Linking Experiences: Aspects of the Development of Latvian Literature in the 19th and 21st Centuries

Benedikts Kalnačs (University of Latvia)

The starting point of my paper is provided by an assumption that an understanding of the future is impossible without evaluating the experiences of the past; I argue that by grasping trends of 19th century Latvian literature it is also possible to attempt prognoses of what we can expect in the years to come.

In my opinion, there is a certain parallelism in literary developments that followed the reestablishment of the national states in the Baltic region at the end of the 20th century and activities that arose from the abolition of bondage of Estonian and Latvian peasants in the 1810s. After initial uncertainty in the 19th century, there was a period of turbulent assertion of national pride that characterized the development of local societies. However, the initial successes were followed by a period of stagnation.

In my paper I will discuss reasons why the initially rapid ascent of national ideas came to a stalemate during the later 19th century, and how this trend can possibly be related to contemporary processes and perspectives. I’ll also provide a case study of how Rūdolfs Blaumanis, one of the major authors of the late 19th century, dealt with the uncertainties he faced choosing the language of his literary works while living and being educated in a multiethnic environment similar to those found in many global communities.

Keyword: Kalnacs


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