The Formation of Latvian Literary Identity at the End of the Nineteenth – the Beginning of the Twentieth Century: Overlapping Vectors of Reception

Maija Burima
2012 Interlitteraria  
The issue of national literary identity is a complex problem that is related to a common view of discourses of culture and social anthropology. Literary identity is a system of codes that may refer to just one particular national literature and express both its canonical features and processes in its periphery. Literary identity is changing in time. It depends on the poetic style of writers and affects the readers' understanding of culture. Latvian literary identity is closely related to the
more » ... y related to the processes of the history of Latvian literature. The formation of modern Latvian literature dates back to the early nineteenth century, however, the origin of really balanced search of form and content is most often attributed to Juris Alunāns' poetry collection Dziesmiņas, latviešu valodai pārtulkotas (Songs translated for the Latvian language) that was published in Tartu (Dorpat) in 1856 and contains Alunāns' translations from different languages of the poetry by Horace, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich von Schiller, Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Heinrich Heine, etc. This collection is noteworthy for crystallizing of an important concept of Latvian literature of the mid-nineteenth century, i.e. for a young national literature to develop its identity, a thorough study of classical literature and the improvement of Latvian literary language were needed. These features are manifest in the genre, form, and content of two fundamental texts of the second half of the nineteenth century: the Kaudzītes brothers' novel Mērnieku laiki (1879) (Times of Land Surveyors) and Andrejs Pumpurs' epic Lāčplēsis (1888) (Bearslayer). Accumulation of knowledge of foreign literature became an essential component in the formation of Latvian literary identity in the second half of the nineteenth century. Extension of the range of vectors affecting Latvian literary identity was observed, including influences of various national literatures and their 'iconic' representatives that determined a rapid formation of multilayered Latvian literary identity.
doi:10.12697/il.2012.17.06 fatcat:zgxil4c5qjgerj46lcfoezfvzi