Oral History: Birutė Ciplijauskaitė

Birutė Ciplijauskaitė, December 1978 University of Wisconsin-Madison Digital Collections Local Identifier: S13387
Birutė Ciplijauskaitė, December 1978 University of Wisconsin-Madison Digital Collections Local Identifier: S13387

Narrator: Birutė Ciplijauskaitė
Interviewer: Laura Smail, John Tortorice
Dates: 3 December 1984, 27 December 2012, 6 February 2013
Transcribed by: Teresa Bergen
Format: Audio
Total Length: 4 hours, 10 minutes

Birutė Ciplijauskaitė biography:

Professor Birutė Ciplijauskaitė (1929-2017) was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. She completed a PhD in Spanish at Bryn Mawr in 1960. Afterwards, she joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison department of Spanish and Portuguese. Ciplijauskaitė published a dozen titles, including:

La soledad y la poesía española contemporánea (1963)
Luis de Góngora y Argote, Sonetos completos (editor, 1968)
La mujer insatisfecha: el adulterio en la novela realista (1984)
La novela femenina contemporánea 1970-1985: hacia una tipología de la narración en primera persona (1988)
La construcción del yo femenino en la literatura (2004)

Professor Ciplijauskaitė was a lifetime senior fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities beginning in 1974. She was a Bascom Professor from 1973.

After her retirement in 1997, Ciplijauskaitė continued to publish and volunteer time as a cataloger and translator for Special Collections at UW-Madison. She was a great friend to the George L. Mosse Program in History and undertook the translations of Mosse family documents, including Eva Noack-Mosse’s and Martha Mosse’s Theresienstadt memoirs.

She received numerous awards including Spain’s Orden Civil de Alfonso X el Sabio and a Guggenheim Fellowship for the Humanities.

Ciplijauskaitė sat for three sessions: once in 1984 with Laura Smail, and then again in 2012 and 2013 with John Tortorice. The transcript that follows includes all three sessions in chronological order.

You can jump to each section here: 1984 Part 2, 2012, 2013.

**To access the OHMS oral history page for Birutė Ciplijauskaitė, which allows listeners to search text or keywords and to listen to specific sections of this interview, click here.** 


[Begin Track 1. Tape 1. 3 December 1984]

Ciplijauskaitė: So you still should tell me, really, what the real scope is.

Smail: Yes. I will. I want you to talk about your research. That’s what it’s about. The development of your ideas. Why you went from where you were when you were when you were writing about, what is “soledad?” I know no Spanish.

Ciplijauskaitė: That is solitude.

Smail: Solitude. But the solitude in nineteenth century, in nineteenth and twentieth century poetry, that was your first. You may start now and go backwards, if that’s better. Or it would be interesting to have you talk about a particular work that is central to your ideas. Introduction on here. This is an interview with Birutė Ciplijauskaitė. Would you like to pronounce it?

Ciplijauskaitė: Ciplijauskaitė.

Smail: Ciplijauskaitė. For the oral history project. The date is December 3, 1984. My name is Laura Smail. This is an opportunity for you to talk about your research and how your ideas have developed. Maybe I’ll let you begin where you’d like to begin.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, you would like, wait. [pause] Since, well, since, let me know.

Smail: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: Since it is to be about research, I think it’s best to start from the beginning. Which was, of course, my first book is my dissertation. So it’s very simple. Now the dissertation may have interest in that way that if I went to graduate school to obtain a PhD, it was mainly because I wanted to write my dissertation. When I arrived at graduate school, I didn’t know what it was about, but I knew what I wanted to write about. So I actually go the other way from the others.

Smail: Yes. You do.

Ciplijauskaitė: Because usually people come with a mind that they want a degree. They want to teach. That was not at all my preoccupation. I knew that I wanted to work on that subject.

Smail: And you will have to say why you did that.

Ciplijauskaitė: Why? Because there is a very interesting book on solitude in Spanish poetry starting with the early ages and going up to the seventeenth century, which has never been continued. And I liked that book very much. I also found that in contemporary twentieth century poetry, mainly, there is very much solitude. And it seemed just the right thing to do. So of course for that, I needed then to get all my research tools. Because when I went, I got my PhD at Bryn Mawr, 00:03:00 I had never done any real studying before that. I did not have an undergraduate degree in Spanish at all. So I really acquired all my knowledge in two years in Bryn Mawr.

Smail: You had the language already.

Ciplijauskaitė: I did have the language.

Smail: What languages did you have?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, before Spanish, I already spoke fluently of course my own, which is Lithuanian, and German, and French. And English.

Smail: But of the Spanish, you spoke Spanish. If there are other languages aren’t there in Spain.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh! No, no. But I mean, Spanish is the only real language. I shouldn’t say real language, but after all, it is the general language. Because then you have the Catalan and you have the Gallego, you have the Basque. But they are very much localized to the provinces. So these, I don’t know. I mean, I know Catalan and I can read Gallego. But no, that was not even included for instance when I do research or when I write about something or when I teach. We teach only Spanish Castilian, written and Castilian. That is quite a separation in Spain.

So that, I suppose, explains more or less the work on that dissertation. And I, again, approached it in different facets. For instance, not necessarily taking the poets who speak most of solitude, but taking a cross section from the very beginning of the century and going back, actually, to the Romanticism poets in nineteenth century. And then touching on every important generation of the twentieth century.

And I did include one poet, one chapter is dedicated to one poet who anybody when they pick on the book say, “How did he come there?” Because that is Jorge Guillén (1893-1984), who simply doesn’t believe in solitude. But I did take him then as an example of how one can deny solitude and how one can substitute constant company for it.

Smail: I’m trying to think of a question to your exploring solitude. How it’s expressed, or why it’s so important?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, no, no, no. Me, whatever I write, I’m interested in literary work as artwork. And of course you have to take into consideration the social circumstance, the historical circumstance, the philosophy very much for solitude. But that is only as background. My concern is to see what they do in order to write and make an impact on that subject, solitude. So it is really more a study of 00:06:00 poetics in a way, which then was to be my second book. And not of theme, so much. Although solitude seems very much a theme.

Smail: Yes, it does.

Ciplijauskaitė: It is. And it is, I agree that it is a thematic study. But while I was working on it, I just became aware of how differently each poet goes at it. And in order to express it. And that led me then to the second book, which is probably the book I’m best known for. Which is the idea of poetry, the poetics of the twentieth century. Mm hmm.

So, do you want me to go on now to the second book? Or do you still want me to do, elaborate more?

Smail: Well, it’s up to you what you discovered and when you did. And whether it’s in the course of writing, or it was all laid out in your head before you even started?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, I usually have it in my head before I start writing, I would say. The actual process of writing takes very little time for me. It is the research that takes all the time. The reading. And of course while you’re reading, you are getting ideas. And these ideas start organizing themselves in certain clusters. So what I do, of course, is having index cards, or kinds of index cards. But at the same time, then also having simply little bits of paper. Any time an idea comes to me, how they could connect it. So that by the time I decide that I have really now read enough, that I have the material, it’s simply a matter of sitting down and laying out all my cards and trying to synthesize. So that the writing is relatively simple. And, I would say, doesn’t give me that much pleasure. No. The reading is much more pleasure. Except that, of course, if I don’t write, it all remains in my head.

Smail: That’s interesting. So people often talk about a joy that is felt once the writing is done at the end.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. No, no, it’s not joy. I mean, once I have written, it’s dead. So it’s in a way a parting. I wouldn’t consider it a joyful feeling. Also usually whatever I do, I do with such intensity that practically every book has left me in bed sick.

Smail: Oh, really?

Ciplijauskaitė: So that joy, no. (laughs) No.

Smail: Not even when, just immediately 00:09:00 when the ideas are down and expressed.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. Because also I’m never quite satisfied with what I do. I mean, there you have written, you realize that you are not going to proceed beyond it. And it is not really what you hoped to do.

Smail: Was this true of the book on nineteenth and twentieth century poetry, also?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Because that is, of course, a much more vast subject. So that you know that you simply have to cut off at a certain point. It was meant also, since there was nothing of the kind for Spanish literature. It was meant mainly as just a cluster of ideas from which others could start. And work proceeding more specifically. You know, on a smaller area, maybe. But then going really and exploiting it totally, which I couldn’t do.

Smail: So you were setting out in effect a map of nineteenth and twentieth century poetry?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes. Not poetry, but what the poets thought about poetry. What the poetry meant for them. What they were doing when they were writing poetry.

Smail: You found this out through their poems? Or through other writings of theirs?

Ciplijauskaitė: Through their poems and through their critical writings. And then of course you have to take into consideration the criticism that had been written on these poets also. Now what always one realizes is that what they write about theoretically very seldom corresponds to what they do then as poets. So again, to solve these conflicts takes a little bit of thinking. Most helpful documents in these cases are letters among them. Because there, they don’t write for the publicity. They really write when they’re preoccupied with something. And there’s a real exchange of ideas. But there aren’t letters, published letters, for every one of them. So again, I mean, it is always an area which I feel just like an adventurer going to America five centuries ago. (laughs) You know, I suppose that is saying too much. But you wouldn’t, at least I wouldn’t approach a subject which has been really worked on very much. If I have, whatever I have done, I thought I was doing it because there was not enough on that.

Smail: There had been histories of nineteenth and twentieth century literature.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. So that’s something very different. Mm hmm.

Smail: And you did this as still a comparatively beginning scholar. Is that not right?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I remember that very well. I mean, my second book was, I started working on it 00:12:00 actually right away. The first year after I had finished my dissertation. And I was introduced in Spain, I did write both my books in Spain. I mean, I did all the research in Spain. And I was introduced while I was starting to work on that second book to a very famous scholar. And he looked at me and he said, “You know, your project is very interesting. The only thing I would like to say is that that’s a project that somebody undertakes when he is sixty-five years old or more.”

Smail: What did you say?

Ciplijauskaitė: I said, “That’s just an idea I have. And I’ll try.” And I’m glad that I did it, because today I wouldn’t do it. I have become much more skeptical. And I see much more today than I did fifteen years ago, twenty years ago, of what I don’t know. So I think you need to be a little bit naïve.

Smail: But your naivete didn’t hurt the work, evidently.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. No. Because as I say, that is the work that really has given me the name. So it was necessary. It was simply necessary. And I didn’t pretend to write a Bible. I simply pretended to put together some ideas which would make others think, and which would make others engage into further research. That was the only thing. And I think it fulfilled what it proposed. And today I look at it, I think yes, it’s naïve. But it still has, I mean the great merit of the book, I think, is at that time, when I worked, most of these little texts, like when I say letters, or little articles sometimes, unsigned in the periodicals, were inaccessible. There just was nothing. I had to go to private houses, private archives, to some state archives where you couldn’t get in because many of these poets were Republican. And under [Francisco] Franco (1892-1975), you couldn’t get at them. So for every little bit of newspaper, I had to get a special permit from the military government. I mean, it was just incredible. So I think that was my merit. The patience and the accumulation of texts which many people had never seen.

Today, it’s so much easier to work. Because so much has been published. And that is why today my book looks very naïve.

Smail: Is that one of the reasons that nothing had been done, is that everything had been so closed? Let’s see, this was in the 1960s, isn’t it?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, that was early [19]60s that I worked on it. Yes. Well, you must take into consideration a few points, I think. One is that poetry 00:15:00 is something that attracts, usually, less attention. And fewer people are working with poetry. It was also a very ambitious project. Because to go through various generations, all the poets, not trying to explain a few poems, but to try to get to the marrow of the bone, so to say, of what poetry means for them, isn’t easy. Again, I had to get a philosophical background. I had to read a lot of theory. In those days, even that was lacking. So it was very much an explorer’s work. And I don’t know that it was that, it’s that often people work on one poet or one book.

Smail: Or one movement.

Ciplijauskaitė: Which is easier, or one movement, mm hmm. And then you can do it much better, I think. But it is this synthetic view that was lacking very much.

Smail: Did you have any trouble deciding which poets to include?

Ciplijauskaitė: No. Again, I was totally arbitrary. I had read, after all, I had written my dissertation, actually this book came out of my first book, because when you work on, at least when I work on a subject, I gather so much material that I can’t possibly put it into one book. And then the idea comes for the second. I’ve actually always worked in pairs. I’ve always produced books in pairs. And then second book is already with the leftover material to which you add something more. You develop a new facet. And then I feel now, I’ve really had enough of that.

Smail: I see. I was wondering why each book didn’t build out of the preceding book.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. I have sometimes asked myself whether I do things in the right way. Because as you know, there are scholars who work on one author. On one movement. And then of course they become the world authority on that one author. And there is not one page or one line of that author that they didn’t know. I found it dangerous. Because after the second book, whenever I heard a lecture on poetry, I always told myself that it’s nothing new. I know all of that. And that’s not a good attitude. So I went to work on something I didn’t know at all.

Smail: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily think you’d have to concentrate on one person. But I would think that maybe, for instance, you said you had presented a number of ideas about nineteenth and twentieth century poetry in your second book, that you would then have pursued one of those with interest.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well no, at that point I felt that I simply had read all that there was to read. And I knew all that there was to know about these poets. 00:18:00 And it simply wasn’t a challenge anymore.

Smail: Well, it would have been boring to you.

Ciplijauskaitė: It would have been boring. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. So I wanted something totally different.

Smail: Before we go there, what gave you your understanding, what gives you your understanding of poetry?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, that’s, you know, everything in life is a mystery. I never liked poetry. I never read poetry. I only started reading poetry when I went one summer to Spain without speaking Spanish. Went to summer school for a month and heard four lectures on poetry. And one lecture on two poets. And after that one lecture, I said, that’s my life.

Smail: On what poet?

Ciplijauskaitė: On [Jorge] Guillén and [Pedro] Salinas (1891-1951). And I still didn’t know what poetry is. But poetry started meaning something to me, and I started reading poetry. And I still don’t know whether I know what poetry is.

Smail: Didn’t you say you didn’t have the language yet?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, I didn’t. But in one month, I acquired it.

Smail: Were the lectures in English or Spanish?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, Spanish. That gives more mystery when you only half understand. It’s just the right atmosphere for poetry. So, I really wouldn’t be able to tell you anything more. I don’t necessarily think I know that much about poetry.

Smail: You’re not a poet yourself.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. No. No. If I were a poet, I wouldn’t write books of criticism. I think it must be much more joyful experience to create, really. So.

Smail: Did the second book have an impact in Spain?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes, in Spain. Mainly in Spain. I publish in Spain. And I write in Spanish, as you know. And actually, there is never anybody that I would meet in Spain who works in academic circles who wouldn’t know that book. So I think it had impact.

Smail: Would they begrudge you, a foreigner, writing something?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, no, no. Spanish are very generous. Why should they grudge? I think they should be, really should be and are thankful that somebody is showing interest. There is no competition. There are wide fields open for work. No. My experience in Spain has always been extremely happy. Most generous people in the world. [interruption]

Smail: Let’s see. How long did it take you to do the book? The second book.

Ciplijauskaitė: The second book. 00:21:00 About two and a half years.

Smail: Just doing only that.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. No. When you teach, you teach.

Smail: You were teaching.

Ciplijauskaitė: I was teaching. But I was in the first years when I was here, I was taking very often a semester without pay in order to be able to work on what I was doing. So I was in Spain for at least six, seven months, working just on that and then going the fall and summer again. And of course here you can do a lot of research in this library. Because you can only, I mean, you must be in Spain when you work on the early centuries. But when you work on something that’s published in this century, anything that’s published, you have here. So I didn’t have to interrupt totally and stop. And there was also the advantageous, I suppose, aspect that in the first years that I was here, I was not allowed to teach any graduate courses. So teaching undergraduates takes less time.

Smail: Yes. Well, so where did you turn after your second book?

Ciplijauskaitė: After the second book, I still didn’t turn away from poetry. But I went back to the seventeenth century. And that was again because I didn’t know much about him. And curiously enough, I must also say that, he’s a poet whom I don’t like. But he was a challenge.

Smail: Pronounce his name.

Ciplijauskaitė: [Luis de] Góngora (1561-1627).

Smail: Góngora.

Ciplijauskaitė: Góngora. Mm hmm. He is considered the greatest poet of Spain. He’s considered the most difficult poet of Spain. And when I started working on him, there be no good editions of his work, because nobody wanted to tackle him.

Now again, I will say that I did not really choose him because he was only difficult. I did that work mainly to give pleasure to two friends who thought that it would be very nice if somebody would do it. And I said well, all right.

Smail: Spanish friends.

Ciplijauskaitė: Spanish friends. Spanish colleagues.

Smail: And what were you doing, exactly? Producing an edition?

Ciplijauskaitė: Just an edition. Just an edition. And not always doing justice on it. Just today I received a letter from the publisher that they have published in the meantime the fifth edition of it.

Smail: Really? So it’s still the edition.

Ciplijauskaitė: It is the edition, because nobody else has done it. And the previous edition had been done sometime in the [19]30s. So, you know, now scholarship is so advanced that every year or every five years, there is so much more material that you can. And I think also, even the manuscripts are more accessible because the libraries and the 00:24:00 archives are more open, more accessible. Again, it was, that was really not great pleasure. I think that is what I’ve done with the least pleasure.

Smail: I see.

Ciplijauskaitė: And that is what has ruined my eyesight, what has taken very much time. Because I was working. I have made two editions. One is the critical edition and one is a popular edition, so to say. So for the critical edition, the critical edition because of all kinds of mishaps came out only in [19]81. But I did it in [19]68, [19]69.

Smail: I see. The first one that was published in [19]69.

Ciplijauskaitė: Uh huh.

Smail: That was the popular edition.

Ciplijauskaitė: That was the popular edition. That’s the one that has been republished and republished and republished. Because that is accessible. It’s a small book. It has enough notes. And it doesn’t have all the scholarly bits which a normal person doesn’t need. So, yet, I did it only because I had started to work on the big edition.

Smail: Why did you decide to work on, or which did you originally intend?

Ciplijauskaitė: The big one. Oh, yes, oh, I intended only to do the big edition.

Smail: I see.

Ciplijauskaitė: But then the publisher asked me to do the small one. And after I did the small one, the publisher said that they didn’t have money to publish the big one. Because the small one brings in money. The big one costs money.

Smail: Who eventually published it?

Ciplijauskaitė: The medieval seminary here. Eleven years after I had done it.

Smail: Is this the, do the sonnets belong to his early period or his late period?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no. They go through the whole—

Smail: I gather his style changed.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, about that, that is quite a polemic. I think that in a way maybe it changes a little. But one should say that there are nearly two totally different Góngoras. Because already the complex Góngora is in the beginning. But he also becomes much more masterful of course as he goes along. And yes, the first, I would say the main difference is that the first five or ten years, he writes more within the tradition, within the Petrarchan tradition. Then he develops his very own style. And he goes more into ironic, satiric tones. Whereas at the beginning, it’s all beautiful in tone.

Smail: Did you come to like his poetry better? You said you didn’t like it previously.

