Greimas (1917-1992) as Schizophrenic: The Lithuanian Publications

Thomas F. Broden (Purdue University)

“I am double,” A. J. Greimas once observed; “I’m a perfect schizophrenic: I live in two languages that don’t intersect.”  The scholar, known throughout the world, was a specialist in linguistics and semiotics who taught in Paris and wrote and spoke in French.  Yet throughout his career, Greimas published continuously in Lithuanian.  A member of the first generation to grow up in an independent Lithuania since the Middle Ages and to be schooled in Lithuanian, he published in his native tongue in order to be an active member of the greater Lithuanian community, to share his knowledge of ground-breaking trends in French intellectual life, and to defend and illustrate the language.  The texts discussed in this paper reveal three facets of his oeuvre and his person quite different from his familiar academic Gallic persona.

First, whereas non-Lithuanians knew Greimas only as an “expert” in his field, he in fact functioned as a complete modern “intellectual,” publically reflecting and taking positions on a wide range of topical issues.  Secondly, alongside the French linguist’s highly scientific discourse, Lithuanian readers knew Greimas as a literary critic enamored of innovative lyrical works which he presented in an emotionally rich prose.  This voice stunned non-Lithuanians when they heard it for the first time in the scholar’s last sole-authored book written in French (1987).  Lastly, a steady stream of scholarship in Lithuanian on comparative mythology establishes that field as a major focus of his career and figures as a central component of his ongoing intellectual legacy.

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