of literary scholars, bringing discussions about literature back to the fields of history, culture and politics (Nijolė Keršytė, Paulius Subačius, Irina Melnikova, Marijus Šidlauskas, Birutė Meržvinskaitė, Eugenijus Ališanka). Theories have updated the concepts and vocabulary of literary studies and reading strategies and helped literary scholars integrate themselves into international research more successfully. Along with the hermeneutics of trust, the hermeneutics of suspicion – questioning and complicating interpretations and identities of all texts, was taking an increasingly important place in Lithuanian literary research. Nevertheless, at this time the strengthened position of post-theoretical criticism cannot be anti-theoretical, ignoring the entire heritage of the 20th century.