Ciplijauskaitė: I still feel that he is what 00:27:00 I would call a cold poet. I mean, he works so much that he produces the perfect beauty. But there is not the person, the living person behind that beauty. I identify more easily with a poet who palpitates behind the poetry.

Smail: That’s interesting. I think the little bit I’ve read, the history of Spanish literature suggested that Guillén.

Ciplijauskaitė: Guillén, mm hmm.

Smail: Guillén is also a cold poet.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. In a way. In a way. Now he is not so cold, though. Guillén, I think, especially, well, Guillén I knew very well. Was a very good friend, you see. So there I could see how he transforms his great emotions into these lines which are, again, so perfect that nothing sentimental remains. But when I read Guillén, I still see the living man who writes them.

Smail: So that’s why you did him, then? Guillén?

Ciplijauskaitė: Guillén. Well, Guillén I have started working on him again. I don’t know why. He was one of the two poets about whom I heard that lecture that converted me. I was a French major. And I went over into Spanish. He is still not my preferred poet. He is the poet on whom I’ve written most. Definitely. Because he’s just so admirable. I mean, he is the greatest poet of Spain in his generation. There’s just no doubt about that in my mind. And also, because he is so totally opposed to me. He is totally affirmative. Everything is either perfect or perfectable. It’s just a joy, you see. And when you read him, it just makes you happy.

And also, it is so nice to work on a poet who is just so good. He gives you, I mean—

Smail: So good, are you talking about morally or—

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, no, no. I’m talking as a poet. As a poet.

Smail: Yes, all right. You said he was good, also.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, no. Well, yes, that, but that I don’t put into the work. That doesn’t matter, really. But you see, that is maybe true also of Góngora. The more complex, Guillén is also quite a complex poet. The more complex a poet is, the greater joy when you read one poem. In that one poem, you see so much. Whereas the very simple ones, you read the poem. You say well, that’s nice. But there’s nothing to write about. Because everybody reads it. 00:30:00 And it’s plain. So that could be one of the reasons. I really couldn’t tell you how I got onto Guillén of all. Because I included him, I mean, he is in every, practically in every book of mine. I gave him a chapter in Soledad. He was the poet who doesn’t believe in solitude, you see. He’s so affirmative. Then, of course, he has his great part in the second book on poetics. And then I have a whole book on him. And I have very many articles on him. So he’s just fascinating. I think you just cannot help, you must admire him. You don’t need to identify with him; you just have to admire him. He’s just this all light.

Smail: When you write about somebody like that, do you bring in poets from other nationalities and of earlier times?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, whenever I see that there’s any connection to be made, I try to. I don’t like to isolate very much which I am writing. That is really my greatest, I don’t know whether to call it vice, or drawback, or mistake. Because it takes me much longer.

Smail: Or virtue.

Ciplijauskaitė: I just think that you have to read in context. I mean, it’s fine to read without context. But it means more if you read it in context. And then how could I dare to say that Guillén is the greatest poet, not in Spain, even, but in those years, in all of Europe, if I didn’t know and I couldn’t compare.

Smail: So you’re reading all the European poets, French and English.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. But I think, well, that’s the way I was taught to approach literature. You see, I have the advantage of coming from a country which has a very small literature. So we always read in context. And I like it. I don’t know what else I should, should I say anything else about Góngora? But Góngora, I should probably say about the process of working. Because that, you see, that again, I don’t regret having done it. But I would never repeat it. Because I consider those years really almost lost years in my life. Because you go to the library. And you go through manuscripts. I have read, there is no autograph of Góngora. 00:33:00 So in order to establish the text, you simply have to read all the manuscripts that exist. Well, I’ve read about two hundred manuscripts. Line by line. And that’s a very technical work which needs very much attention, and which gives very little satisfaction. Then when you start, when you start noticing, for instance, that two lines are totally different and start thinking why, well then it becomes interesting. Or when you decide to go and hunt for any clue as to who that person was. And to discover that it was somebody totally different from what the other critics said. Again, that gives you great satisfaction. It’s almost like discovering a new island. But this doesn’t happen often. The rest is just plowing through something very technical. And I’m very un-technically-minded.

So that it is a, it did serve me mainly to teach me not to be critical about other people’s work. Because it’s so easy to say well, but that’s not complete, or there is a mistake. But then you realize how easy it is to make those mistakes. And that you sometimes can’t see everything, really. I’ve traveled all across Europe, hunting for those manuscripts. But as I say, it was more a work of patience than of any creativity.

And Góngora is for instance somebody I don’t like to teach. After having done all this work. I’ve been mainly in Europe, in any country, people ask me always, “Well, will you come and give lectures about Góngora?” And I say no. I really have had it. Once I finished, I finished. He’s also outside of the centuries in which I always work. So I feel I did what I could and let others do now the rest. But I don’t regret having done it. I don’t think I have much more to say about Góngora, really. I’m not very good in recounting anecdotes. You know, when you work, all kinds of things happen. But there wasn’t anything very memorable that would have occurred. And he’s still, not all his work has been edited. I mean, he has been published, but not this line by line, 00:36:00 word by word, comma by comma edition. But there is quite a lot of progress lately. Spain has waited for a long time until somebody started doing really, I shouldn’t call it scholarly work, but maybe careful work. Spanish scholars tended to be a bit superficial. And if you are just even a bit superficial, you can’t work on that. Because accuracy is really the only thing that counts. And I suppose one could probably even do it now, but you can’t collate manuscripts by computer. You still can’t. It might become really easier later on. But I’ve done it all just on my own. So, that’s for Góngora.

And from there, what did I do from there? Oh, yes. Then I went into prose I have felt, actually not that I had done enough with poetry. But most of the ideas from then on have arisen when I have taught. And when you teach, I remember when I was for the first time teaching a survey course on twentieth century novel. And there were books of criticism on one author, on another author. And then I realize that on Pío Baroja (1872-1956) there just wasn’t a book which I could take and learn much from it and tell students well, then, go and read it. It’s not that I would write a book thinking that now I can tell the students go and read it. But at least to give myself an idea of who he really was. And again, he is an author whom I don’t like very much. There are very few authors whom I really like very much about whom I have written. I don’t know. I think in a way it is probably better. Because that way, you don’t identify too much. I think a critic must keep a distance. And it’s not difficult for me to keep a distance with Góngora or Baroja. You just simply take it as a task more.

And that was interesting. That was interesting to work. Because again, I had to start learning from the beginning. In all my graduate work, I had never had a course, I think, on the novel. I’d had very little work anyway in graduate school. So that all my learning has been afterwards.

And how I went about it. Well, that was again already a book in which I started to be complicated. Because when I went out of graduate school, I was able to always tell myself 00:39:00 well I’ll do that and right away have a very systematic plan of how I was going to go about it. And there was that approach as you went. Well with Baroja, I realized that you can’t do that. I wanted to write about his style, because it was mainly about his style that nothing had been written. But then I realized that he is so much in what he writes that you can’t talk about the style unless you talk about the man. And that wasn’t easy to resolve. Because as you know today, critics look down on those who take the author, also, into account. But I had to do it. So I made in a way an analysis. I must confess I don’t even remember what I did very much in that book anymore. But I did make an analysis first of his approach to literature, of his formation as a writer. And only then go into real analysis of his work. And now that analysis again did give me some joys. Especially because, as you know, probably, that was the beginning of the century. That was even in the [19]20s, many authors used to publish their novels in periodicals. I don’t remember how you call it in English, you know when—

Smail: Serials.

Ciplijauskaitė: In serials. That’s it. So that I went back again, I spent much time in the libraries. And just before I was going home—the whole book was a very curious thing. I had had my idea about what the book was to be. And I had it practically all lined out. And then I got a grant for the summer and thought I will go and check. Because in Baroja’s house, I had read in one author’s book, there were four manuscripts. And I thought well, I don’t want to write about him without checking those manuscripts. Well I went and I discovered that there were twenty-three manuscripts. Not four manuscripts. So that summer I was very lucky I could rent the most beautiful house in that little village. I never saw that little house. I used to get up at six o’clock in the morning and work until twelve o’clock at night. And I barely, barely went through all the materials. But that was a fascinating thing, because Baroja had the fame, the reputation, that he wrote as it came to him. That he never worked on. Well, some novels, of one novel particularly, I found four different copies, you know, 00:42:00 drafts, versions. Well you can’t say after that that the man didn’t work.

And then as I was going already back to Madison, I had three days in Madrid. And I thought well I just better go and check whether I still can find some of these periodicals, of the serials. And there I discovered that one of his novels in the serials appeared in a totally different way. That midway in the novel then as he published it as a novel, he adds one of the major characters. And nobody had seen it until then, that’s just incredible. Because he is a much read author. People had written about him. But nobody had taken the trouble.

So there are these joys of discovery. But that of course then changed totally what I was going to write. I mean, my book which I thought was more or less ready in my mind turned out to be something totally different. And that was very interesting.

Now again, Baroja has written very much. So while I was writing that book about his style as a novelist, I realized that I cannot possibly do him justice if I try to cover all the aspects. Because he has also written, apart from the contemporary novels, historical novels. So I decided to leave the historical novels for some later time. And after that came another book. Because then I took not only him but I took the other members of his generation, who all were interested in historical novels, and went back and studied another author, [Benito Pérez] Galdós (1843-1920), on the nineteenth century. But you realize how I then get into these projects which can be done very quickly. Because his historical novels are twenty-two. Galdós’s historical novels are forty-six. And the others also have written. And for that, that wasn’t really that much. But for that, I had to really work on the series of historical novels. Because up to this day, there has been very little written on the historical novel. So I have—

Smail: Even generally, you mean.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, not only in Spain. No, no. Also generally. I had then to go into the philosophy of history. I have to go into history of historiography. And I’ve read many historians and saw how their style was changing. I mean, it always branches out very much. But again, after I did that, although I still could have probably leftovers, I decided that was about as far as I wanted to go.

Smail: Were you able to incorporate what you learned from reading the histories and historiography in this way? 00:45:00

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. Oh, definitely. Definitely. Because one goes with the other.

Smail: Because that was a major work to them.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, no, no. My books are getting slimmer and slimmer. I think I’ll reach soon a point where I won’t write anymore. Because you can say what you want in few words and few pages. But you have to really incorporate it. Because if you don’t, I think it would be unjust to speak about the historical novel without referring to history. Because the writing of history has changed so much. The philosophy of history has changed so much. And that all reflects in the novel, in the historical novel writing. Consciously or unconsciously. I really could never say that all the authors who write historical novel have read so much. But many of them have. There again I have to go and look into their diaries into whatever they have written, not as fiction but on literature. And that is again a very interesting part. I always like to read more than to write, as I say. (laughs) Because once you have to put it all together, if you make a mistake, well, that’s bad. Whereas while you’re reading, you don’t make mistakes.

Smail: You say it was not a big book. But the ideas in it could have been, if you were the first person to really, or one of the first to really look at what historical fiction is or could be—

Ciplijauskaitė: Well—

Smail: Do you feel that you made some, a…

Ciplijauskaitė: I don’t know. You know, it takes time. And this I published in, with a publisher who doesn’t distribute his books very well. And somehow this, I think, is the book of mine which has had the least impact.

Smail: And might have had most. Is that what you’re saying?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, I don’t think it might have had most. But I think it might have more. It might have had more. But just recently I’m starting to receive letters from persons saying, “Oh, I’ve read that book of yours. Oh, isn’t that something?” But this is now three years after it came out.

Smail: Who’s the publisher?

Ciplijauskaitė: Porrúa Turanzas.

Smail: Oh. A Spanish publisher.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I always publish in Spain. Mm hmm. So that I didn’t want, wouldn’t dare to say that it has had any—it has helped me for teaching. It has helped me also to direct a dissertation, which has been published also. 00:48:00 So I think that way it was productive.

Smail: Did it occur to you to write something in English? Or have you written something in English based on that about the historical novel?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, no, no. I don’t like writing in English. I have written, oh, I don’t know, all together maybe ten articles in English. Not more than that. Spanish comes much more easily.

Smail: Writing in Spanish and having somebody translate it?

Ciplijauskaitė: That would be very difficult. Because I think that it’s so difficult to translate exactly. And yet, I write more easily in Spanish. So, no, I didn’t think of it.

Smail: This subject’s of interest now because of Peter Gay’s (1923-2015) lectures—

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes.

Smail: —who was talking about the historical. No, he wasn’t specifically.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, he wasn’t talking about—

Smail: He had talked about it. I mean, that is one of his fields. So it is a subject of, and I don’t recall having read anything about it here.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. There is one very good book on the historical novel, and that’s [György] Lukács (1885-1971). Of course you have the very Marxist approach, from which you have to weed out some things which to me seem unacceptable. But basically, he has said things that nobody else has said. So I still always recommend that as a first for students. And I think you can learn from it very much. But he writes mainly about the nineteenth-century novel. Whereas I have written mainly on twentieth-century authors. And their outlook on history, for instance, these authors whom I have studied, write historical novels. But they don’t in a way believe in official history. So they are creating a totally new concept. And [Miguel de] Unamuno (1864-1936) calls it intrahistory. Which is not history of battles or of dates or of kings. But of the common people and their everyday lives. And they only talk about cyclical time then. So all that is very new. That of course you wouldn’t find in Lukács.

Smail: That’s right. There’s the Italian who’s done the book on the miller in—

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, Manzoni.

Smail: No.

Ciplijauskaitė: No?

Smail: [Carlo] Ginzburg (b. 1939).

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, oh, I see. Ginzburg. Yes. Mm hmm. Yeah, but Ginzburg, I went to listen to his lecture. He knows very little about theory of historical novel. He shouldn’t talk. He was misquoting. He was attributing ideas of one to somebody else. I was very disappointed in that lecture. I mean, he probably knows enough as historian. But he certainly doesn’t know what has been written. And he hasn’t 00:51:00 even referred to, in France there have been a few articles or parts of a book in the structuralist critics, mainly, who have approached it in an interesting way. I mean, you must take that in account. You can’t just say that nothing has been written. So, Ginzburg disappointed me. Mainly, I mean, he was quoting ideas of, saying they were of [Antoine] Meillet (1866-1936) and these ideas are in Nietzsche already. So that’s really going far. (laughs)

Smail: You’re not tempted, then, hearing this inadequate lecture to yourself write something up. I should think you would be.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, no. no. I’ve written, I’ve said what I wanted to say about the historical novel.

Smail: In an out of the way place.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. But that just happened to be so. I wouldn’t redo it. No.

Smail: So your reason for writing isn’t to—

Ciplijauskaitė: It’s not to become famous.

Smail: Not to educate the world, or?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, because I would say that really most of my, as I’ve mentioned, most ideas come up when I find that I am not adequately prepared for teaching. And then I try to find out more. And then I try to formulate it. But not necessarily thinking that I’ll be read. I mean, it helps me to become a better teacher. That is—

Smail: So it’s something you have to say, then. Presumably you could become a better teacher if you just did the research and didn’t do the writing.

Ciplijauskaitė: I suppose so. I suppose so. Except that it’s much easier if you have it neatly published when you need to teach, than to go through piles and piles and piles of notes. So that makes it easier.

Smail: That’s an unusual reason for writing. Or it strikes me as that. But maybe it isn’t.

Ciplijauskaitė: I don’t know.

Smail: It may not be.

Ciplijauskaitė: I don’t know. To me it is that until you write down, you don’t formulate as well. So I think that I do help my students by trying to make it clearer. And I still consider that as long as I’m a teacher here, that’s my first duty. Because again, as I say, if it were just the joy of writing, I wish I had been born with more talent. I’d write novels or poetry or whatever. Because then I think yes, you want to be read, really.

Smail: But the given 00:54:00 around here is that research and writing interfere with teaching. It’s an absolutely assumed thing about scholarship. And here you say you couldn’t teach well even if you didn’t—

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, in my case it does the contrary. In my case, teaching interferes with writing. But since I consider that my first duty is to the students, I neglect research.

Smail: Hmm. Well, you just said you do the research in order to teach better.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. I do the research. Then I realize that there’s something lacking. But if you want to see that it’s not really paradoxical, by the time I have done the research that I thought I needed to, I never get to teach that course again. So, it’s paradoxical. That is why my writing is motivated. Comes out of teaching. I suppose in another way, it goes back. Even if it is in a different course totally, or on a different level.

Smail: But then it sounds to me as if you’re saying that you want to understand it.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, of course.

Smail: You’ve tried to present something and you can’t on your own, in order for yourself then.

Ciplijauskaitė: Of course. Of course. Very much. Very much. Because how can I present something clearly if it is not clear in my mind? And for that, I need to go more deeply into it.

Smail: But I mean, it could be just for yourself, not for teaching. That is here’s a question and I can’t answer it without doing the research and writing something.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well but you see, it has the practical basis that this, this I want to clarify so that I can present. Because a question about historical novel, for instance, I don’t know that it will just arise for myself only.



End Track 1. Begin Track 2.


 Smail: A crucial moment in a university is the relationship between teaching and writing. Yes. You were going to say?

Ciplijauskaitė: That often I feel cheated that I have to put in so much time into teaching. Because most often it happens that I’m teaching something that has no connection with my research. And I always do give all my time to teaching.

Smail: If you’re teaching, that’s what gets your time.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. I mean, my priority’s always the teaching. And I only write during holidays. But that comes then to a point that until last summer I never had a holiday since I started teaching here.

Smail: What do you mean?

Ciplijauskaitė: Because I go directly into libraries.

Smail: Oh, yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: So that’s not very good for my health.

Smail: And you say until last summer.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah. Because I finally reached a point where I was told that if I don’t do something about taking time off, I won’t last very long.

Smail: And did you succeed in doing that?

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm. Beautifully. Beautifully.

Smail: What did you do?

Ciplijauskaitė: Walk in the mountains. In Spain. without going, even approaching a library.

Smail: I was going to say—

Ciplijauskaitė: No, I didn’t go into any library. Just went to bookstore the last day and bought books, and made them send these books to me. But you see, that’s not fair, really. You really shouldn’t live only for work.

Smail: You’re a member of the Humanities Research Institute. Does that not relieve you of some teaching?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, officially it should. The department has not been so very generous about that. And it’s not only that. But even if I teach one course, I mean, I never know enough. For that one course, I work all the time. Which isn’t very reasonable, I know. But I can’t take half the day for my own research, saying well that will be enough. And I don’t feel happy. So I don’t do it.

Smail: Do you have the choice of what courses you give?

Ciplijauskaitė: Only to a very small extent. You know, this is a big department. It has to work. And you must give consideration to very many reasons. So I mean, it would be totally silly to say well now I really must teach that, because suddenly I’m interested in that. If it really isn’t useful to the student. After all, we train students as our first 00:03:00 task.

Smail: I should think that would be an argument if you were a small department. But if you’re a big department, I should think there would be more freedom to teach the out of the way course occasionally.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, now we are very much down totally to basics. Because we have fewer students than we used to have. We have many professors who each wants to teach certain courses. So unless I believe in something very strongly, I wouldn’t fight for that. Because really, I think we all have to do sometimes things that we don’t like to do. The only thing that I really dislike is teaching language. Because there I find that I really am not offering very much.

