Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe

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Mačiulis, Jonas (ps. Maironis)

  • LithuanianLiterature (fictional prose/drama)Literature (poetry/verse)
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  • Social category:
    Creative writers
  • Title:
    Mačiulis, Jonas (ps. Maironis)
  • Title2:
    Mačiulis, Jonas (ps. Maironis)
  • Text:

    Maironis (Pasandravys nr Raseiniai 1862 – Kaunas 1932), the first self-identifying Lithuanian poet, was born as Joan Mačiulis into a farming family and schooled at the Kaunas gymnasium, where he wrote verses in Polish. After a year at he University of Kiev (1883-84) he enrolled in the Kaunas Priest Seminary (1884-88) and began writing poetry in Lithuanian. He also wrote on Lithuanian history and on the Sorbian national activist J.A. Smolér; his Romantic Nationalism was formed by reading Daukantas, Narbutt, Mickiewicz, and Kraszewski. He continued his clerical formation at the St Petersburg Roman Catholic Theological Academy (1892), where he took an activist part among Lithuanian students and established contact with the initiators of the newspaper <em>Varpas</em>; he became a professor there in 1894. Taking a stance against the ban on printing in Lithuanian, he co-founded the <em>Union for the Revival of Lithuanian Language Rights</em> (1900), and sat on the commission for developing Lithuanian-language tuition at Lithuanian schools (1905). In the same period, he was one of the initiators of, and contributors to, the first legal Lithuanian newspaper, <em>Lietuvių laikraštis</em> (1904-05). In 1909, he was appointed rector of the Kaunas Priest Seminary, a post which he occupied until his death in 1932. As a Lithuanian delegate he participated at the Bern conference of 1917; following Lithuania’s independence, he was affiliated, as dean and honorary professor, to the national University of Kaunas (founded in 1922), where he also taught Lithuanian literature (1922-24).

    Maironis’s main cultural-nationalist writings are in the fields of history and poetry. He made his poetical debut in 1885 with <em>Lietuvos vargas</em> (in <em>Auszra</em>). His poetry collection <em>Pavasario balsai</em> (1895) was republished many times. The poet, Maironis felt, had a divine mandate and inspiration to lead the nation and inspire patriotic fervour.

    The widely popular history book <em>Apsakymai apie Lietuvos praeigą</em> (1887; republished in 1903 and 1906) aimed to arouse patriotic love, with a strongly religious approach. It followed Basanavičius’s theory of tracing the Lithuanians’ ethnic origins back to the lower Danube. Maironis rejected Daukantas’s idealization of paganism and viewed Christianity as a necessary, if belated, step for Lithuania to join the history of European nations. The Lithuanian-Polish Union he viewed negatively as a period when Polish hegemony suppressed Lithuanians’ cultural and linguistic aspirations and need for culture and language; but both Poland and Lithuania fared even worse when they came into the “metal hands of Russia”. If Lithuania was to survive, Maironis concluded, it needed to preserve its language and soul.

    Maironis’s writings are suffused with the common tenets of Romantic Nationalism. He celebrates Lithuania as a bulwark of European Christianity against the attacks of Turks and Tatars, sees the country’s Polish-speaking population as traitorous apostates from their Lithuanian nationality, and extols peasant life as the basis for the Lithuanian national culture; even so, his poetical works contributed to distancing poetry from the register of folk balladry into a more intellectualist written language.

    At the end of his life, Maironis wrote historical dramas, on national topics like the great medieval duke Vytautas (<em>Vytautas pas kryžiuočius</em>, 1925; <em>Didysis Vytautas – karalius</em>, 1930) and translated poetry from Polish (Mickiewicz), French (Musset), and Russian (the religious revivalist and symbolist Dimitrij Merežkovskij). He also published a Lithuanian version of the ancient Indian <em>Rigveda</em>, in a gesture invoking the prestigious reputation of Lithuanian as an archaic European analogue to Sanskrit.

    Besides titles mentioned in the text, Maironis’s major works on history are <em>Lietuvos istorija</em> (1906) and <em>Lietuvos praeitis</em> (1926), and the literary history <em>Visuotinės literatūros istorija</em> (1926). His major poetry collections are <em>Tarp skausmų į garbę</em> (1895), <em>Jaunoji Lietuva</em> (1907), <em>Raseinių Magdė</em> (1909), and <em>Mūsų vargai</em> (1920).

    Word Count: 696

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  • Girdzijauskas, Juozapas (ed.); Lietuvių literatūros istorija. XIX amžius (Vilnius: Lietuvių literatūros ir tautosakos institutas, 2001).

    Kubilius, Vytautas; Rakauskas, Vytautas (eds.); Lietuvių literatūros enciklopedija (Vilnius: Lietuvių literatūros ir tautosakos institutas, 2001).

    Riškus, Jonas; Lietuvių literatūros istorija: XIX a. pirmoji pusė (Vilnius: Mokslas, 1982).

    Speičytė, Brigita; Anapus ribos: Maironis ir istorinė Lietuva: Monografija (Vilnius: Lietuvių literatūros ir tautosakos institutas, 2012).

    Zaborskaitė, Vanda; Maironis (Vilnius: Vaga, 1987).

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    All articles in the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe edited by Joep Leerssen are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://www.spinnet.eu.

    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): Sniečkutė, Marija, 2022. "Mačiulis, Jonas (ps. Maironis)", Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, https://ernie.uva.nl/), article version, last changed 20-04-2022, consulted 02-12-2023.