How to Resolve the Trauma of Exile?
Negotiating Cultural Trauma in Three Baltic Exile Plays from the 1970s North America
Keywords:Exile, exile theatre, Baltic exiles, Baltic exile drama, cultural trauma, Ilmar Külvet, Alfreds Straumanis, Algirdas Landsbergis
The Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians who were forced to leave their respective homelands after World War II in the wake of Soviet occupation came to form exile communities across the world. These communities continued their cultural traditions and practices with the arts becoming a medium to reaffirm their identities in exile and narrate their experiences. But with a quarter of a century having passed since their migration, the 1970s became a period of re-evaluating this focus, often represented by topics of generational conflict or inability to change with the times. In North America, first generation Baltic exile playwrights Ilmar Külvet, Alfreds Straumanis, and Algirdas Landsbergis often scrutinized the condition of exile within their works. In this study, I will examine the Baltic narrative of exile as a cultural trauma and take into focus three works by these authors with representations reflecting on the changing times and crises of belonging and identity. The three plays also present a way out of these tensions and can be considered deliberate efforts by the authors to shift cultural discourse and explore other creative potentials of exile, best facilitated by negotiating between the old and the new, the traumatic past, and the ever-changing present.
Alexander, Jeffrey C., Ron Eyerman, Bernard Giesen, Neil J. Smelser, and Piotr Sztompka. 2004. Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Ambros, Veronika, Danielle Couture, and Yana Meerzon. 2003. “Afterword: Theatre and Exile.” Modern Drama Volume 46, Number 1, 119-21.
Bankauskaité, Gabija and Loreta Huber. 2021.“Trauma, Narrative and History: Representation of Traumatic Experience in the Works of Algirdas Landsbergis.” Interlitteraria 26/1, 309-23.
Berger, Jeniva. 1989. “Multicultural Theatre”. In Eugene Benson and L.W. Conolly (eds.). The Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bevan, David. 1990. Literature in Exile. Amsterdam - Atlanta, GA: Rodopi.
Daubenas, Joseph. 1972, Algirdas Landsbergis: A Lithuanian Playwright in Exile. MA thesis in Drama, The University of Arizona.
Epner, Luule. 1991. ““Sild üle mere” Ilmar Külveti loomingus.” In Õnne Kepp and Piret Kruuspere (eds.). Väliseesti kirjanduse konverents. Tallinn: Collegium Literarium, Eesti TA Keele ja Kirjanduse Instituudi kirjandusosakond.
Gattrell, Peter, and Nick Baron. 2009. Warlands. Population Resettlement and State Reconstruction in the Soviet–East European Borderlands, 1945–50. London, New York and Shanghai: Palgrave Macmillan.
Heuven, Michael Vanden. 2018. Modern American Drama: Playwriting in the 1970s: Voices Documents, New Interpretations. London, New York, New Delhi, Oxford and Sydney: Bloomsbury.
Hilton, Laura. 2018. “Cultural Nationalism in Exile: The Case of Polish and Latvian Displaced Persons.” Historian 71 (2), 280-317.
Ivask, Ivar. 1972. “Baltic Literatures in Exile: Balance of a Quarter Century.” Journal of Baltic Studies, Volume 3, 1-17.
Külvet, Ilmar. 1983. “Bridge Across the Sea”. In Alfreds Straumanis (ed.) Bridge Across the Sea: Seven Baltic Plays. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press Inc.
Kalnačs, Benedikts. 2016. 20th Century Baltic Drama: Postcolonial Narratives, Decolonial Options. Bielefeld: Aisthesis Verlag.
Kruuspere, Piret. 2008. Eesti kirjandus paguluses XX sajandil. Tallinn: Eesti TA Underi ja Tuglase Kirjanduskeskus.
Landsbergis, Algirdas. 1972. The Last Picnic. New York: Manyland Books.
Meerzon, Yana. 2012. Performing Exile, Performing Self. Drama, Theatre, Film. London, New York and Shanghai: Palgrave Macmillan.
Meerzon, Yana. 2017. “On the Paradigms of Banishment, Displacement, and Free Choice.” In Judith Rudakoff (ed.). Performing Exile: Foreign Bodies. Bristol: Intellect Ltd.
Meerzon, Yana. 2020. Performance, Subjectivity, Cosmopolitanism. London, New York and Shanghai: Palgrave Macmillan.
Noorhani, Piret. 2019. “Virtuaalne konverents - Ilmar Külveti loomingust ja loomusest tema 100. Sünniaastapäeval.” Eesti Elu Nr. 46.
Pikat, Hilja. 1983. “Introduction to A Bridge Across the Sea”. In Alfreds Straumanis (ed.). Bridge Across the Sea: Seven Baltic Plays. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press Inc.
Said, Edward. 2002. Reflections on Exile and Other Essays. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Schwarz-Seller, Maxine. 1983. Ethnic Theatre in the United States. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press.
Smelser, Neil J. 2004. “Psychological Trauma and Cultural Trauma”. In Jeffrey C. Alexander (ed.). Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Straumanis, Alfreds. 1981. Baltic Drama: A Handbook and Bibliography. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press Inc..
Straumanis, Alfreds. 1983. “It’s Different Now, Mr. Abele.” In Alfreds Straumanis. Bridge Across the Sea: Seven Baltic Plays. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press Inc..
Straumanis, Alfreds. 1981. Bridge Across the Sea: Seven Baltic Plays. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press Inc.
Straumanis, Alfreds. 1983. “Latvian-American Theatre”. In Maxine Schwartz-Seller (ed.) Ethnic Theatre in the United States. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press.
Straumanis, Alfreds. 1983. “Introduction to Ataraxia”. In Alfreds Straumanis. Bridge Across the Sea: Seven Baltic Plays. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press Inc.
Silenieks, Juris. 1972. “Latvian Literature in Exile: The Recycling of Signs.” Lituanus Volume 18, no. 1. Lituanus webpage. http://www.lituanus.org/1972/72_1_03.htm (20.12.2022).
Sruoginis, Laima Vince. 2022. “Two interpretations – two continents: a reading of Algirdas Landsbergis’s play Five Posts in a Market Place.” Journal of Baltic Studies 53:1, 47-63.
Šedriks, André. 1983. “Introduction to It’s Different Now, Mr. Abele”. In Alfreds Straumanis (ed.). Bridge Across the Sea: Seven Baltic Plays. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press Inc.
Šilbajoris, Rimvydas. 1970. Perfection of Exile: Fourteen Contemporary Lithuanian Writers. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Toronto Vaim (pseud.). 1972. ““Sild üle vee” ja “Kihlus”. Kiri Stockholmi vaimule.” Vaba Eestlane 14.4.1972, 2.
Vaškelis, Bronius. 1983. “Lithuanian-American Theatre”. In Maxine Schwartz-Seller (ed.). Ethnic Theatre in the United States. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press.
How to Cite
The copyright belongs to the authors and Nordic Theatre Studies. Users can use, reuse and build upon the material published in the journal but only for non-commercial purposes. Users are allowed to link to the files, download the files, distribute the files on a local network (preferably by links), upload the files to local repositories if their institutions require them to do so, but not republish the files without proper agreements with the journal and the author.