Smail: Do you do that still?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes, yes, yes. Yes.

Smail: How often? I mean, each semester?

Ciplijauskaitė: Not each semester. But maybe every year, once, it happens. And that, I think, is not so good because I don’t think I’m a good teacher for language. I can only teach something that really interests me. If you do it without enthusiasm, then it’s a dead class.

Smail: Are you talking about third year, presumably?

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm. Third year or fourth year. Mm hmm. But that is, you know—

Smail: Even so.

Ciplijauskaitė: Even so. Even so, because it is something totally different. I don’t have the imagination for that type of teaching. And I also very strongly believe that only natives should be doing that. Especially on the higher level. To really give the student full benefit. So. One doesn’t always do only what one wants.

Smail: Have you changed at all in that respect? Do you make more of an effort to do what you want now? I mean.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, I think it was easier before, because before, we had so many more opportunities. We had many more graduate courses. We had more, even on the undergraduate level, we had a greater variety of courses, which we have had to reduce. On the other hand, we have somehow it seems to me more staff who is, well, I should probably not say who’s entitled to, but who I consider entitled to. Today when young professors come, they start right away giving seminars, giving graduate courses. And they all know what they want to do. When I came, as I say, I had to wait six years. So, we are now four people in modern period. 00:06:00 And I think it’s only right that everyone takes his turn. That way I don’t really, I can’t quite coordinate what I’m doing research on and what I’m teaching. And this is, I think, one of the very few cases that I’m giving one undergraduate course on something that I am really or intending to at least work on. And that helps.

Smail: What is it?

Ciplijauskaitė: It’s the contemporary feminine novel. That’s my last pair, I mean last, not last year, this year, I published one little book on the unfulfilled woman. Which, for the first time, was a great hit. In the first three months, they sold over four thousand copies. And everybody’s writing about it. Everybody’s commenting on it.

Smail: This is in the novel, or?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no. In the novel. In the novel. That’s in the nineteenth century novel. I mean, the unfulfilled woman, I call the adulteress. It’s about the novel of adultery. And I took four great masterworks in different literatures.

Smail: Different literatures. What do you mean? Not just Spain.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no. No, no. No, no.

Smail: So what language is this? Still in Spanish?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, that’s still written in Spanish. That’s still written in Spanish, yes. Well, probably this one would probably be attractive also to people in other languages. But you know, otherwise, I think that it is very logical that I would write in Spanish, because I write on Spanish literature. Now again, in Spain, there was nothing of this kind. So it seemed to be appropriate. And as the sales have shown, it was appropriate to do it in Spanish. Maybe people would buy it in other languages, too, I don’t know. [pause] No, that is really the book that gave me the greatest satisfaction, maybe, for a very trivial matter. It is beautiful. I’m sorry I don’t have a copy of it. Until today, I hadn’t received copies from the publisher. It is absolutely charming. They put on a cover in such good taste, it’s so attractive, that I just look at the book and smile.

Smail: Oh, I wish you did have a copy.

Ciplijauskaitė: I meant, I mean, I do have one copy at home and I meant to bring it to show you. And I forgot. Sorry.

Smail: I’ll look in the library.

Ciplijauskaitė: If they have the cover. If they have left the cover. You know when they bind, they sometimes remove the cover. But the cover is absolutely beautiful 00:09:00 drawing of Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898). But beautiful space and color and the lettering. I’m just absolutely delighted with the book.

Smail: And good paper?

Ciplijauskaitė: Paper is fine. But it is a small, almost like a pocketbook edition. It’s a small booklet. But just even the size, the format, the lettering. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. The only bad thing is that they don’t send to me any complimentary copies. So I have not been able to give it to anybody, really. But that was also great fun to do. This book had a different origin. This was not really a necessity for teaching. Although the main idea came out of one novel which I was teaching. But about two years ago now or three years ago, I had an invitation to various European universities to lecture. And I had to come up with a subject that would be interesting enough for universities where even not too much Spanish has been taught. And somehow I thought well, a novel of adultery. All right? If I’m in France, I can speak more on the French side. If I’m in Germany, I speak more on the German side. And so I decided to make that. First of all, started as a lecture then. And then it suddenly was such a success. I mean, the lectures. And not only that, but I also realized that in one hour lecture, I could only put in not very much. And yet, in order to prepare that one lecture, I think I worked something like two or three months to give the real background. And then again, I had accumulated so much material that it was probably enough to write a book. And so I wrote the book.

Smail: You say somehow you got that idea. Can you be more specific? Do you remember how it occurred to you?

Ciplijauskaitė: No. I don’t. I really don’t. it was that I was, I suppose, when these invitations for lecturing started coming, I was probably at that point teaching that Spanish adultery novel. And thought that well, that would be, I’d like to do it on that novel. But that novel alone will not be enough because it’s not well known. It has not been translated, now it has been translated into English only last year, or this spring, actually. And so that in Europe, practically nobody has read it outside of Spain. But if you do it on a comparative basis, then you can present why it is so good, and it’s just a marvel. And I think that was the idea. It was, I mean, not so much adultery as the quality of that one novel which is 00:12:00 not recognized enough as a great masterwork. So I did that.

But then my approach was not only analyzing the novel as such, but to try to show that social structures influence structure of the novel. And that is how in four different countries, the same subject can be developed differently, because the position of the woman is different in each of them. Now this needed very much research and was very difficult research. Because I had a French, Spanish, German and a Russian novel. And especially to get material, to get real information on how the situation of a woman in Russia was, was very difficult.

Smail: Could you please, I know it’s in the book, but tell me what the other novels are.

Ciplijauskaitė: Anna Karenina, Tolstoy. Madame Bovary, of course, you have to start with. And the German novel is Effi Briest, by Fontane. That’s the less known. It’s also the weakest of them all. But it’s still considered one of the best novels in Germany. And I was very pleased, this summer, was it this summer, or was it already last summer? No, this summer I wasn’t in Germany. So last summer. When I was reading German magazines, there is one magazine which every week puts in an interview with some very well-known person. Be it a scholar, be it a politician, be it a great industrialist. And one of the questions was always, what are your favorite books? And many of them, many, many of them, said Effi Briest. So it shows that still is a book that’s very alive. And since I was giving several lectures in Germany, I thought that was very proper.

But, as I say, depending on the social structures, on the social obstacles, really, the books are built in a very different way. And that I found rather fascinating to see. Because when you read a novel, you sometimes draw comparisons. But you don’t go into real analysis. When I tried to ask myself now how is it different, that is when I really realized how much the society enters.

Smail: It’s much more than just research, isn’t there, into the social structure in the novel. You had to think very hard.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, you always have to think. You always have to think. But you need the hard data, very much. All the laws. All the divorce laws. All the laws forbidding women to gather in public gatherings. 00:15:00 All the laws forbidding the woman to act as a witness or to govern her own property. Or to, like in Germany until very recently, to take care of the education of the children. I discovered there so many things which I would have never thought believable. And then, of course, then you start thinking how do they all get these ideas? I mean, it’s fine, it’s an old structure. Part of them you get from the Bible. But I just decided also I’d look into the philosophers. And when you read Nietzsche or Schopenhauer, and Schopenhauer was the most influential philosopher on all the novelists of all the countries in the nineteenth century. Well, there, you get your answer. So, of course, I quoted copiously from Schopenhauer to show why the woman never could be liberated, or even respected. It was fascinating. I mean, I’m not a feminist. I never was a feminist and didn’t intend to be. But I became aware of certain things. And from that book on, that is why I’m now in contemporary feminine novel.

Smail: You’re what?

Ciplijauskaitė: I’m now researching the contemporary feminine novel. Which of course today is—

Smail: Novel by women, you mean.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, exactly. Not feminist, but feminine. Some of it is very polemical. But it branches out into very different aspects. And I would say that only today woman is really starting to write consciously as a woman. Because especially in Spain, in Spain you have two novelists in nineteenth century whom people still today read. And one of them especially who’s the better one, tries to write like a man. Because that is the only style. Whereas today, sometimes in an exaggerated way, they’re trying to create what they call a woman’s writing. I’m not far advanced yet in my research. But that’s what I want to work on next semester. But that, and that’s very interesting. And now, I have been teaching that this semester. And I think that the students whom I have in class really enjoyed it. Because there we are discovering, they and I together. There is very little criticism on all that written yet. So you really just go into the books. You go into the, again, the social/historical context a little and see how similar situations, or how, for instance, most of the, not most, I shouldn’t most, 00:18:00 but for me, the most interesting novels are written in first-person today. So that you get, in a way, a psychoanalytic, almost method. But then also, there is, and there is where again all my study of historical novel comes in, there is a lot of historical novels written today by women in a fascinating way. Finally showing that there were also great figures. And that what history has shown is really nothing. Trying to really unveil the private lives and the private feelings. And of course that’s the fictional part. But I think it’s a very interesting effort. And for using very different style. So that is interesting.

But I’m sure that after this, that will be the end. Again, I mean, I can’t go on and on and on, always in the same. Because I think one becomes a bit repetitious. And more than even the repetitious, I think one becomes a big dogmatic. If you work always on the same and you think you know everything, it gets so difficult then to go away from your line of sort or expression. Whereas if you have to attack something totally different, you have to become very humble again. And recognize that you know nothing and start from zero. I think it’s good training. I wonder whether it’s maybe not profound enough. But I don’t know. I don’t know. I think that’s the only way I can work. Because after all, it is always literature. So the base is there. It’s literature as art that interests me. Not literature as propaganda. Not literature as social study. One could go into other aspects, like the linguistic aspect. But one just cannot do everything.

Smail: But you’re always doing something, aren’t you? You always have something. Is that right? To work on?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah. I think otherwise life would be terribly dull. If I were to only teach. I think that I probably can make the classes more interesting when I work on something beyond it.

Smail: But you just said life would be dull. So it isn’t just for the classes.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm. No, no, I wouldn’t say it’s just for the classes. But I think that research certainly adds to teaching. I would not ever separate the two. Because I have known professors who for twenty years have repeated exactly the same thing. 00:21:00 After they got their PhD, they never went more beyond that.

Smail: So you know that that could be done. I’m just trying to get, it seems like you really couldn’t exist, is that right, unless you were doing some research? It isn’t that you take off—

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, no, it doesn’t have to be only research. No. Lately I’ve been doing something that I really enjoy much more. I’ve been in the last two years translating quite a bit. And that I find even nicer. Because then you really work with the beauty of the language.

Smail: What are you translating from to?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, I’ve translated (laughs) very various things.

Smail: I mean, into Spanish, from Spanish into English, or?

Ciplijauskaitė: I think, yeah, yeah, but I think that here on on that here—

Smail: I know you do a lot of writing in Lithuanian.

Ciplijauskaitė: You can, let me see, no, that doesn’t go here at all. I added something that doesn’t belong here. But you see, I have translations—oh, they don’t say that. Yes, I have into Spanish, into French, into English, into Spanish, into Lithuanian. I think that’s about it.

Smail: You have poetry or—

Ciplijauskaitė: I have translated some poetry. But poetry is difficult. As I said, I am not a poet. But I’ve done very, very rewarding work. I have a poet friend in France. So in the summer, in the holidays, we get together for a week. And then we translate. That means that I translate, really, from Lithuanian. But she puts the poetic touch. And we produce very beautiful poems. I’m very happy with those translations.

Smail: This is Lithuanian poems.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Smail: In French.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm. Otherwise, I feel that I myself do best translating into Lithuanian. Because that’s my mother tongue, after all. But I have translated also quite a bit into Spanish. As long as it’s prose, I think that’s fine. I’ve tried poetry. I think that’s not so, not so great. It’s difficult. But that is a work which does not bring tensions. Because when I do research or write, I’m always very tense feeling. You know, you have to simply just put everything together. And feeling always inadequate. Whereas when you just take one text and nothing else, and try to render it the best you can, that’s somehow soothing. It’s very beautiful. And I wish I could do more of that. But I mean, always do something.

Smail: Is your writing what you wish it to be? 00:24:00 I’m talking about your writing of your research. Is that all right when you do it? Or do you have to produce many drafts?

Ciplijauskaitė: No. I write very fast. I write very fast and usually I write one draft. I look at it. Maybe make a few corrections, but that’s it.

Smail: Do you try to do it all in one period? Or can you work on weekends or—

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, no, no, no. I never write anything during school year. Absolutely not. I cannot.

Smail: You just do the research during the school year.

Ciplijauskaitė: I cannot. I can read, yes, mm hmm. But I cannot write. I need total concentration.

Smail: So where do you go for this total concentration?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, I don’t have to go. As soon as the classes are over, I write mostly at home, yes. Because more often, you have to go for research to Spain. But not for writing. No, for writing I’m more comfortable at home. I have everything at home. I simply need time. Uninterrupted time. You know, chunks of time. But no, if I need to write an article, I have to wait until Thanksgiving or I have to wait until Christmas or I have to wait until Easter. It never is written in between. Four days, you can do something with it. If you have all the material ready. But not otherwise. And the books have to be written in the summer. I’ve been writing less, actually, lately, because I never had a semester off.

Smail: Even though you say that there are fewer students.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, yes, but that still doesn’t allow you to, I mean, I just don’t like to apply for big grants and fill out all the forms. So I’ve not been applying for any grants. And if you don’t have any grants, I find it more difficult today to take semesters off without pay. I just used to do it often, but I don’t do it anymore.

Smail: More difficult in what sense?

Ciplijauskaitė: I simply can’t do it …

Smail: And what does the Wisconsin Humanities Institute give you, then?

Ciplijauskaitė: It doesn’t give me anything. It simply is supposed to reduce my teaching load. But it never—

Smail: Never?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, to a certain extent, yes. But to write, as I say, I need, if I want to write a book, I need a semester. And that it doesn’t give me. It simply does that instead of teaching two courses, sometimes I teach one. But I still always teach.

Smail: And there’s 00:27:00 no authority there to say people who are here are must have a semester off.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, there is no—

Smail: I assumed that everybody had a semester off.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, no, no, no, no. No, no. That doesn’t work that way. No, no. That doesn’t work that way. It simply is supposed to give us more free time because we teach one course less. But since my teaching takes all the time whether I teach one or two or three courses, it doesn’t give me more time, really. And that is why, I haven’t had now a semester off, oh, for the last ten years, I suppose. So this time I’m taking a semester off again without pay.

Smail: Oh, that’s right. You said you were going to France.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Hoping.

Smail: You haven’t applied for one of the graduate school research—

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, I was misled. Because I was told that since I’m at the institute, I shouldn’t apply, because I already am on a part time research position. Now apparently this is not true. This is paradoxical, but since I joined the institute, I really have written less. Because I haven’t had all the free time which I allowed myself at my own expense. So I—

Smail: I must say, well, I’ll turn the tape here, [pause] I must say, you sound like the traditionally exploited woman.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, there is some of that. I think more of it is in me. I am not able to divide my day into different parts. Because what I do, I do totally. So if I were smart, I would say well three days I give my teaching, and the rest I give my research. I can’t do it. I think I’m cheating. So I can’t blame the university for that; I have to blame myself. And really, I think all together the woman is much more conscientious about her work. About her duty, let’s put it. Whereas a man thinks much more of the face he presents, and what will help him. So if he writes, he is more in the public picture. He will prefer writing to being so conscious about his teaching. I just don’t know. I just don’t know how people can go into a class thinking that they know all. I can’t. But that’s my temperament. That’s not anything else. And partially because I’m a woman. Because that I’ve noticed that many women work much harder on what they do. Not that somebody imposes that; it’s that they feel that they have to do it. 00:30:00 So, that shouldn’t sound as a criticism. Just as a statement.

So about the books, I think we have kind of talked.

Smail: Where did this all begin, then?

Ciplijauskaitė: You mean, the research work, or?

Smail: Well, why did you become interested in Spain?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, that was very, everything—

Smail: You were in French.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah. Everything in my life has been totally chance. Totally. If things would have gone as I saw them as a child, I would be a physician. Since war destroyed everything, I had to do what I could do.

Smail: Was your father or mother a physician?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah. My father was. But I mean, the physician was coming only as a second stage. My first stage was to at the same time get a degree in romance philology, and in the conservatory of music. I was rather ambitious. I was a rather special child.

Smail: Did you play the piano?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I played very well.

Smail: Do you still play?

Ciplijauskaitė: Very little, because I have no time. It’s again a total dedication. You can’t just tamper with it for a half an hour a day. So I have the piano standing there. But for instance, since I came back this summer, I haven’t opened it once. It just sits there and waits until I’m retired. But then probably I’ll have arthritis. (laughs) So, no, no, I really wouldn’t know how to explain it. There must be some explanation, though, for my inclination to language, mainly. And through that maybe to literature. Because that I don’t remember, but I was told that in my house we have these very great festivities, whenever there was a festivity, you know. If you have read Tolstoy’s books, all that was about the same. So one Christmas, suddenly, among all the many people that were there, they noticed that I was missing. I was five years old then. They had everybody scurrying looking through the whole house. No sign, nothing. Finally they found me behind the huge Christmas tree, sitting in the corner, reading the first grammar of Lithuania, published in eighteenth century. A child of five. I think that’s not bad. So, otherwise, I always read. I always read. Ever since I was, I started reading 00:33:00 when I was four and I never stopped. And I didn’t have great inclinations of becoming a scholar or anything.

Smail: You didn’t.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, no. No, no. I wasn’t even a good student at the beginning. Because I had so many other interests and activities. Only in the last years of high school I decided that it was time to become a good student. And then I became.

Smail: The last years of high school.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Smail: You had to be, this must have been during the war.

Ciplijauskaitė: That was during the war.

Smail: You were still in Lithuania?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, no, no. The last years of high school were, I spent in Germany. And in Germany, but I went to a Lithuanian high school. Because there were so many displaced persons that we have certain clusters, and that way. But even already before I left Lithuania, the last year before I left Lithuania was when I was thirteen, fourteen, I suddenly became a very good student. I don’t know how to account for it, really. I never thought much. I think I never think much about myself, anyway.

Then I wanted to study French. I started studying French. Then when we had to leave Germany and immigrate, I went to Canada. And again, I had to start from the beginning, and I couldn’t study or anything. And I forgot all, I never thought of an academic career. Absolutely.

Smail: You had to go to work, you mean.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. Exactly.

Smail: As a translator, I suppose.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no. Not even that. Not even that. I started as a secretary, very simple secretary. And then I finally decided one summer to go to France. I went to France, which was my country of my dreams. Didn’t find the dreams. And happened to cross into Spain, about which I had no notion. And that suddenly was a revelation. So that changed.

