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UBC Theses and Dissertations

European crossings : Vilnius encounters Briedis, Laimonas

Abstract

"European Crossings: Vilnius Encounters" explores the relationship between the changing geopolitical and territorial locations of Vilnius and various linguistically and culturally contradictory biographical experiences of the place. Historically, the city's geo-narrative location within Europe has been determined and shaped through a representational fusion of mutating political, religious, ideological and national hierarchies of East Central Europe. The multiple identities of the city are best captured by the linguistically and often temporally alternating names of the place: Vilnius in Lithuanian, Wilno in Polish, Vilna in Russian and French, Vilne in Yiddish, Wilna in German, etc. Each place-name situates the city within a specific historical and/or linguistic milieu that in return stipulates a particular representational function, narrative location and memorial site of the place within the map of Europe. On the other hand, Vilnius's corporeal and imaginary topographies have often been styled according to the shifting geopolitical visions and cultural articulations of the idea of Europe. Therefore, the thesis has a twofold objective: firstly, it attempts to situate various representations of Vilnius within the changing geopolitical terrain of Europe, and secondly, it examines different socio-cultural and political meanings of Europe within the evolving historical landscape of the city. Overall, the thesis focuses on several foreign visualisations of the city's geo-narrative location within Europe ranging from eighteenth century scientific and aesthetic surveys of the place to confrontational nineteenth and twentieth century imperial and national strategic evaluations of the city. These various mappings of Vilnius are framed within broader cultural, political, scientific, economic, ideological and military circumstances of Europe. Consequently, the analytical focus of the thesis alternates between imaginary, private and intimate impressions of the city and corporeal, public and official expressions of the place. Through such contrasting analyses, Vilnius emerges as a site of cultural multiplicity and geographical indeterminacy -- an in-between and transient place which delineates a geopolitically specific location through an allegorically framed mobility between East and West, Asia and Europe, civility and barbarism, the Baroque and the Modern, the particular and the universal, and, above all, corporeal spatial experiences and imaginary geographical encounters.

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