Thinking the other’s local in global terms – Åge Meyer Benedictsen (1866–1927) and his book on Lithuania
Trefwoorden:Åge Meyer Benedictsen, humanism, Lithuanian-Danish contacts, cultural dimension in nation building, Lithuanian folksongs, literary aspects of ethnographic writing, popular education.
The aim of the contribution is twofold. Firstly, it will present Åge Meyer Benedictsen (1866-1927) as an individual who, although not widely known, has contributed significantly to cultural exchange between Denmark and a number of countries which did not exist on the political map of his time. The contribution will outline his broad activities, which ranged from the study of languages and globetrotting to literary translations, public lectures, humanitarian work and writing. Secondly, the focus will turn to his book, Et Folk der vaagner. Kulturbilleder fra Litaven (1895), which is placed in the historical context of Lithuania's colonization by two world powers, Germany and Russia, as well as its national awakening, which took place at the end of the nineteenth century and which Benedictsen personally experienced. It will further deal with Benedictsen's treatment of his material, the attempt to provide a holistic picture of Lithuanian life by covering its multiple aspects: geography, history, customs, mythology, folk culture, political and social circumstances. Special emphasis will be given to Benedictsen's view of culture as a key aspect in the formation of national consciousness, which was much influenced by Herder's thought. The contribution will comment on Benedictsen's translation of Lithuanian songs and raise questions for further investigation. In addition, some literary strategies of the book, through which it transgresses the conventional boundaries of ethnographic writing, will be discussed. Finally, the contribution will reflect on the possible significance of this book and its relevance for the present day.