Then I came back. Well, everything is luck. Because then I went to the university. I worked fulltime during the day. I went to the University of Montreal. And got my MA just going in the evening to the classes. There was only one professor who later on I found out didn’t know much. But since I didn’t know anything, and he—

Smail: This is in Spanish literature.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Uh huh. And he was enthusiastic. And to me, he was revealing new worlds and it was marvelous. Now since I was also the first candidate for MA, nobody knew what to do with me. So there were no rules or regulations. Nobody knew, he couldn’t direct my dissertation, my MA dissertation. He said, well, I wanted to write on Unamuno He said, “I don’t know much about Unamuno. So why don’t you write about Baroja?” That’s the paradox.

And I said, “Baroja, I don’t like at all. I won’t write on Baroja.”

So he said, “Well, if you want to write on Unamuno fine, 00:36:00 but I can’t help you.”

So I went to the library, took out two MA theses in French, looked at what one does, and wrote my dissertation. Only, I started only studying seriously when I went to Bryn Mawr.

Smail: And how did you get to Bryn Mawr?

Ciplijauskaitė: Again chance, totally. When I was at University of Montreal, the Spanish government gave me a scholarship to go for a four-month course in Spain. That was already finishing my MA. And I went there and met many other students from different universities. And came back and went back to my office and worked without still thinking about anything. And then one of my friends whom I had made in Salamanca came back via Montreal, saw that I was rather unhappy just doing that work, and said, “Well, why don’t you apply for a fellowship somewhere?” In Canada, you couldn’t go on beyond MA anywhere except for Toronto and Vancouver. Spanish was simply nonexistent. And she said, “Well, I have to go and pick up my things at Bryn Mawr and I’ll just send you the forms.” And so she sent me the forms and I applied. They give one fellowship between Spanish and Italian for all the applicants from the States and from Canada. I happened to get it. And I would say that I only became conscious of what I was doing when I left Montreal. From that time on, I started working serious. I didn’t know what it meant to study serious. That, of course, was again—

Smail: It’s a familiar experience.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

Smail: Then what brought you here?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, that was again chance. I was working. I wrote my dissertation in six months. I had no time to think about jobs or anything. I was writing in Spain. I came back, I was still typing, and everybody was telling me, “But you must write some letters to see where you are going to work.”

And I said, “No, I first want to get my dissertation done.” And then I just took, I don’t know from where anymore, a list. And I saw six names and I wrote to six universities. I got an offer from three. And Madison was one. And since my mother lived at that time in Chicago, that was a good arrangement for me. So I came.

Smail: So you didn’t come here because it was an outstanding Spanish program.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, no. Oh, no. My only idea, and I have not dared to tell that my department, because they think that this is the outstanding department, I hadn’t heard anything about this department. But we did have here a great professor, Antonio Sanchez Barbudo (1910-1995), I don’t know whether you’ve heard the name. And I had read things by him. And I said well if Sanchez Barbudo is here, it can’t be bad. 00:39:00 That is the way I reasoned. And I came. And really in the [19]60s, this was a very good department. I in the [19]60s had already started going and lecturing quite a bit in different universities. And I’ve always thought that our graduate students were the best I’ve ever seen anywhere in the [19]60s, then after [19]68, it collapsed. That was very unfortunate.

Smail: Why?

Ciplijauskaitė: The political reasons.

Smail: In the department?

Ciplijauskaitė: You know, the [19]68-[19]69 was all the TA things. And we had some very radical TAs who kind of were almost put out. And some of the young professors, the best professors, not only even the young ones, were very radical. So they were pushed out. And the department never reached that level anymore after that.

Smail: So that period really did affect you.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh! Tremendously. Tremendously. That department was good in the [19]60s. Yeah. And it’s unfortunate that political things—

Smail: And the old guard hung on, as you say.

Ciplijauskaitė: Totally. Because they would not get any offer from anything, and kept, well, you know, I shouldn’t criticize because there are the various ways of thinking what a university is. I think that a university is mainly a process of development. And not so much of making students accumulate a certain amount of data. I can only make one comparison with Bryn Mawr, which was a very small school. But we were not taught to memorize or to recite. It was the thinking process that mattered. That was the only thing. Because once you’ve learned how to think, you apply it to anything. And here sometimes it’s more on the practical data side. But that again would be very, very unjust of me to make such a statement that this is it. It simply does happen. Whereas there, but there again I was a student who didn’t know anything. So I think even looking at it. As I say, I have been just so lucky 00:42:00 in everything. While I was at Bryn Mawr, I had the best professors one could have in this country. I just couldn’t have been luckier. So I have absolutely nothing to criticize in my professors. Every one has been incredible. And today, I think there’s a bit of everything. Even Bryn Mawr has changed totally.

But I think also that it’s the attitude of the students. When I went to study, I didn’t go in order to get the credits. I didn’t get credits for it. Bryn Mawr has a narrower system. There are no grades. So you really go to learn. Whereas here, the grades count so much. And I think the students focus on something different. And they’re so worried about the grades. I hate giving exams.

Smail: I bet you do, then. You have to grade them, for one thing.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, but it’s not the work involved. It’s mainly the responsibility—

Smail: But I mean, that’s what I mean. Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: How do you put that? And also, it’s always a great disappointment. Because you think that during the semester there, you’ve grown, you’ve done something. And then you read that very little has been absorbed.

Smail: Have you noticed much change in the quality of students?

Ciplijauskaitė: We had much better students in the [19]60s.

Smail: This is undergraduates.

Ciplijauskaitė: Both. Both. In the [19]60s, we had always at least one-third of undergraduates from out of state. And they were usually the brighter ones. Because they always had to reach a certain grade point to be admitted. And if you have two or three or four good students, they will pull the whole class. That’s not true anymore today. It’s all very uniform. And I think even the students thinking about what is university has changed. I think many of them come here really not to learn. They come to get a piece of paper which will give them a job. So they try to cut corners. They try to do what is easiest. And they don’t have the, for me it was almost a joy to discover. I don’t think they have that.

Smail: You’re not able to communicate it to them, they’re not able to—

Ciplijauskaitė: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. You get eventually one or two good students. But the rest, I wouldn’t say that.

Smail: You’re not the only one that’s been saying that, of course.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no. But that’s overall, that’s not this university or this country. It is all my friends in Europe, 00:45:00 in any country, say the same. And actually, I’ve had the experience. I’ve been, two years ago I taught a semester in Germany. And it was just an incredible disappointment. Students don’t want even to read. I don’t know what they go to university for. I found students, they’re much worse than our students. Because these students here come very unprepared. But they have the goodwill, which the German students didn’t have. Couldn’t care less. They were almost like our rebelling students in [19]68, [19]69. Against any authority. Anything that would be imposed on them. And always, “This is my right, and this is my right.” I was very disappointed because I had started, I studied a year in Germany before I left Germany. And the university then was just a model university. So that it has changed very, very much.

And in Spain, my friends, not only my friends say, but you probably have heard that we have a number of Spanish graduate students who come here because they find that they get much better training than in Spain. Which is absurd, in a way. But it just shows. So we aren’t, I don’t think we are a bad university or a bad department. It’s just that the overall standard is sinking everywhere. Becoming also much more difficult. Because when I studied, you still could really read practically all that was important. In criticism, at least. And not today. It’s just mushrooming. And there is so much that isn’t that good. But yet how do you expect a student to be able to distinguish what is good from what is not good?

And that is another of my complaints, that I spent so much time reading things that are absolutely trash. But then at least I can tell the students, don’t read it. But I think it’s a pity to sacrifice half of one’s life reading. (laughs)

Smail: People have to write to get their promotions.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. Exactly.

Smail: Have you had a chance to go elsewhere? Have you had offers to go elsewhere?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, in the twenty-four years that I’ve been here, I have had two years without offers.

Smail: And you’ve not accepted, you never even thought of going?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, because they came, the most interesting ones came usually when either I was having a semester off or when they had just given me the Bascom chair, or when they had just admitted me to the institute. And I suppose that my interpretation of what is ethical isn’t right. I’m not practical. I have regretted not, well, the first year that I was here, I had an offer from Harvard. I didn’t go. That that was for no ethical reason. That is because the department there was very, they were fighting very much. And I knew that I couldn’t, I’m not the fighting type. But no, no. Offers, I certainly have not lacked. But they, often, I mean sometimes, I remember one offer was for exactly three times as much as I was earning here.

Smail: Where?

Ciplijauskaitė: That was in one of the large universities that I wouldn’t want to go anyway. Because only money isn’t attractive enough. If the quality that you expect would be lower. So I suppose I didn’t get the ideal offer. I would have left. But the, I mean, on the financial side, they were always good.

Smail: Has your, that’s another question that women have to be asked, whether their salaries have been what they ought to be.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. No.

Smail: That seems to be the case, also.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah. Definitely. I mean, all the talk about adjusting salaries is talk. Is just, one year I took the time and went and checked to see the comparative salaries of the other Bascom professors. At that time, there were nine Bascom professors. Some of them were making 25,000 more than I. Others were making fifteen, ten thousand more than I. Just to give you—

Smail: And they weren’t all scientists.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. But the twenty-five one, yes. Yes. Yes. But I mean, even that seems not just.

Smail: Still, it’s more easily comprehended these days.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. I know. I know. But I don’t think that the university has adjusted women’s salaries. I don’t think so. I know of some who get even worse salaries than I do. So, again, I think it is you can’t only blame the university. Because I know persons who go every year and haggle with the chairman 00:51:00 and get some raises. Well if I came into academic life, it was in order not to talk about money. So I don’t. And that apparently I’m very good at it. I mean, I have never used any offers that I got for going and asking for a higher salary. Because this seems to me unethical. I mean, I either accept it or I say no. Because in order to do that, you really mislead the university which is offering you. You pretend that you will accept. I just can’t do it. Adjust the, it isn’t right.

Smail: You’re not fitted for this existence at all.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, no, no, not at all. So, I don’t know whether there is anything else that I was going to tell you. As I say, I just looked at all this and had made some notes. But I really think that we more or less talked about everything.

Smail: What was your favorite of your books?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, I don’t have a—oh, there is one question, of course. When you say that whether you think that you have reached your peak or whether you have, no, I think nobody reaches a peak. Hopefully. One hopes one hasn’t.

Smail: Good. I’m glad you don’t feel that you have.

Ciplijauskaitė: One always hopes that one can do something better. And as for the books, I really don’t think there’s any one better or worse. But I am most fond of my first and the last. The last, for the cover. (laughter) And the first because although it is naïve, in a way, I will never write a book with so much enthusiasm.

Smail: Now wait. Do you mean the first or the second?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no. The first. The first.

Smail: The very first.

Ciplijauskaitė: The very first. Which is just—

Smail: The solitude—

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, the solitude. Uh huh. Because there I really am, all of me is in that book. And that’s not good as criticism. But I still think, and people like that book. That’s the first one that went out of print very quickly. So, I like it. I still like it. I never read my books when they come in print, really. But I liked working on it very much. And the last one, I think it’s a nice—

Smail: It’s exasperating of you not to put it out in English.

Ciplijauskaitė: (laughs) Well, I really don’t think it’s a great book. It just gives some data which may be useful. It looks at these novels in a special way. But I’m not writing extraordinary books.

Smail: Well, here’s my tape recorder saying that I should stop. This seems like a good time. Thank you very much.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Because I really think we’ve covered everything.


[End Tape 2. End 1984 Interview.]

Total 1984 time = 110 minutes


Begin 2012 Oral History#298


Tortorice: I’m here in the home of emerita professor Birutė Ciplijauskaitė. It’s December, 27th, 2012. And Birutė, could you pronounce your name in the proper way? I’ve heard so many varied pronunciations.

Ciplijauskaitė: Birutė Ciplijauskaitė.

Tortorice: Thank you very much. Well, let’s begin at the beginning. Where and when were you born?

Ciplijauskaitė: In 1929, in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Tortorice: Can you give me an idea of your family background, of the milieu into which you were born? I’m thinking, you know, maybe class issues, what your parents did, what they were from, how far back your family was able to trace its history in the very complex history of that area.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well they were both born on a farm, in the country. That’s where most Lithuanians came from at the time they were born. And then, of course they developed, little by little, the war came (WWI). So both during the 1914-1918 war, both went to Russia. Both fled to Russia from the German occupation. And actually Mother finished high school there. Father, I suppose, had already finished high school. And at the end of the war, they came back to Lithuania. They met only when they were back in Lithuania. And got married. And even in the little Lithuania, we were not a stable family because Father very soon became a really famous gynecologist. And not only that, but he was also apparently a very good administrator. So when in [19]33, I think, one part of Lithuania, which had been occupied by Germans longer, was finally given back to Lithuania, Father was sent there directly to found the hospital. And these were from [19]33 to [19]39, these were my best years of my life, really, the most beautiful. Because the Lithuanian community was rather small, rather select, because all went there to establish the functioning of Lithuanian institutions and everything. We had very good high school, I think. For me, what I best remember, is the Conservatory of Music was absolutely incredible. And as I say, these were very, very happy times.

Then, when Germans occupied Vaisvydava again in [19]39, we went to Kaunas, our capital at that time. But then quickly very soon, our ancient capital, Vilnius, came back to Lithuania from Poland. So Father was asked to go to Vilnius to organize a hospital there. So I remember one year he was in Vilnius and we still were in Kaunas. That is why my education was very, rather mixed up. I started in Klaipeda the first class of high school already. Then Kaunas, then Vilnius. We stayed in Vilnius not that long. Then we were transferred back to Kaunas. So I, and actually I don’t remember whether I graduated from high school. No, because then the war came again and we had to flee to Germany. So I finished, actually, Lithuanian high school in Germany, in Tübingen.


Tortorice: Fascinating. So you say the war started.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: By that you mean the Soviet invasion of Lithuania?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: And what year was that in? Was that 1940?

Ciplijauskaitė: It was in 1940-something.

Tortorice: Yes, I think it was 1940.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Something. Yes. Mm hmm. And then of course, the front was coming already to Lithuania.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: And we knew that we couldn’t stay, because actually any outstanding people of Lithuania already during in the first occupation, the Russians deported to Siberia and killed.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: And we were only safe because at that point, Father already was in Vilnius. So then all the searches by the Russians had done for the people in Vilnius, we found out that they came to get us at the house where we had lived to get us to take us to Siberia.

Tortorice: Really? They had identified your family.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: They wanted–

Ciplijauskaitė: So if we hadn’t moved, we would be long dead.

Tortorice: So really, it was your father’s prescience–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: And luck somewhat.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, absolutely.

Tortorice: I hear this story so often. This is true of Gerda’s (Lerner’s) family, the Mosse family, also.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, in Lithuania, I know here there is one Lithuanian lady, it happened exactly the same to her family. They also moved, I think, also to Vilnius and the Russians came to get them in Kaunas.

Tortorice: So you went to Germany. And was that because you had German connections?

Ciplijauskaitė: We had nothing.

Tortorice: Really?

Ciplijauskaitė: It was absolutely nothing.

Tortorice: You knew no one? You didn’t have ethnic connections–

Ciplijauskaitė: Absolutely nothing. What Mother had to go through is absolutely incredible because three, four months before, Father died.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mother, who had never taken care of anything. He took care of everything. There she was with three small daughters in a foreign country.

Tortorice: So your father died shortly after you arrived in Germany?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no. Before.

Tortorice: Before you even left?

Ciplijauskaitė: Before we left. Mother had to organize.

Tortorice: My goodness.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: So he died of natural causes?

Ciplijauskaitė: Heart attack.

Tortorice: Heart attack, maybe just partially the stress of it.

Ciplijauskaitė: Partially, but he had had, he always overworked. So he had had heart trouble in the last few years, at least.

Tortorice: Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: But I’m still, I mean I’m so grateful to Mother and admire her so much that a woman who had everything, who didn’t have to take care of anything, because everything was done by Father. And suddenly with three children in a foreign country.

Tortorice: My goodness, yes. And didn’t speak the language, or–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah. Mother spoke.

Tortorice: She spoke German.

Ciplijauskaitė: And we spoke German because at school we had learned.

Tortorice: Of course. Because there were strong connections, ethnic connections in Lithuania with Germany for that part of the world.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah, but not everybody spoke German.

Tortorice: No.

Ciplijauskaitė: Since we were in Klaipeda, which was more populated with the Germans, and in school we had more emphasis on German. And actually, at home, ever since I remember, since we were babies, we had a German fräulein.

Tortorice: I see. Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: So we spoke.

Tortorice: You learned German as part of your education.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm. Mmm hmm.

Tortorice: So before we move on to your time in Germany, I wanted to ask a bit about the world of middle-class Lithuania that you grew up in.

Ciplijauskaitė: I think in Lithuania that it (our status) was probably even considered higher.

Tortorice: Higher. Okay. Yes. And this was, as we know, an extremely contested area with a very rich history.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: And like so many of those areas in that part of the world was constantly under –

Ciplijauskaitė: Changing.

Tortorice: –change and war and we know all of the horrible and rich history of that area. But it sounds as if this period that you mention after World War One was a kind of blossoming of a sense of potential and possibility in Lithuania?


Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes! And it’s not only Lithuania, you see. All the Baltic countries, Latvia and Estonia, went through the same, also. Suddenly free and suddenly organizing. And I think those three countries did very well in relatively very few years. We had very well-functioning state and people lived, I think, relatively well.

Tortorice: Did you have domestic help at home for your—

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes!

Tortorice: You had people, a cook and—

Ciplijauskaitė: There was a cook and there was a maid. And then we had the fräulein.

Tortorice: Mm hmm. To help with the children.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: So there was you and your sister—

Ciplijauskaitė: Two sisters.

Tortorice: Two sisters. Okay. And what were their names?

Ciplijauskaitė: Urate and Denote

Tortorice: Okay. Very nice. All right. So you, your mother and your two sisters, then, were really at the threat to your lives were forced to move to Germany in 1940.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: What was it like there in the war years? You were there from when to when?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, as I say, I can’t remember the date now.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: Was it [19]39, or was it—

Tortorice: Probably [19]39 or [19]40.

Ciplijauskaitė: I think so.

Tortorice: [19]39 was when the Soviets (invaded eastern Poland-Nazi Soviet Pact).

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, and so we had to move, everything. I believe very, very much that in life everything is just by chance. On the border, my mother’s parents had a farm very, very near the border to Germany. So we first went there. And as we were crossing the border, one rather young person joined us whom we had not met before. And she had connections with some people who had come to work in Lithuania for some years and was going there. So she said, “Well, why don’t you go to the same place?” Because we had absolutely nobody. And even then, that was in Sudetenland. That was the part of Czechoslovakia occupied by Germans.

Tortorice: So you were there, in that very chaotic place?

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. While Germany still was, had the power, and then, of course, since we were foreigners, the Germans didn’t treat the foreigners with great love and generosity. We were all put to work. I was 12 years old or something like that. And I had to work in a munition factory.

Tortorice: Oh, my.

Ciplijauskaitė: And my older sister worked in the factory. Only my younger sister was allowed to go to school. Mother, I think, was not forced to work, since she wasn’t, she had three children. But my sister and I worked for the Germans, for the Rüstung [Reichsministerium für Rüstung und Kriegsproduktion].

