Egodocumental Heritage of Lithuania: New Trends for Research

Arvydas Pacevičius (Vilnius University)

This paper introduces the concept of “egodocuments” and will attempt to reveal the prospects of interdisciplinary and regional-comparative research using private documents in Lithuania and Europe.  The national project Egodocumental Heritage of Lithuania (LEGODOK) will also be introduced.  First introduced by Jacques Presser in his descriptions of traumatic Jewish memories, the term “egodocument” is now widely used in research on first-person writings, such as family books, diaries, memoirs, and autobiographies.  The widely accepted concept of the egodocument as writing in the first person for oneself and for close relatives has been adapted to the general theory of document and archival science in which the paradigm of cultural and historical anthropology has recently been gaining prominence.  The problem is that due to the influence of historical circumstances, including confessional adherence, reading and writing strategies emerged in differing ways depending on the country and culture, and this led to a diversity of form and content of egodocuments.  In Lithuania, egodocuments include chronicles of the Western type, as well as memoirs and diaries.  These Western-style documents are usually written in Polish and include specific silva rerum writings and autobiographies of monks.  Egodocuments written in Lithuanian, however, are composed later, and their genesis and dissemination can be best described within the fields of history of the book “from below” and marginalia research.  When studying the Lithuanian egodocumental heritage one must bear in mind multilingualism and authors’ possible problematic connection to Lithuanian identity.  We can conclude that egodocuments can be viewed as a set of writing and reading practices in private space which are not necessarily connected with an autobiographical narrative but which must include expression and dissemination of personality and identity.

Keyword: Pacevicius

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