Kristijonas Donelaitis: In the Clutches of Stereotypes

Žavinta Sidabraitė (Klaipėda University)

When analysing the works of Kristijonas Donelaitis, one should not forget the utilitarian purpose behind them – to form the Lithuanian peasant into an honest, enlightened person.  Donelaitis knew  from his studies at the university that the rhymed word is often more effective and more memorable than the unrhymed. Thus, it was in the field of poetry that Donelaitis’ professional interests as an educator and priest and his innate talent for creating came together. At that moment, there was a very distinct line drawn between the verbal and written languages of European countries, but in Prussian Lithuania such a divide did not exist. Of course, when writing, Donelaitis was, without a doubt, influenced by his education, literary experience, and learned poetic skills, but the innovation of his work in the universal literary context of Europe had to do with the audience to whom it was directed: the very conservative “non-modern” Lithuanian peasant of Prussia. This ability to understand and adapt to his listeners was one of Donelaitis’ major literary strengths. It is often overlooked in the resilient clichés and stereotypes that still tend to dominate our understanding of Donelaitis as a writer whose work stems primarily from a very conservative, provincial mindset. In fact, Donelaitis was quite progressive for an educator of the time. Modern readers of his work often look only at the works themselves without understanding the motivation of the writer and the social background of his listeners.

Keyword: Zavinta

Keyword Sidabraite

Comments are closed.