Tortorice: In the Sudetenland.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, in Sudetenland.

Tortorice: So that was, all the time you were there, basically that is what you did.

Ciplijauskaitė: Until the end of the war. Until the end of the war.

Tortorice: Okay. So basically, in those years, you were not in school. You were not—

Ciplijauskaitė: No. No. My older sister and I, no, no. We only worked.

Tortorice: Well that must have been really—

Ciplijauskaitė: It was not easy!

Tortorice: Not easy. I can imagine.

Ciplijauskaitė: Certainly, not easy.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: But my memory blocked it out completely. I don’t remember anything unpleasant. I remember the beauty of the country. We also met some very nice people who were helpful as far as they could. And probably, I was too young to feel unhappy. So it was all right!

Tortorice: Younger people are flexible.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, exactly.

Tortorice: And you tend to—

Ciplijauskaitė: Adjust.

Tortorice: Adjust and look at the positive.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: So did you ever feel threatened or discriminated against?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, discriminated—

Tortorice: Or forced to work long, difficult hours?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah. I think every foreigner at that point in Germany was discriminated against. We were inferior.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: But we didn’t feel inferior. I think that’s important.

Tortorice: Yes. Yes, I mean, essentially one became almost a slave of that machine.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. Exactly.

Tortorice: It became more and more extreme as the war went on.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah. But there was self-confidence left in us.

Tortorice: Well, that’s good that you were able to—

Ciplijauskaitė: No, really. And I think Mother, again, she resisted everything. We met very nice people. Then were in contact with some other relatives of ours who had fled somewhere much farther west. And as the war ended, we went to meet that one cousin, my father’s brother’s son, who had established himself in Tübingen. That was already in Württemberg. And that is where more and more normal part of my life started.


Tortorice: Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: It was already not war. And it wasn’t easy, either, because then, of course, we had occupation forces. So we were not independent. And we were in the French occupation zone.

Tortorice: So this was, you know, after–

Ciplijauskaitė: At the end of the war.

Tortorice: So after [19]45.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Exactly.

Tortorice: Okay. So during the war years you were in Sudetenland.

Ciplijauskaitė: In Sudetenland, yes.

Tortorice: And then as the war ended, you moved. And you were able to do that without any major traumas or in this extremely disrupted—

Ciplijauskaitė: We did not feel that trauma. But I don’t know how Mother managed economically. I still can’t, I mean, she had brought out some money, and little by little she was selling her jewelry.

Tortorice: Okay. So she made do.

 Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, she made do. And we certainly didn’t feel poor. But I think the most important thing is that we didn’t feel inferior.

Tortorice: Yes.

 Ciplijauskaitė: Really not.

Tortorice: And in a way, she protected you from what was going on. In this incredibly disrupted and cruel world in which you found yourself.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, very much, very much. Mm hmm.

Tortorice: Yes, that’s amazing.

Ciplijauskaitė: And then in Tübingen, there were quite a few after the war, there were quite a few Lithuanian refuges. So we had even a Lithuanian high school. And I finished the high school there. So you can imagine that my education has not been regular at all. Because again, the teachers there were people who were there and who could do that or that or that. But I was really lucky. I had some good teachers.

Tortorice: So it was the Lycée Lithuanien Tübingen–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: –in [19]47 that you received your BA.

Ciplijauskaitė: Diploma.

Tortorice: And this was the French sector?

Ciplijauskaitė: That was a French sector. Yes, yes, yes. And actually, I didn’t know any English. I learned English when I came to Canada.

Tortorice: Oh, fascinating. So in that city, you had more opportunities, obviously, for education. For not working in a very–

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. Because as I say, the occupation forces, the French occupation forces in Tübingen, they supplied us with the necessary things to survive. And in the French zone, we were fortunate. The American occupation zone, everybody had to live in camps. The French allowed us to live in private houses.

Tortorice: Really?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. It was a big difference.

Tortorice: Big difference. I wonder what was the reason for that.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, I don’t know. There are many differences. And the English zone, up north in Germany, was also very different. But there I don’t have any exact details. But I know that it was quite different from the French and from the American. But they made it possible for those thousands and thousands of refugees to continue a human life. You know, to try to go to school. My sister would try to apply to the university in Tübingen and, we managed.

Tortorice: Mm hmm. Well it sounds as if you ended up in the right zone.

Ciplijauskaitė: I think so.

Tortorice: In terms of opportunities.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. I am really grateful for that.

Tortorice: And you were, I imagine, as refugees aware of both the differences and the opportunities. One had to be very, very at attention in these situations.


Ciplijauskaitė: I think I was too young to think about these things.

Tortorice: Okay. But your mother, obviously, was the one. And she then developed a circle of support there? Or friends?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, friends. There were many Lithuanians. There were some friends that were friends already in Lithuania. So it was a happy colony, really. It was a much poorer colony than people who lived in the American Zone. But I think we had more freedom, we had more culture accessible. And no, I don’t think anybody felt unhappy. Really!

Tortorice: And your interactions with officialdom were with the French bureaucrats? Or was there a local structure in place already?

Ciplijauskaitė: I really can’t tell you about it. That I don’t know. But, no, everything as I say, we still were completely separated from the Germans. And the Germans were not easy, because then at the end of the war, the universities opened. So each university was obliged, I don’t know whether each, but several universities were obliged to admit a quota of foreign, of refugee students. That is how I got into the university.

But, as an example, I went to a very small branch of Mainz University, which was mainly a Dolmetscher Hochschule, a program for interpreters. We were there that year when it opened and they would have to admit 40 foreigners. So there were 40 foreigners. After the first-year exams, we were seven left. The Germans knew how to handle what they wanted. (laughs) 

Tortorice: Well, that is a strategy that works.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: And how did you survive? You must have been superior, in the sense that you knew the language–

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, I was a good student. I was a good student. Absolutely.

Tortorice: So they really had to–

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. They had to. They couldn’t, they simply couldn’t say that I didn’t do the work. No. And because there are also a few French professors there, and of course the French professors saw very well the situation. So, no. I have absolutely no complaint. I think that is where I learned very much, because it was a small school. Very strict! It was very difficult to do all those translating exercises.

Tortorice: It in a sense made your career.

Ciplijauskaitė: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Tortorice: You realized that you had the talent. And also you had been deprived of education. And this was I imagine a huge opportunity.

Ciplijauskaitė: To make up as much as I could. But that is not the end! Because when then we had to immigrate, we knew that we couldn’t stay in Germany forever. So we emigrated to Canada.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: My older sister and I. Mother and the other sister went to the States. But in order to be admitted to either US or Canada, you had to sign a contract, a year’s contract, to work as a maid. So I worked as a maid.

Tortorice: I have a little more question about this time in Tübingen. So the Germans, it sounds as if they didn’t learn anything in terms of diversity, shall we say, after the war? That they still looked at foreigners—[pause] We’re resuming after a short break, the interview with Professor Ciplijauskaitė. So to finish up with your time in Germany, would you like to say a few final words about some of your experiences there? 

Ciplijauskaitė: Well after all, there is where I got the base for my education. And I also met very, we met very, very good people everywhere. I really cannot complain. And the level of education was high. I did not feel inferior at all when I went to Canada. I had learned quite a bit.


Tortorice: Well, I mean that’s extraordinary when you think about what’s going on around you at that time. As we’ve said before, it obviously was to some extent your mother protecting you and giving you these opportunities and really preparing the way for you to flourish. 

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: So you had this quite intensive, short education in Tübingen.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: That indicated and confirmed that you had this great facility with language.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: And so–

Ciplijauskaitė: And especially also gave my self-confidence. When you were treated, you know, like dirt kind of, I could beat those who treated me like dirt.

Tortorice: Yes. It gave then your competitiveness, your self-confidence and your sense of, well, I’m sure it was a sense of hurt and discrimination for the way you’d been treated when you first arrived–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: –were overcome by these efforts on your behalf to get a great education. Okay, so how did you end up in Canada?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, as I said, there were possibilities to sign a contract for a year to work. And you could go to South America, you could go to the States, you could go to Canada. Several of our friends had gone to Canada and seemed happy. So my older sister and I went to Canada.

Tortorice: And the contract you signed was for what?

Ciplijauskaitė: For doing work as a maid.

Tortorice: Domestic work.

Ciplijauskaitė: Domestic work for a year.

Tortorice: For one year.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. 

Tortorice: Okay. And your mother and your younger sister– 

Ciplijauskaitė: Went to the States.

Tortorice: And they ended up where?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, they first ended up somewhere on the west coast. But not very long, because then Mother got in touch with everybody else. As you know, there is a very, very large Lithuanian community in Chicago and around. And so she managed to get there–

Tortorice: Okay. Was that difficult to be separated from your mother and younger sister, or were you–

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, you had to accept it. You couldn’t think about it. 

Tortorice: Okay. So you’re in Canada and you’re doing domestic work.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. But again, I was lucky all my life through. I ended up with a family, he was English baronet. And she was from the States. But she was a very, very interesting woman. And I suppose she noticed that I wasn’t just a simple maid. So she said, “Well, you have to do the work, and you will do the work.” But if you want, we were each entitled to two hours interruption for rest during the day. So she said, “If you want to use these two hours going to the living room and playing the piano, that’s fine.” So that’s what I did.

Tortorice: And you had already had lessons as a child.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, all my life, I started piano when I was, that’s, I think, something that I should say. I always wanted to do what my older sister did. And so when she started piano and went to the conservatory, I said, I was crying that I want to play the piano and I wanted to go to the conservatory. And Mother said, “Well, nobody takes a child of five years old.” And she finally took me to the director of the music school so that he would tell me the truth. He looked at me and I was, when I was young, and said don’t you realize with your (small) hands what you can’t do?” So they did not accept me. He said when you get to be six, then you will be accepted. But at home then I made my compositions and I played my compositions with my little hands.

Tortorice: So you loved music from a very young age?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It was a very musical family. Both my father and mother had beautiful voices and sang from time to time, with friends or anything. So that I really grew up hearing much music. 

Tortorice: So you’re in Canada and you have this opportunity to practice the piano. And then what happened?


Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, because I was not only practicing the piano, I was also taking, I think it was twice a week in the afternoon I went out to a business school to learn typing. Because in Germany, at the university of interpreters, I had learned to translate. And I had learned shorthand. But I didn’t know how to type. So I learned typing. And when I finished my year’s contract, I started working as a secretary.

Tortorice: Okay. So you did that for–

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, for quite, for as long as I lived in Canada.

Tortorice: And that was until 19—then, you went to, you got an M.A. at the University of Montreal.

Ciplijauskaitė: Of Montreal.

Tortorice: [19]56.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, but that I did working fulltime during the day and going to evening classes.

Tortorice: I see.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: Okay. But you really did have this impetus to educate yourself.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, I knew, I knew that I didn’t want to be a secretary all my life.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: So you did that for quite a few years.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes, I did.

Tortorice: [19]45 to, um, so were there any, you finished at Montreal, your M.A., what was the subject-

Ciplijauskaitė: In Spanish.

Tortorice: So already you had gravitated to Spanish. 

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes. Because you realize it took quite a few years until I got through the M.A., because I only had one course at a time. And in this time, I also, I think, saved enough money to go to Spain. And I went to a summer course in Spain. I don’t remember now. I think it was [19]53. And that is where it became very clear to me what I wanted to do with my life.

Tortorice: Okay. So it wasn’t the teacher, it was more this experience of Spain in 1953?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes, but it was totally a teacher. I went to Spain not to travel. I went to Spain to a summer course. And there was that teacher. He gave us a short course of Spanish poetry. And he read poems when he talked about the authors. And after hearing two poems, I knew that I cannot live otherwise. So absolutely, I owe everything to him. 

Tortorice: Do you recall his name?

Ciplijauskaitė: Of course! José Manuel Blecua [Teijeiro (1913-2003)].

Tortorice: Okay. 

Ciplijauskaitė: He was a great scholar in Spain.

Tortorice: It’s amazing how when you speak with professors and scholars, they often say there’s one person–

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, to me, without him, I don’t know who I would be. And where I would be.

Tortorice: Fascinating. So do you have any remembrance of what Spain was like in [19]53? Or were you pretty much just there to take the course? Were you traveling?

Ciplijauskaitė: I was there to take the course, but I also traveled quite a bit. Everything was rather primitive still because you know, and then of course there was still the oppression, the Franco regime. But for that, I was too young. And I never was interested in politics. So there I will not venture a judgment. But, I mean, there was enough freedom for a young student. So I did quite a bit of traveling already then. How I did, I don’t know. I think if I wanted to go somewhere, I bought a train ticket then I spent the whole day without eating. But that was all right. 

Tortorice: So you saw the real, traditional Spain.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, very much. Oh yes, before all of the influx of tourists. Yes.

Tortorice: And all of the construction and all of the electrification.

Ciplijauskaitė: Totally, totally! And you see, I was very fortunate. I went to that, that summer school was in the Pyrenees, in the north, where there were practically no tourists.

Tortorice: And beautiful.

Ciplijauskaitė: Beautiful. Beautiful!

Tortorice: Beautiful.

Ciplijauskaitė: And wonderful people. Everywhere, I met wonderful people. I think the world has more good people than bad. Only everybody talks about bad people.


Tortorice: I think that’s true. I think it’s, well, anyway. So you had this experience in Spain and this really inspired you in your life’s work.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. That made me then really register as a full student at the University of Montreal when I came back. But I still could only attend evening classes because I worked during the day. But it worked.

Tortorice: That must have been challenging.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, it was! It was.

Tortorice: And so then you had this opportunity to pursue your doctorate. Where did that come from?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well that is, I met, I think a student in Spain who had gone to Bryn Mawr. And when I was back in Montreal and taking my evening classes, and rather unhappy that I didn’t know how to get ahead in anything, she said, “Well, why don’t you apply for a fellowship at Bryn Mawr? It’s a good school.” I wrote, applied, and got it.

Tortorice: So this was the full fellowship that–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, that was a full fellowship. At Bryn Mawr, you couldn’t do halfway. It was such hard work.

Tortorice: So you ended up at Bryn Mawr.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: In 1956, I guess it would be, or [19]57? 

Ciplijauskaitė: I don’t remember the dates anymore. And in two years, I fulfilled all the requirements and passed my exams and got my degree!

Tortorice: So was there a professor there that you worked with?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes, yes. Like one like Blecua who inspired by the poetry and the beauty and at Bryn Mawr, José Ferrater Mora (1912-1991), the famous philosopher. But he taught also Spanish. Who was so strict and so critical that you had to work your head off if you wanted to do, to get anywhere. I remember the first assignment in a seminar I had to present make a presentation of one poet. And I spent the whole week reading, reading everything. Had pages and pages of notes. And had everything organized. And started presenting it in class. And so he interrupted me and said, “Well, you say that he learned something from Heidegger, so could you explain to us what ideas of Heidegger’s he took?” (laughter) That is the way you worked with him. So it was a really good experience to write a dissertation. Because I knew that he will not let anything go through that wasn’t well done.

Tortorice: And you were well trained. It was difficult, it was critical.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly.

Tortorice: It was excellent training.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, it was absolutely wonderful. Just wonderful.

Tortorice: And it gave you the self-confidence, I imagine.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Really. But I mean, until the very end, I didn’t know, or for the prelims and everything, I didn’t know whether I would pass or not. Until one friend had to go and talk to, I think to the director of the whole section. And then she came out there, she said, “You know, I saw notes about your exams. And everybody said “excellent.” Well from then on, I knew that I made it.

Tortorice: All right. Any other reminiscence about Bryn Mawr? Were there people that you met there? Fellow students? You weren’t there too long, obviously.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no. And there was so much work that they, but I went every week, every Friday I went to the symphony in Philadelphia. And that was Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985). And that helped me to survive.

Tortorice: I imagine.


Ciplijauskaitė: My friends, when they saw me going off every Friday, they said, “You will never pass the prelims.” Because everybody just used every minute for studying. But I passed. I passed the prelims. And was very happy.

Tortorice: And this was in those years an all-female school.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: Is that correct?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes.

Tortorice: Were most of the professors women?

Ciplijauskaitė: No.

Tortorice: Most of them were men in those years?

Ciplijauskaitė: Most of them were men.

Tortorice: Okay. So the women were the students, the men were the professors.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: Well this will start us on, at some point we’ll speak about being a woman in academic life at a time–

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, at the time when I started.

Tortorice: There were very few women.

Ciplijauskaitė: Very few. Well, when I came for an interview here, the chairman, you know, condescendingly said, “Well, last year we hired the first woman.”

I looked at him and said, “I didn’t know you were so backward.”

Tortorice: (laughs) That’s great.

Ciplijauskaitė: Never forgave me. Never forgave me.

Tortorice: That’s a great response.

Ciplijauskaitė: But I came to Madison, actually, I knew nothing about the academic life in the States or anything. But there were openings, a few openings. And somebody looked at them, one of my professors, I think, and said, “Well but you know, they have recently hired one product of ours.” Product or other, she had been maybe an instructor, Germaine Brée (1907-2001) came from Bryn Mawr. Without Germaine Brée I would never have come to Madison.

Tortorice: How amazing. Well, to finish up with Bryn Mawr, was there a sense amongst the students that this was unacceptable? They were working difficult courses that were taught all by men who, in a sense, treated them in an inferior way, I would imagine.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, John. 

Tortorice: Not inferior?

Ciplijauskaitė: I wouldn’t say. I was very happy at Bryn Mawr.

Tortorice: Really?

Ciplijauskaitė: Very happy.

Tortorice: You didn’t feel at all that this was a kind of strange setup?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, no. No, no, no, no.

Tortorice: Because these were very dedicated people, they were great teachers?

Ciplijauskaitė: Absolutely. They looked for your intelligence and not for your gender.

Tortorice: Okay. And they obviously expected something of you or they wouldn’t have been training you for doctorates, right?

Ciplijauskaitė: I was very, very happy at Bryn Mawr. That was great luck. 

Tortorice: Great. Okay. So you came to Madison somewhat on the heels of Germaine Brée and were welcomed with this rather rude comment by the chair of the department.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes. 

Tortorice: So you then were given the position of assistant professor. 

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: In the department of Spanish and Portuguese. In the year 1960, you were hired as an instructor. 

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: Tell me what the department was like in that year, in those early years here. What the university was like. We’ll start there and then maybe we can talk about specific individuals. Perhaps first a kind of overview and then we’ll talk about some–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Well you know, I cannot talk much about the university as such because I didn’t have such an overview. But our department in those days was considered as number one, sharing the number one with Harvard.

Tortorice: Really?

Ciplijauskaitė: It was a very strong department. Oh

Tortorice: And it was strong because of the faculty. Can you talk about some of these faculty members?

Ciplijauskaitė: Because of the faculty. In modern, we had Sanchez Barbudo, who was absolutely wonderful. We had a very strong Medieval section and very strong Golden Age section. So that in each, I think at that point, Latin America was only starting. It still didn’t have a great name. But I mean, the Golden Age and Medieval were considered of the best in the country.

