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Title:Lost and Found: The Rediscovery of Lithuania in American Fiction
Author(s):Paulauskiene, Ausra
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):William Maxwell
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, United States
Abstract:In this dissertation, I discover, and, in a sense, rediscover, Lithuania for Americans through literature written in the U.S. I argue that American literature about Lithuania and Lithuanians exists and is not restricted to Upton Sinclair's famous bestseller The Jungle. The works I included belong to either the American, Jewish-American or Lithuanian-American legacy. Some of them are well known, such as Abraham Cahan's Yekl and The Rise of David Levinsky. Others are obscure, such as Ezra Brudno's The Fugitive, or completely unknown, such as Goldie Stone's My Caravan of Years and Margaret Seebach's That Man Donaleitis. Besides these English texts, I discuss Lithuanian novels by Algirdas Margeris and Rojus Mizara and treat them as specimens of multilingual American literature. I claim that pre-World War II American literature paints a more accurate picture of Lithuania and Lithuanians than contemporary American novels, namely Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections and E. L. Doctorow's City of God, both published in 2000, ten years after the restoration of Lithuanian independence. In this sense, Lithuania needs to be re-discovered since it was more visible in the U.S. before World War II than it is today. I argue that the distorted image of Lithuania in the contemporary American imagination as well as the misrepresentation of Lithuanians as Slavs or their presentation as generic Eastern Europeans in American literary works and criticism resulted from the changed attitude of Americans towards European nationalism on the one hand, and the changed political status of Lithuania on the other. Between the 1890s and the 1950s, American officials and ethnologists categorized white Europeans as races or, in today's terminology, ethnicities and nations. The end of the Second World War, however, marked American intellectual aversion to racist, or nationalist, discourse and strengthened the tendency to blur the distinctions among European nations. Incidently, for Lithuanians and their two Baltic neighbors, Latvians and Estonians, the end of the war also marked the end of their nationhood as a result of the repartitioning of the world by Stalin and Hitler, officially unrecognized but tacitly sanctioned by the leading Western countries. The "cold war" and the "iron curtain" between the Soviet East and the West speeded up the process of forgetting Lithuania as a distinct nation. By compiling these various representations of Lithuania and Lithuanians in American fiction, I have attempted to draw a more encompassing and complex picture of Lithuania than has been and continues to be drawn in the West, and specifically the U.S.
Issue Date:2003
Description:323 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2003.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3101946
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2003

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