Tortorice: And were there particular people in those fields that you would say made that the case? I mean, was it the depth of—


Ciplijauskaitė: Yes! Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And each one in a very different way. For instance, there was Lloyd Kasten (1905-1999) who specialized in editing old texts when there was not enough material and no way to find all the information. I think he was very strict. He trained the students really well.

And then we had Mack H. Singleton in the Golden Age. And that was, again, I think the students were very well prepared. Very well prepared.

Tortorice: It sounds as if it was a–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes. It was really an excellent department. And flexible enough.

Tortorice: And well, I won’t, I’ll ask you just briefly, are there particular students from that era that then went on, that you remember that went on to great careers?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes! And many of them, for me, it was a tremendous satisfaction. Last year we had a big symposium of the early ages here. And something like 10 or 15 of my former students from the Sixties came to give papers. Now all really well-known names. So it was a confirmation that once upon a time, we were one of the best departments in the country.

Tortorice: And many of these people are now still major positions in universities?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. And producing good writing. And very, very healthy scholarship. Yes.

Tortorice: Hmm.

Ciplijauskaitė: I was lucky. I was lucky all the way.

Tortorice: You arrived in Madison, you could almost say at the Golden Age of your department.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, absolutely.

Tortorice: There were great opportunities with the expansion of the university in those years.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, exactly.

Tortorice: And Madison, of course, for many, many years, had built some great departments in the humanities, and of course in many other parts of the university.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well yes, yes. Well, yes, because our department even, it built a publishing section for old texts.

Tortorice: Really?

Ciplijauskaitė: That, I think, is extraordinary.

Tortorice: Mm hmm. And the materials, one would hope, are in our libraries or somewhere. I mean, someone has kept track of all of this. I would hope so.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes, I think so. I think so.

Tortorice: So how were you received in the department?

Ciplijauskaitė: I have no comment about that. There was that one woman–

Tortorice: Do you remember her name?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Betsy (Mary Elizabeth) Brooks (1925-2001).

Tortorice: Betsy Brooks.

Ciplijauskaitė: I don’t think she was a great scholar. For me the great figure was Sanchez Barbudo in the modern, he was really, but then of course, and what our department also had, which was excellent, was the program of visiting scholars. There were always visiting scholars from Spain, from Portugal. That enriches the department tremendously.

Tortorice: That was common throughout the humanities at the University of Wisconsin in those years.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: Would you say that Sanchez Barbudo was your mentor in the department?

Ciplijauskaitė: No. No. I was already formed. No, no.

Tortorice: Okay. So who helped you in terms of the tenure process? Did you have any kind of help?

Ciplijauskaitė: There was no, no, no. There was absolutely no process.

Tortorice: Really?

Ciplijauskaitė: No. Absolutely nothing.

Tortorice: How did one go about gaining tenure?

Ciplijauskaitė: I don’t know. I don’t know.

Tortorice: (laughs) How funny. So essentially there was just a decision by–

Ciplijauskaitė: By the administration. Executive Committee.

Tortorice: –that you have at this point attained tenure.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, Yes, I think so. Because really, I don’t remember any questioning, any details, any conditions, anything.

Tortorice: It wasn’t the set number of years and then you had an intense amount of pressure.

Ciplijauskaitė: No.

Tortorice: By that time, had you published a book or articles?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I was publishing quite a bit.

Tortorice: Okay. Well then that, and your teaching was obviously satisfactory.

Ciplijauskaitė: I suppose it was satisfactory.

Tortorice: Yes. It looks like your first book was published in Spain–

Ciplijauskaitė: Most of my books were published in Spain.

Tortorice: –in [19]62.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Mm hmm. That was my dissertation, I think. Rewritten, but still.

Tortorice: So would it be Soledad, would you say that’s solitude?

Ciplijauskaitė: Solitude, mm hmm.


Tortorice: “Solitude in Contemporary Spanish Poetry.” Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: Yes, and it looks as if every couple of years, for many years, you published a book.

Ciplijauskaitė: And quite a number of articles.

Tortorice: You said mostly—yes, indeed. So you’re in the department, you’re obviously very, very engaged in your work, inspired by your work. Engaging with some excellent students that you were helping to train.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. We had wonderful students.

Tortorice: So did you become friends with Germaine Brée, then, in those years?

Ciplijauskaitė: No. Because, you see, that was already her outgoing years, in a way. And she was much older than I. And I think I had too much respect for her. No, I didn’t have a close relationship. No.

Tortorice: Okay. And we’ll talk about your scholarly work soon. But any more insights into what Madison was like in those years of the expansion of the university, of the, probably, as we had said, the Golden Years of the humanities on campus. Some of the great figures, and some of the friends that you met and made long, lifetime friendships with. I’m thinking of Marjorie Kreilick and George Mosse.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. Exactly. I mean, that was the beauty, that it wasn’t such a huge university. You could spread out through different departments and get to know the people. And I used to go sometimes to different lectures or even classes for anything to keep track of what was going on. And also Madison always had, the university, the wonderful system of bringing in scholars from different countries.

Tortorice: Which created an excitement–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: –and an engagement between scholars in various departments.

Ciplijauskaitė: Very much. Because it was a different approach, usually. So it really was enlightenment.

Tortorice: And so you met George Mosse in those years?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes, that was one of the lucky things that happened to me. Because, I mean, he was so original.

Tortorice: And so shortly after you arrived, you already had assistant professor one year after you arrived. And then you became tenured four years after you arrived and were a full professor eight years after you arrived. And then had a name professorship in 1973, 13 years after you arrived.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: Which was in recognition of your scholarly accomplishments.

Ciplijauskaitė: I suppose, you know, nobody every discussed any of that with me, I just found that they were doing that.

Tortorice: That you had been awarded this distinguished professorship. How was, how did you feel and what was the atmosphere as a woman in those early years in your department as a teacher?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, I didn’t feel any animosity.

Tortorice: Really?

Ciplijauskaitė: No.

Tortorice: You didn’t feel any lack of opportunity or maybe dismissal of you because you—perhaps you–

Ciplijauskaitė: To a certain extent, probably. But I mean, that was everywhere at that time.

Tortorice: Right. So you basically had learned that how to deal with this was to just really be excellent, better than any of the men–

Ciplijauskaitė: That you have to be, in a way. That you have to be. Because I didn’t believe, there came then a time when I used to get so many offers from other universities which didn’t interest me. And all my friends were saying, “Well, go to the chairman and tell him you have that offer so you’ll get promotion and everything.”

And I said, “I don’t want it.” Because why should I go and say there what I have when know I won’t accept it. So I never did it. I think it all went naturally.


Tortorice: Well, that’s interesting. Because of course now this is expected, that professors are always on the market, chronically on the market, just to get some compensation that is equal to other schools.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, yes. But that is what I consider so wrong. Because when I got all these offers, then also my friends who were saying, “Well, go and show those offers because you’ll get a salary increase.”

And I said, “I don’t sell myself.” Like when I had, I had once or twice an offer of almost twice the salary because they needed a woman. Well I wrote back to those people, “I don’t sell myself.” Money isn’t everything in life.

Tortorice: Well, I’m afraid the university has changed since your day. Let’s put it that way. (laughs) But I assume not everyone was like that in your–

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, no, but of course I did myself some harm. I could have had a much better salary. I was always –

Tortorice: You could have, yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: –way down from the men, my salary. Way down!

Tortorice: Well that really didn’t affect your sense of fairness or justice in terms of the status of women? Or you really were more determined to–

Ciplijauskaitė: Well I was more interested in research.

Tortorice: I see. I see.

Ciplijauskaitė: And I couldn’t get bothered with economic questions.

Tortorice: Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: That, unfortunately all my life, money was never the first thing for me.

Tortorice: Well, it sounds as if you had a calling and you saw your work in a way–

Ciplijauskaitė: More important. Mm hmm.

Tortorice: As the important thing.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: And some of these other things were not of sufficient value.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly! Exactly. Because we also, we have a very good library here.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: You know, not every university does have that. Those smaller colleges write to offer you the good salary and everything. And to go there, and what do you do, if there is not a good library?

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. No. And I didn’t know what quality of students I would find. Whereas we really have good students.

Tortorice: And there was a broad excellence in the humanities in those years.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, exactly! So you had input, exchange so much. That’s so important! I always advise students to take at least one course in a different department.

Tortorice: Yes. And you had people like Stanley Payne in history, and George–

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, the French department was good. The Italian department used to have very interesting people.

Tortorice: Mm hmm. German?

Ciplijauskaitė: But in German we had a little less exchange, probably, because I think the German literature has influenced less the Spanish writers.

Tortorice: I can imagine, yes. Okay. So you’re in Madison now. You are developing your career. So I think we have covered your first years.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: And when you first arrived, where was the department located?

Ciplijauskaitė: In Bascom.

Tortorice: Oh, it was in Bascom Hall. Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: It was nice.

Tortorice: It was nice. You preferred it there to–

Ciplijauskaitė: It was not as comfortable. There was not that much space. But ah, it had tradition.

Tortorice: Yes. And you were, in a sense, in a space where you had to engage with your colleagues.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. Exactly.

Tortorice: And in a more traditional setting. And you then, in 19, I think it was 1968 that Van Hise opened. And then you ended up in this kind of–

Ciplijauskaitė: Probably. Yes. And which I didn’t like at all.

Tortorice: –situation where there were these boxy little offices along a very narrow–

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. Exactly. It was so inhuman.

Tortorice: Yes. And so lacking in collegiality, the spaces.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly.

Tortorice: Because everyone could kind of just emerge or hide as they saw fit.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: And that did change the feeling of the department, did you–

Ciplijauskaitė: I don’t think it affected it much.

Tortorice: Didn’t affect it.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. No.

Tortorice: Okay. All right. So, well let’s talk, then, about your courses that you taught in those years. Were you teaching language courses? Literature courses?

Ciplijauskaitė: Language I taught when it was absolutely unavoidable.

Tortorice: Okay. (laughs)


Ciplijauskaitė: But I preferred literature courses.

Tortorice: Okay. So you taught Spanish poetry–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: Literature.

Ciplijauskaitė: You know, novels, or general culture, but pure language, yes, I think we always had to teach at least one language course.

Tortorice: This was kind of required.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes. And I think that is just. Because I mean you couldn’t say you can enjoy your literature courses and you will just slough off the language.

Tortorice: Well there’s always that tension, of course, in the department, and often it’s turning out that the beginning courses are taught, of course, by TAs and adjuncts.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes. Well, that was mostly because with having so many students, you have to do it with, and I think for the TA, for the graduate students it’s a very good experience. Very good experience.

Tortorice: Indeed. It’s very good for them. Did you enjoy teaching? Did you have a real passion for it? Did it depend on the class?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, passion, I would not call it. But I enjoyed teaching because I wanted to make what I taught accessible to students who probably might not come across it otherwise. And you know, we had big, rather big classes. There were always one or two students who made it worthwhile. Definitely.

Tortorice: So it really is like, is always the case, there are really excellent students.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes! Oh, yes! Absolutely.

Tortorice: Enriching to work with.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes, yes! Because I mean, you learn from the students.

Tortorice: Yes, indeed. It’s, you know, always the case at a big public university which has many, many functions that you will get some excellent students, and then you’ll get the middle group and then you’ll get the ones that are really struggling, it seems always to be. And that is a way that one learns to teach.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly.

Tortorice: Okay. Well then let’s talk a bit before we get into the Institute, some of the great scholars you worked with, let’s talk a bit about your scholarship. You started out working on Spanish poetry. And it looks like this is a subject that you engaged with throughout your career.

Ciplijauskaitė: Absolutely. That is definitely my main interest. But you know what happens when you teach, you cannot teach only poetry. Because there are always fewer students for poetry than for anything else. So when you teach other courses, you suddenly get interested in certain aspects, and then you want to also investigate that more. And then you eventually write about it.

Tortorice: Okay. So that’s the process that you–

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm. In my case. Mm hmm. No, because you cannot talk about the literature if you just separate one section.

Tortorice: And this attention to poetry, this love of poetry, really was stimulated in 1953.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

Tortorice: And it’s something that you really maintained your whole life.

Ciplijauskaitė: I still am more interested in poetry. And luckily in Spain there still are wonderful poets.

Tortorice: Well it sounds like, it looks as if you wrote both cultural criticism and also anthologies of specific poets. And then books on style in poetry of various–

Ciplijauskaitė: And in novels, too.

Tortorice: And the novel, yes, okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, but the book that most people quote when they meet me is a book that I did because I wanted to please that one professor who inspired me, Blecua. He said you cannot go just always on contemporary poetry and do something that’s easy. Make an edition of a great classic. And that is my Góngora edition.

Tortorice: Góngora

Ciplijauskaitė: And that is what people know me for, what the people know me for in Spain.

Tortorice: Okay. You were the first one to compile–

Ciplijauskaitė: Completely. Complete, it’s a big edition. And I mean, I did what my professor said, which not many people do. I went to every library in which there was a manuscript.

Tortorice: In Spain.

Ciplijauskaitė: In Spain, in Portugal, in Italy, in Germany. It took quite a bit. But it’s necessary if you want to see how, in those days, the texts can change from one transcription to another transcription. Because, after all, its seventeenth century. So it took some time.


Tortorice: So this was a critical edition in which you did annotations, you did introductions and all of that.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes. Establishing the real text and then so on. Oh, and in this context, I can tell you my only negative experience of being a woman. One manuscript is at one monastery in Spain. They did not let me in to consult it because I was a woman.

Tortorice: How did you end up getting access to it? Did you send a man in? (laughs)

Ciplijauskaitė: I didn’t. I didn’t. That one, that one I didn’t see.

Tortorice: Oh, isn’t that a shame? Well, tell me a bit about the mechanics of doing research in those years. Because it would have been… now, of course, with technology, it’s different.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, totally different. But I believe in the old method. You went, you did not go through any electronic devices. You went to the place. You looked at the original text. You felt the pages. I mean, it’s something totally different. You live with that book.

Tortorice: With the object.

Ciplijauskaitė: Very much.

Tortorice: And absorbed more than just something that is reproducible…

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. Exactly. Because also I discovered, you know, in the seventeenth, eighteenth century, how these manuscripts were being copied. In one manuscript, for instance, a big manuscript, all my poet was there. And then I go a few pages later, cooking recipes! Interesting.

Tortorice: (laughs) Yes, to see that.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. I think it only makes you, allows you to see fully the culture of the time when you touch them. No, that was a very tedious job. It was long. And not easy. But I am very grateful to the professor who suggested to me I do it. And actually, it was me and then there was another scholar of the Golden Age, [Antonio] Rodríguez-Moñino (1910-1970). So when I told him somehow that I could either ask somebody else to look just at a few of the poems and so on, “Oh,” he said, “no, no. You go and look. You must see the whole volume.” So I traveled across Spain quite a bit.

Tortorice: Did you get research funds for that?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, I had that only, you know.

Tortorice: Later. So this was pretty much financed–

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, for Góngora I had the funds.

Tortorice: Oh, you did.

Ciplijauskaitė: But I mean, it was very limited. So to make all these trips was not easy.

Tortorice: I can imagine. In those years, particularly, in out of the way places.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. But it was absolutely necessary.

Tortorice: Well and just experiencing where these manuscripts ended up, the whole atmosphere of the library or wherever where they were and how they were–

Ciplijauskaitė: And you know, the accessibility. Or like in one library in Spain, that professor of mine, he also gave me the advice, he said, “And you know, from time to time, take a package of cigarettes to the man who looks for it.” Yes? It was good advice.

Tortorice: That’s smart indeed, yes, yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: It was good advice.

Tortorice: You have to make friends with those people. So what attracted you to Góngora? Was it–

Ciplijauskaitė: No, that was Blecua’s suggestion.

Tortorice: Oh, okay, it was just his suggestion.

Ciplijauskaitė: That was his suggestion. Because he had just finished the monumental edition of [Francisco de] Quevedo (1580-1645) more or less of the same period. And he said, “And Góngora is still waiting.”

Tortorice: I see. So he as your mentor pointed you in the right direction.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes. He pointed me in the right direction and even gave me a few references in the National Library in Madrid. He told me there are some, at least some pages, so just insist and look. And I found everything. [pause]

Tortorice: We’re resuming the interview with Professor Birutė Ciplijauskaite, sorry for the pronunciation, after a short break. Birutė, we were discussing your book on Góngora and the impact that it had in Spain. And on your career. I notice now that I have the book that it was published by the Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, which I gather was affiliated with the Department of Spanish at the University of Wisconsin.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. And really, I had forgotten already about it. I don’t even remember exactly when I prepared that edition. But I had no contract with anybody or anything, I was just interested in doing it and I did it. And so then I came back from Spain, and it was there. But that, I think a year, maybe later or so, that I went to the Institute (UW Institute for Research in the Humanities) and we were talking about his works and so on.

Tortorice: You went to the Institute meaning to–

Ciplijauskaitė: Already I was appointed a member, as a life member

Tortorice: –appointed as a senior member. And that is the Institute for Research in the Humanities.

Ciplijauskaitė: In the humanities. And then the director, Bob Kingdon, when I mentioned my research on Góngora, and he said, “Well, where is it being published?” I said, well. He said, “But you do have the Medieval Spanish publishing. Why don’t you do it there?” And I don’t remember now whether he talked to them or whether I talked to them, and they said yes.

Tortorice: So essentially the Spanish department in those years had this publishing arm that published this major book of yours. That’s really quite extraordinary.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah, but they were not interested, without Kingdon.

Tortorice: Kingdon was the key.

Ciplijauskaitė: Bob Kingdon talked to them and he said, “Well, this is something that’s important.”

Tortorice: Bob Kingdon was, of course, the professor of history–

Ciplijauskaitė: The director of the institute at that time.

Tortorice: –history and then director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities in the early [19]70s.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm. Well, it’s to Bob that I really have to be grateful for it.

Tortorice: Well, that’s wonderful.

Ciplijauskaitė: And they did a beautiful job. It’s a beautiful edition.

Tortorice: They did. A huge amount of work. Yes, it is. And you worked with copy editors? They provided you with support, or was it pretty much that you–

Ciplijauskaitė: No. I had already everything.

Tortorice: I see.

Ciplijauskaitė: I gave them the materials. And I think then I just proofread.

Tortorice: Okay. So I see that this is a very complex–

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, it is. It was.

Tortorice: –publishing project and it was very well done.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: And this is amazing that your department had this ability to do that. I think this is probably the direction more departments should go in these days.

Ciplijauskaitė: Probably. Because I think really it was money well spent.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: And it was sold out. And in Spain, people really got this material thanks to our department. Can you imagine?

Tortorice: That’s amazing.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: One of the most important poets in Spain of all ages, that it should be published in Madison.

Tortorice: Indeed. And then be now a classic in Spain still.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes. But then they, that was not that many years ago that they finally bought the rights and they published an exact facsimile.


Tortorice: Well, that brings up, well, let’s talk a little bit more about your scholarly work before we transition into your association with the Institute for Research in the Humanities. So you moved then into writing, after this very well received book, critical edition, the poetry of Góngora, you moved into the poetry of Jorge Guillén. And I see that this was published in Mexico. And I assume circulated in the Spanish speaking world.

Ciplijauskaitė: I suppose, I had even forgotten that.

Tortorice: Yes. So then there’s another book that you edited on Guillén.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. Very different articles of many important scholars.

Tortorice: Yes, okay. And then another book on Góngora. Now you publish, it looks like this is a–

Ciplijauskaitė: You probably have a list of my, some articles that have been included in books.

Tortorice: I see, okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: Which I did not edit.

Tortorice: All right. So this is a book, Sidabrinukas ir aš…

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, that is a translation (into Lithuanian) of another Spanish poet.

Tortorice: Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: Great poet of Lithuania.

Tortorice: I see. And that was published in Madison.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Because I used to, in Madison, during quite a number of years, when I made connection by publishing things–

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: I always prepared a little booklet as a Christmas greeting for my friends.

Tortorice: I see.

Ciplijauskaitė: And I paid for it.

Tortorice: All right. And then you started working on women in Spanish literature, in particular, women poets. It looks like the first book was “The Unsatisfied Woman: Adultery in the Spanish Novel”

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes.

Tortorice: in the novel, a realistic novel, published in Barcelona. Tell me why you started working on women’s literature, I don’t know if you would call it that, or women in literature. And then specific women writers. What was the impetus and what do you think this contributed?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well the reason was that at that point, nobody wrote anything about women–

Tortorice: In Spanish.

Ciplijauskaitė: In Spanish. And they were taught much less. And there were some good writers.

Tortorice: And you had identified some of these writers.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no. People knew the writers. But they simply–

Tortorice: Dismissed.

Ciplijauskaitė: Pushed them aside, dismissed.

Tortorice: Fascinating.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes. Oh, there was a long time that in Spain, the woman was just not worth anything.

Tortorice: And this is not that long ago. We’re talking the early [19]80s.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm. Yes.

Tortorice: So 32 years ago. That is not that long ago. And so you met this scholarly need. But also it was of course an interest of yours.

Ciplijauskaitė: Absolutely. Because, I mean, the quality of the writing, which one should be, it left aside, while people wrote and spoke and published about men who were inferior to them.

Tortorice: Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: So you have to show people that there are also, women in Spain who have been writing and who have been doing good writing.

Tortorice: So this resonated with your approach on these matters, also.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes.

Tortorice: That you felt very much that that’s the way to approach these things. To be better, to recognize actual–

Ciplijauskaitė: Well because actually, even when I started teaching or anything, in order to be treated as equal you had to be better.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: Otherwise, they weren’t interested.

Tortorice: You were easily dismissed if you were average.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: And God help you if you were below average, you were really in trouble.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. Exactly.

Tortorice: Unlike many men, who could be fine being below average. And so it looks like you wrote both critical commentary on literature.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: But also on specific women writers. And in terms of your critical writing, were there any themes or discoveries that you made? Or was it more that you were a pioneer?


Ciplijauskaitė: No. I wouldn’t call myself a pioneer. But I was reading, you know. And when you read and realize that it’s a very good piece of literature–

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: –and nobody speaks about it, you want to bring it to their attention.

Tortorice: No one had really written on this, and you felt that this–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. That I should call attention, and then let the reader decide.

Tortorice: And begin the process of scholarly investigation. So I see that you translated a book of the poetry of María Victoria Atencia (b. 1931).

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. She is, in my opinion, she still is the greatest poet in Spain.

Tortorice: Male or female, she’s the greatest poet.

Ciplijauskaitė: No. The greatest female, definitely.

Tortorice: So your friendship with her, your work on her, goes back many, many years.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: I see that this is a translation into Lithuanian of her poetry.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. That was another of my little Christmas books.

Tortorice: So essentially you started, also, then, to work again in your native language, Lithuanian, in these years. So did you write any, a critical edition of Atencia’s work?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no. In Lithuania, you know, it had to be kind of, only a general introduction. Otherwise, if you present a really scholarly piece on one unknown poet, nobody would read it. Nobody would buy it. Nobody. No.

Tortorice: Okay. What about in Spanish? Did you write anything on her in Spanish?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, I think I have written, probably.

Tortorice: Okay, I haven’t seen. Okay. So what is it about her poetry that is so–

Ciplijauskaitė: Because it is poetry. It’s inspiring. It’s not saying. It is making you realize many things that are not said.

Tortorice: Things that are in particular in women’s voice? I mean–

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, no, no.

Tortorice: No.

Ciplijauskaitė: It’s just good poetry.

Tortorice: Just good poetry. Okay. And there’s no, you haven’t really written any theoretical books or articles that–

Ciplijauskaitė: Don’t read, no theory, no.

Tortorice: No theory. Okay. Are there theories that you ascribe to? That you’ve used in your work? Any literary theories that resonated more?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, I would not say, I could not name that. I think that you have to have a very different approach in order to come to the essence. Using just one method, I don’t think you get very far.

Tortorice: Okay. So you have used what you felt worked.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly.

Tortorice: As it was needed.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly.

Tortorice: Okay, so–

Ciplijauskaitė: Because unfortunately when women, maybe not today anymore, but before, when I started, when they were writing about women’s writing, it was always with a tendency to defend or to attack.

Tortorice: I see.

Ciplijauskaitė: And I don’t believe in that. When I write about a literary work, I want to speak about literature and not about politics.

Tortorice: And the people that you wrote about were people that you knew were of excellent quality.


Ciplijauskaitė: They were great authors. Yes. Not the message, but how they transmit the message.

Tortorice: This was really before the popularity of cultural studies and identity studies.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: Yeah. Okay. All right. So is there anything else that you want to say about your work on women in Spanish literature?

Ciplijauskaitė: No. It’s just that it has been very interesting and very satisfactory.

Tortorice: Okay. And did you, I know you wrote an excellent lecture on Renée Lang (1902-2003), whose work you annotated at the library.

Ciplijauskaitė: That was for me very interesting. She is really, she was a pioneer. Because she really wanted to show what a woman is capable of doing. And very, always very well grounded. I mean, there were not empty affirmations. You could always believe what she said because she gave proof.

Tortorice: We should mention Renée Lang was a scholar of French literature who taught at the Marquette University, Milwaukee. And her archive is in the Department of Special Collections at UW- Madison.

Ciplijauskaitė: I think she really did very important work.

Tortorice: Yes. Yes. And was not recognized, really, for it. Partially, I would say, because of some of her own characteristics. (laughs)

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. Exactly.

Tortorice: Also because of, yes, anyways.

Ciplijauskaitė: But there are, you know, in those archives, there are letters of her students. Really full of admiration. And acknowledging how she opened their eyes and everything. No, I think she was, she did very important work.

Tortorice: Do you know why she never got a position at UW? I know she always wanted one here at UW Madison.

Ciplijauskaitė: I don’t know. I don’t know. You know, that was in the days when she started, it was still rather closed to women.

Tortorice: Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: And as you said also, she was not a very easy person. I only saw her once, I think, but from her correspondence and with the papers, I have the impression that she was not easy to deal with.

Tortorice: Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: Kind of vindictive.

Tortorice: Ah. Yes. And, yes, well we won’t talk any more about her.

Ciplijauskaitė: No.

Tortorice: But, okay, so you moved a bit into translations of Spanish poetry, Spanish literature, into Lithuanian. Did you also translate Lithuanian poetry or literature into Spanish or English?

Ciplijauskaitė: I think, I think one or two poems, maybe, into Spanish. No, it is not my language.

Tortorice: So you mostly have written in Spanish in your work. And feel very comfortable in that language in writing and explicating. Do you dream in Spanish? Is Spanish your most–

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, I dream in different languages.

Tortorice: Okay. Because you know many languages. How many would you say?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, I don’t know how many and to what extent, but I feel very comfortable in Spanish, French, German, Italian to a certain point–

Tortorice: English.

Ciplijauskaitė: English.

Tortorice: And Lithuanian.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah. And then others, you know, less, like Portuguese I have even lectured, I think, in Portuguese. But that’s already not one of my fluent languages.

Tortorice: What about Polish and Russian?

Ciplijauskaitė: No. Those I can read.

Tortorice: You can read.

Ciplijauskaitė: I can read. Strenuously. But I can read. No, I read, I mean, every year I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in the original. That’s my favorite books of all the books.

Tortorice: Really. Okay. Well, we haven’t gone into extreme detail.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, you see, you asked me for publications. So I have here all the publications.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: And even short articles, you know, and then longer essays in other books. But I gave it to you.

Tortorice: Well we will, is there anything else you want to say about your scholarly work now? We can revisit this if we decide to later.

Ciplijauskaitė: No.

Tortorice: Okay. But suffice to say this was, you felt your main contribution and this was your great passion.

Ciplijauskaitė: That was my passion, yes, definitely.

Tortorice: Yes, writing–

Ciplijauskaitė: I don’t know how much of a contribution but I mean, I just wanted to do it.


Tortorice: Okay. Well, let’s talk, then, about your affiliation with the Institute for Research in the Humanities at UW Madison and what this has meant to you and your career.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes.

Tortorice: So in what year were you appointed?

Ciplijauskaitė: I think you must have it in my CV.

Tortorice: Okay. I think it was 1973?

Ciplijauskaitė: Probably.

Tortorice: Yes. So it was in the early [19]70s?

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: Well describe the milieu, the people that were there, the director–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes, uh huh.

Tortorice: Were there visiting scholars?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, there were always. I mean, the Institute was really heaven. It’s, I think that has changed quite a bit. But there were always many scholars from different countries, on different subjects. The beauty there is also that you are not just closed in literature. That you have history, it just branches out much more, so that it always gives you ideas. And the beauty of it was, I don’t think it is anymore, the luncheon. Because there are always many people from outside of Madison. So they all come, and each has his office, and all have lunch–

Tortorice: Together.

Ciplijauskaitė: Together. And that is where you get a tremendous amount of ideas from very different approaches, from very different fields, and not presenting, but simply talking. That was the beauty. I think today it’s not quite the same anymore. But that cannot be. And the beauty, of course, is also that there have always been people not only from universities in the States, but from other countries. So there is even more interchange. Because in every country, there are different directions.

Tortorice: So do you recall some of the visiting scholars that made a major impression on you and your work? Or some of your colleagues that the institute and staff members, others that may have been memorable to you and influenced your life and work?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, influenced my life is probably saying too much. But there have been, in the field of Spanish, from England, several wonderful scholars, really enriching. But see the beauty is that it should not be only interesting to me, but they, when they talked about their work, they made it interesting for other members of the Institute who were not at all in literature. That is the great gift.

Tortorice: Do you recall some names?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, yes. There was Edward M. Wilson (1906-1977) from England, Roy[ston Oscar] Jones (1925-1974) from England. They were just great.

Tortorice: I see. And who on the faculty was there as permanent members in those years? Was Bob Kingdon (1927-2010)?

Ciplijauskaitė: Bob Kingdon was there, and because he was also director for quite a while, you know.

Tortorice: Yes. Right,

Ciplijauskaitė: But I think Cronon is really to be given great credit. He knew how to choose. I think he also paid attention to see that many fields would be represented.

Tortorice: I see.

Ciplijauskaitė: Not just English or just facts, no. So that the interchange was just wonderful.

Tortorice: And David Cronon was the dean of letters and science, and oversaw the Institute.

Ciplijauskaitė: He was the director.

Tortorice: He was the director, also, okay. Because the first director was Marshall Clagett (1916-2005).

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. I didn’t really, know him. But I would say, since we’re speaking about the Institute, that the soul of the Institute and the success of the institute and the beauty of the Institute, was Loretta Freiling (1929-2018).

Tortorice: Really?

Ciplijauskaitė: The executive secretary. I mean, totally dedicated to it. Making everybody comfortable and happy. She had to take care of finding lodgings for the foreign visitors. Taking care of if anything happened, problems. Or, Loretta is unique. Absolutely unique. 


Tortorice: And she made everyone feel that they were her primary focus of attention.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes. She gave, she inspired confidence. People knew that if any problem arose, she would be able to solve it.

Tortorice: Yes. She was the solver.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes! She, and not imposing herself, never talking about herself. She was just in the background. But she was managing.

Tortorice: And she created the sense of community. Is that what you’re saying?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, very much! Very much. Checked that everybody’s comfortable. That people from outside, that they are lodged all right. She looked for the lodgings. I mean, I have not met such an efficient person in my life as she.

Tortorice: And so dedicated.

Ciplijauskaitė: Totally. Totally.

Tortorice: So she recently retired, I think, at the age of 82 from that position, having worked there from the beginning.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah. But she could have still remained.

Tortorice: So there was Bob Kingdon and David Cronon (1924-2006).

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: Was Elaine Marks (1931-2001)  involved, and Germaine…

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes. Everything. You see, Germaine was already gone when I joined the institute. Madeline Doran (1905-1996), I think, was also. It was important that there were women, you know, from the very beginning.

Tortorice: Yes, yes, from the beginning.

Ciplijauskaitė: From the very beginning.

Tortorice: And Madeline Doran of course, was from the English department.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: Elaine Marks.

Ciplijauskaitė: Elaine Marks. She was very, very inspiring also. Maybe strong in some of her opinions, but quite an addition, yes.

Tortorice: And generally fair and even-handed.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: Okay. Anything else you want to, anyone else you remember from those years?

Ciplijauskaitė: Particularly from those years? You know, my memory is failing, as I told you. Right now I cannot think of anybody else.

Tortorice: Okay. We can revisit this.

Ciplijauskaitė: But it was really a happy community. And the beauty of it was, there were so many fields represented. It never tended to just be concentrating on one thing. It was always an addition.

Tortorice: Or one approach or one–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah, no, everybody, yes, mm hmm.

Tortorice: Excellent style. Mm hmm. Everybody was–

Ciplijauskaitė: Because the people who were brought to the institute were outstanding people. Outstanding.

Tortorice: Excellent. Okay. I think let’s—



Third Interview Session (February 6, 2013): 

Tortorice: Oh, we may have already been recording. (laughs) Anyway, hello, this is John Tortorice. And we are here in the home of Professor Birutė Ciplijauskaitė. It is February 6, 2013. And this is the second part of a two-part interview that we are conducting for the Oral History Project at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. And we’re following up on some questions that we touched on in the first part of the interview, but we’d like to cover in a little more depth. Birutė, you have worked over the years with some very significant Spanish poets and writers. I recall that you’ve had an extensive correspondence, for example, with the poet, is it María Atencia? What is her first name?

Ciplijauskaitė: María Victoria Atencia.

Tortorice: María Victoria Atencia. And we spoke briefly about the changes in Spanish politics and culture from the Francoist era to the post-[19]78 changes in Spain. And how that affected the culture. And in particular women in literature. So when did you first learn about Atencia’s poetry and then develop a relationship, a correspondence with her?

Ciplijauskaitė: You know, it would be difficult for me to say. I somehow don’t remember the first contact or whatever. Because I first met her when I had already been working on her. But I must have read her poetry in, I imagine, a periodical or anything or somebody must have sent me some. And right away I noticed that that was such a great figure and such original figure in that I started then looking. She hadn’t published really that much. But I would say that practically every poem of hers is worth more than a book of others.

Tortorice: That’s high praise. So would this have been in the [19]70s or [19]80s, do you recall whether she was active in the Francoist period? Or was it after the changes that she came more to the fore?

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, I would say that she wrote already in the Franco, in Spain, she wasn’t known for a long time. But you see, her husband was also a poet. But her husband also was very much connected with the press. So I think through these connections, she could publish more.

Tortorice: I see. Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: And then also, of course, if somebody would invite her husband, he would say, well invite also my wife, who is another poet, very different. But this is only my guess. So that she was recognized as a good poet. But to really come to fame, I would say, was only in the [19]90s, probably. It took a long time. And of course living in Málaga, you see, living not in Madrid, quite away from that, that also influences–

Tortorice: Yes. So what is it about her poetry that had such an impact on you?

Ciplijauskaitė: No empty words. One poem, as I wrote her in one of the last letters, just a few days ago I had a letter from her commenting on it. She says, “You say that I in one poem say more than some poets in a whole book.” And I really confirm it, this ability to condense. But it’s a marvelous combination. It’s not only thought, and it’s certainly not technique. It’s just that each word sits in the right place and just goes right to your heart. Not necessarily to your mind. It also combines very well the heart and the mind. Mine. You know, everybody has a different reaction. But I think that her poetry is just quite extraordinary. And by now, she has been recognized. She has had several prizes and all that.


Tortorice: Would you say that you had anything to do with raising her profile in Spain? Did you write on her for Spanish journals and periodicals?

Ciplijauskaitė: I wrote on her, not only Spanish journals but I mean I think any, or talked about her. I think that also important, in different symposia, in different countries. At least, she says, but that’s of course exaggeration. She says that without me she probably would still not be known.

Tortorice: Mm. Very good. Is your appreciation for Atencia within a grouping of other women poets of this period who are her equal or form a school or form a kind of new appreciation for women’s literature in Spain?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, I would not say that really–

Tortorice: Or is it just the individual?

Ciplijauskaitė: –did not quite exist. I have contact with several women poets, good poets. And interestingly, most of them are from Andalucía, from the south. But they do not form any circle. Officially they do not act as a group of women poets. But they are just good poets. So that I don’t know whether it’s coincidence or whether, you know, I don’t read everything. Somehow. I think that when I started writing about Atencia, more people in the south realized that probably it’s worthwhile that I know something about them. So they started sending me books. And that is how I got to know them. I would say that is the factor about Andalusian poets. Because there are poets also in Madrid. Women poets, probably not so. I don’t know everything, you know. But I would say it’s coincidence.

Tortorice: Well the reason I ask is because I know that you’ve had extensive correspondence with Atencia over the years, and with other poets and writers.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, I still have, and they still send me every new book.

Tortorice: And I know you’ve written on women in literature in a comparative method.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. And I think that that was important. Because for a long time in Spain, just nobody wrote about women that much. They were always second rate, somehow, which is not true. They are also good novelists. So it was important to bring them to attention.

Tortorice: And this really has changed, really recently. It’s not a long-term phenomenon that they have come more to the attention of the public as a group, not a group, but as a–

Ciplijauskaitė: A category.

Tortorice: A category.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well I would say probably already about 20 years, little by little.

Tortorice: Twenty years. Well I recall a talk you gave about women’s literature, for lack of a better term.

Ciplijauskaitė: Mm hmm.

Tortorice: And you made comparisons between the US, England, France, Spain.

Ciplijauskaitė: Ah, yes.

Tortorice: And focused on some writers in each country. And would you say that there are characteristics or trajectories in these literatures, in these women’s lives, that connect their work in any way? Is it more really culturally determined and really a matter of the artist? Or are there connections between—


Ciplijauskaitė: No, I don’t think I could make that affirmation. I simply think that they have been ignored in those countries. And each is very different, really.

Tortorice: So it’s the kind of neglect that gives them a certain similarity.

Ciplijauskaitė: I would say so. And not, you know, they are not belligerent. There are those, there are plenty of women in the last 20 years in all these countries who write to fight that well, the women have to be recognized. But they are not necessarily write anything good.

Tortorice: Mm hmm. Ouch.

Ciplijauskaitė: So really, I don’t believe in trying to push through a theory. No, they write because they’re good writers. And that is why their books are different. Yeah.

Tortorice: Okay. Well, this brings up, then, your collection of materials in the Department of Special Collections at the University of Wisconsin-Madison libraries. Which includes extensive correspondence with Spanish poets, writers, others. And also a manuscript of a book that you prepared, on the poet and writer Jorge Guillén.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well that’s not a book on him, that is his correspondence with his first wife, who was French.

Tortorice: I see. Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: And nothing had ever been done about it. Not many people even knew about it. And then I spoke one day with her daughter who said, you know, that should be published. And so I got the manuscript. And I worked, as I told you, eight years on it. Because it was not easy. France, you know, during eight-year period, to get all the references or anything, because I only had the letters without any annotations.

Tortorice: The letters from Guillén to his first wife, and her letters to him?

Ciplijauskaitė: Her letters to him.

Tortorice: Okay, you had both?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: And that showed, really, how he developed very much.

Tortorice: As a writer.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. It was a fascinating correspondence, really.

Tortorice: And you translated all of these letters?

Ciplijauskaitė: I don’t remember now. I don’t think I translated. I think I only transcribed them. I think I only transcribed them and annotated them. You know, this has been twenty years ago, so I don’t remember.

Tortorice: Was the correspondence in French, then?

Ciplijauskaitė: The correspondence was in French. At the beginning, only in French. And then at a certain point, he started writing to her more also in Spanish. Because she had learned Spanish.

Tortorice: Okay. And did you write an introduction? You said you annotated the letters.

Ciplijauskaitė: I annotated the letters. A full introduction, I did not get to write, because I did not know who would be publishing it and how it would happen. And then it turned out that his son wanted to have it all published as his edition. And I said no. My work. So nothing happened of it. And he kind of coaxed his new wife into doing it again. So she transcribed it again.

Tortorice: Really.

Ciplijauskaitė: And it came out as a book.

Tortorice: In Spain?

Ciplijauskaitė: In Spain.

Tortorice: In Spanish?

Ciplijauskaitė: In Spanish, mm hmm.

Tortorice: Oh, my.

Ciplijauskaitė: And I still think that some of my notes were more ample.

Tortorice: Mm hmm. So you’ve seen this book?

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. I do have the book.

Tortorice: You do have the book. Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: And I thought it was such a lost time. Such a loss of time.

Tortorice: Well I suppose you could, if you wanted to take another project on, Birutė, you could translate it all into English and publish it.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, no. No, no, no.

Tortorice: (laughs) No, I’m just teasing. Well, that’s really a story of–

Ciplijauskaitė: That was the greatest disappointment of my life.

Tortorice: Yes, I can imagine.

Ciplijauskaitė: Eight years.

Tortorice: Eight years of work on a project and then having the rug pulled out. That’s extraordinary. But the manuscript is in UW Special Collections for those scholars who would like to consult it.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, you, somebody writing on Guillén, for instance, I think might have interest in seeing what I did with the whole collection and then what the other person did. And find, probably, things, she had, of course, the son. So the son gave her all the information about the family and such, which I didn’t have. I wrote to the daughter every time when I found something, but the daughter didn’t know everything, either. The son is a literary critic, you know. Was. He died. But I somehow subconsciously I–

Tortorice: Have put an end to this.

Ciplijauskaitė: Put an end to it.

Tortorice: Yes. Well, that’s a cautionary tale, I guess, but also a great disappointment. But the collection, your collection, at Special Collections, is certainly something that any scholar of modern Spanish literature should consult. And I assume the collection also will have other materials, books, etcetera.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yeah, but I think it’s mainly the correspondence that’s so important.

Tortorice: Yes. Yes. Because that, of course, is unique.

Ciplijauskaitė: And there are quite a few poets who have written me and they all the letters go there.

Tortorice: That’s great. Tell me a little bit about the work that you did on the Renée Lang collection, which is also in Special Collections. Maybe say a few words about who Renée Lang was and what her importance is as a scholar.

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, she was a professor of French literature. Who was, I think, even a few years in Madison, but then she was in Milwaukee.

Tortorice: At Marquette. Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: At Marquette. And she had great correspondence with many French authors and scholars working on those authors. So that correspondence is fascinating. It’s so full of material, of real facts. It was also interesting because in the last few years, then, there is more correspondence with her ex-students to see how grateful the students were to her for having put them in the right way. So I learned very, very much working on that. Because, of course, I don’t know French literature and the whole situation that well. But I think it’s a very important collection.

Tortorice: And in particular, if I recall, you worked on the Natalie Barney (1876-1972) manuscript–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: –because she had written a book on Barney that was never published. I gather they had a falling out, Barney and Renée Lang.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes.

Tortorice: Which I think is also an important–

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, of course it is important, because of course then it branches out and touches other person, which at that time weren’t known at all. Yes.

Tortorice: Mm hmm. So–

Ciplijauskaitė: No, our Special Collections have materials that are just precious.

Tortorice: Quite unique.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: And very much a part of the history of the university.

Ciplijauskaitė: I think it shows why our university produced some good scholars.

Tortorice: Yes.

Ciplijauskaitė: Because when you have such scholars teaching, they leave marks.

Tortorice: Indeed, they leave not only a legacy, but they leave a rich collection of materials in a small Midwestern town.

Ciplijauskaitė: But especially they have formed students to see how one approaches literature. That’s very important.

Tortorice: Well that brings up your students. And I know you’ve had some students that you really appreciated and have followed their careers. And that recently you were at a symposium where you received many gratifying responses to your influence on people’s work that have gone on in quite distinguished careers–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes.

Tortorice: –in literary studies, in particular in Spanish literature. Can you tell me something about some of your students? Or maybe as a group? Or this kind of sense of satisfaction?


Ciplijauskaitė: I think you know that my experience is that every student has so much hidden power in him or her. You just have to awaken them. And that, in a way, became clear to me when, at the end of the semester, you always, the department, ever Spanish department, asks that the student must write an evaluation of the course. And there were so many who said, “She was impossible. It was so hard. I’ve never had such an experience, but she showed me what I can do.”

Tortorice: That’s a great gift.

Ciplijauskaitė: That, to me, was the best they could say. And that is what these ex-students who I met in the symposium said, also. That they just didn’t know many things. And they didn’t know how to go about to bring anything out. And then after my class, they knew!

Tortorice: And they found out what they were capable of.

Ciplijauskaitė: Exactly. Exactly.

Tortorice: Instead of having a kind of minimal, or median, in the class–

Ciplijauskaitė: Right.

Tortorice: –you focused more on that challenging environment that would spark some people to–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, yes!

Tortorice: –to great achievement.

Ciplijauskaitė: So show them to search for more. Even if you don’t find, you don’t always find what you’re looking for, but you learn techniques to do it, and they do. And I have had wonderful students. I mean, one of my students, I still am in contact with him. He’s now chair of the University of Pennsylvania Spanish Department. He has written such extraordinary books! Just wonderful.

Tortorice: That’s great.

Ciplijauskaitė: I’m so proud! So many good students.

Tortorice: Well, it makes the teaching profession worthwhile.

Ciplijauskaitė: Absolutely! Worthwhile, because I did put in time, you know, preparing the classes and seeing how everything goes and so on. But then when you get such results, it was worthwhile.

Tortorice: But I would imagine that even those students that were more average got a great deal out of the class, simply because of the challenge…

Ciplijauskaitė: Of course they had some very good students next to them, so they couldn’t show that they weren’t worth anything. They had to do more.

Tortorice: Yes. Yeah.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, there were always, I mean in every class, there was always one or two that were extraordinary, every one.

Tortorice: And really, this is the way that you were taught and you learned. And it was the way, for example, George Mosse learned. And it is from a different time now.

Ciplijauskaitė: Right!

Tortorice: Teaching is much different now. But still, those students who really have the motivation and the spark do seem to prosper and do well.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes! Because I think it is unnecessary to just repeat what the professor says. Then it’s nothing. No! They have to add or even show the professor that there is more in it than the professor says.

Tortorice: And this is what the great advantage is of teaching–

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes!

Tortorice: –is that you actually learn from your students.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And the joy that you get to see how well they can read. And to read poetry is more difficult than to read prose.

Tortorice: In what way?

Ciplijauskaitė: Because it’s much more condensed. And there’s much more that’s not said, that’s implied. You have to get it out.

Tortorice: You have to think. It’s not satisfaction literature. (laughs)

Ciplijauskaitė: I would say it’s very much a combination in very good poetry, what I consider very strong poetry, is a combination between it makes you think, but through feeling. You feel that there is something, and then you see, try to see why. And so it combines, really, more depth than just feeling.

Tortorice: And it’s an immersion.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, yes. Oh, totally. Totally.

Tortorice: In a way that sometimes can be–

Ciplijauskaitė: I worked on books, on authors, I have so many nights dreaming all the night. Having conversations with Guillén, for instance, in my dreams. Very much!

Tortorice: Would the dreams, if you remember, be about a specific poem? Or would it be a kind of more what did the poet mean?

Ciplijauskaitė: It would, often be, yes.

Tortorice: Interesting. That’s very enriching. That’s great.

Ciplijauskaitė: It’s fascinating.

Tortorice: A great way to spend your life in a very positive way.

Ciplijauskaitė: I really don’t regret anything.

Tortorice: That’s great. That’s very nice. Well, I have a few more questions for you. One is, I know you’ve won some significant awards. And can you tell us a little bit about the, well, honors that you’ve received? I think it’s important that they be mentioned.


Ciplijauskaitė: Well, I think the greatest honor, which really came totally unexpectedly, and that was only a few years ago, was the big medal from the king of Spain.

Tortorice: Oh. And what is that called? Is it the–

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, it is called, I think it is Orden Civil de Alfonso X el Sabio, or one of the Spanish figures.

Tortorice: Oh, very nice. Well, I bet that was appreciated by you.

Ciplijauskaitė: That, as I say, took me totally by surprise. Because I didn’t know that anybody had proposed my name or anything. I still don’t know how it came to be.

Tortorice: Were you able to go to the awards ceremony in Spain?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, you know, that was the big disappointment. It was sent to me by mail.

Tortorice: Oh.

Ciplijauskaitė: I thought that was a devaluation, really.

Tortorice: (laughs) Yes. Yes. Well you can still dream about it.

Ciplijauskaitė: But I still have the medal. It’s nice.

Tortorice: That’s very good. I know you’ve been a fellow at various institutes around the world, etcetera.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: I don’t suppose we need to go into all that. We’ve talked at length about the humanities institute here in Madison. I know you were in Germany. You’ve been in many other countries.

Ciplijauskaitė: In Lithuania. And there I also got one of the big awards and honors.

Tortorice: Well, tell me a little bit about, we spoke about it briefly earlier. But about your take on post-Stalinist Lithuania. On the literature there, on the culture, on the vibrancy of the media. I mean, they are producing great singers, I know, in the former Baltic states. This is something that is quite extraordinary for such small countries to produce such great singers and musicians.

Ciplijauskaitė: Ah, yes, yes, yes, we always had.

Tortorice: That’s great.

Ciplijauskaitė: You know, not many, but really outstanding. Outstanding. Because for a singer, I think, there is no such oppression like communism. I mean, a singer sings. And if he sings an opera that’s already existing, you won’t suffer in communism. So they were more free, in a way. They were not that restricted. And otherwise in Lithuania, I think now, for instance, I try to follow a little bit what is happening in literature. I am not totally happy. I think that the books always astound me by the use of language. What they do with language is just incredible. Some manipulate the language beautifully. I mean, such richness. But the story itself is usually–

Tortorice: Banal?

Ciplijauskaitė: Banal. Very often.

Tortorice: Perhaps that will come.

Ciplijauskaitė: Probably. They need more time. And they need, I think, they were so closed away from every, now I think they should be reading more world literature. And they should realize how much one can do. But as I say lately the books that I have been getting, it’s not easy to get the books. I don’t want to buy every title that comes out not knowing at all what it is. So our library doesn’t get much. But what I’ve seen is just sad that they haven’t developed the psychological, maybe, side so much. But the language is just so enriching.

Tortorice: Oh, that’s very encouraging.

Ciplijauskaitė: It’s so enriching. Yes.


Tortorice: For a small country.

Ciplijauskaitė: It is. And, you know, maybe my reaction is personal. Because I realize that after that many years away, my language is getting poor. Well at least it’s not getting richer. And when I see what they do, that’s just a treasure.

Tortorice: Well do you still have family back in Lithuania? I mean, I know you have an endowed scholarship there.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes, I still do. And the students still go. I have one fellowship every summer for Spain for a student. And then another which can be distributed how they wish. I think that this university has opened up. And to, there have been a few Lithuanian professors who live in the States, for instance, who have gone to teach there. One in political science, one in literature. And I think they have open horizons. They have really showed people there what can be done. So that was very, very important.

Tortorice: That’s very important. So I understand that from restitution of family property you have set up a fund to honor your father.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: Who was a gynecologist, I believe, at a hospital there.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. And he had founded a school for gynecological nurses, which still is functioning.

Tortorice: Oh, that’s wonderful.

Ciplijauskaitė: So I have several years ago, I founded an award, annual award, for the best student. And on the other hand, thinking more of myself, I’ve founded another scholarship at the Conservatory of Music for the best pianist. No, no, not necessarily pianist. They have some kind of an annual event where they have a competition. But it is mainly pianists.

Tortorice: Do they send you recordings? They should of this.

Ciplijauskaitė: No, I told them not to send me.

Tortorice: You didn’t want to, okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: They send me just information about the award winners. So no, I think they do it very conscientiously.

Tortorice: And I know you’ve done some translating work from Spanish into Lithuanian and Lithuanian into Spanish. Is that correct?

Ciplijauskaitė: Some. Some. Not much, really. But I have.

Tortorice: So that’s a contribution.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes.

Tortorice: And are there ongoing restitution issues still that your family’s working on? Or is it–

Ciplijauskaitė: No, no, no. That is something that is–

Tortorice: Very complex.

Ciplijauskaitė: Complex but also, that is where you see best the results of the Russian occupation. The corruption. Because they have kind of restituted and not restituted. And the latest now was there was still one piece of land which had been taken by the government. And so, just in the last half year, I have correspondence that they have decided now to compensate you. Just like George had. And suddenly the amount, which had been established, shrunk 10 times. And then when I told them that they should send it directly to that fellowship, to that school of gynecology, it shrank again. And I still haven’t received word from the director of that school. So maybe somebody just took it.

Tortorice: It may shrink into nothing if it’s not the right price.

Ciplijauskaitė: I’m not sure. The corruption there is absolutely incredible.

Tortorice: That’s discouraging.

Ciplijauskaitė: It’s very sad because now I know that I will not try to do anything more. I will not try to establish anything more. Even if you send a check, it usually gets stolen in the post office.


Tortorice: My goodness, isn’t that, well, it’s a level of corruption that’s endemic around the world. Especially in countries that are recreating themselves.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes.

Tortorice: And you get a few people in powerful positions and they suck up all of the resources.

Ciplijauskaitė: It’s impossible. I’ve tried, you know, different ways. But there’s no way you can get through! So what can I do? I cannot.

Tortorice: And Russia, more and more, seems very corrupt.

Ciplijauskaitė: Absolutely.

Tortorice: So its influence in that part of the world has been pernicious in that sense.

Ciplijauskaitė: So I have kind of given up hope.

Tortorice: Well, that’s too bad. Okay, so, well, perhaps we should just talk briefly about your trips to Puerto Rico for the Casals Festival.

Ciplijauskaitė: Actually, I did not go especially for the Casals Festival. The first time I went to Puerto Rico was to go to visit friends I had very, very good friends. Two very good German artists who had left Nazi Germany, also. And they went through different places. They lived then in New York for a long time. I met them on a trip aboard ship. I was going to Spain, they were going to Italy. And right away, we somehow clicked. So then they bought a property in Puerto Rico, also. And they used to go and spend part of the winter in Puerto Rico. And they said well why don’t you come and visit us there? And they were very, very good friends of Pablo Casals (1876-1973).

Tortorice: I see. Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: And that way, that was my first Christmas with Pablo Casals. And we always went to visit Pablo Casals. And listen to their house concerts. I mean, there was Mieczysław Horszowski (1892-1993), Alexander Schneider (1908-1993), and Casals playing at home.

Tortorice: My, that must have been really an experience.

Ciplijauskaitė: It was absolutely extraordinary! And his painter friends were also there, they had such culture! And so unpretentious.

Tortorice: And do you have some of their paintings?

Ciplijauskaitė: Well, this portrait of mine there is his. This is his.

Tortorice: Yes, we’re looking at two paintings in Birutė’s living room. And they’re both very good paintings. Very good.

Ciplijauskaitė: Oh, he was, he was excellent. She wasn’t quite as good, maybe. But also, and of course I must mention since we talk about Puerto Rico. I also had there a literary connection. They were very good friends of a great literary figure in Puerto Rico, Nilita Vientós Gastón (1903-1989).

Tortorice: I see.

Ciplijauskaitė: So that we met there. And then Nilita asked me, she was the editor of an important periodical. So she asked me to write articles for her. And so until her death we were really much in contact. And she was quite a personality.

Tortorice: So you would go on your vacations from the university to Puerto Rico.

Ciplijauskaitė: I always went after Christmas for a week.

Tortorice: You also then started going to the Casals Festival. And if I recall, you had a correspondence with Casals. But unfortunately, you’ve thrown that away.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. Yes. Mm hmm.

Tortorice: So what was the correspondence about? Was it about music? Was it about literature?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, you know, there was not much correspondence, really. I wouldn’t say that that would have been an important document.

Tortorice: Okay. So it wasn’t a great loss.

Ciplijauskaitė: Very casual. No. No.

Tortorice: Just greetings and this kind of thing and how are you. Okay.

Ciplijauskaitė: Yes. It was more interesting with him to talk.

Tortorice: I can imagine. Yes. Is there anything else you’d like to say about your time down there?

Ciplijauskaitė: No, just that it was fascinating. It was so enriching. I was just so lucky!

Tortorice: Yes. Well is there anything else we haven’t covered that you’d like to talk about?

Ciplijauskaitė: I really don’t know. I don’t think so.

Tortorice: Well, if we decide to continue, we will. But otherwise, thank you so much. And we will talk again soon. Thank you so much, Birutė.

Ciplijauskaitė: I think we’ll talk again soon.


[End 2013 Oral History.]



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