Upton Sinclair: The Lithuanian Jungle

Upon the Centenary of The Jungle (1905 and 1906) by Upton Sinclair


In his legendary novel The Jungle (1905 and 1906), Upton Sinclair included a conspicuous number of Lithuanian words, phrases and surnames. This volume is the first attempt to analyze aspects of Lithuanian linguistic and historical data from The Jungle. Sinclair discovered the Lithuanian language in Chicago and explored it with pleasure. He even confessed to having sang in Lithuanian. If you look for “a Lithuanian linguist” working in field-research conditions in Chicago’s Back of the Yards—there is Upton Sinclair! The book targets Sinclair’s motives for choosing Lithuanian characters, his sources and his work methods in “field-research” conditions in Chicago. Some real-life individuals—Lithuanian name-donors for the protagonists of The Jungle—are presented in this volume. Certain details of the turn-of-the-century Chicago depicted in The Jungle are also revealed—for example, the saloon where the actual Lithuanian wedding feast took place and its owner. This volume is of interest to American literary historians, sociolinguists, language historians, and those interested in the history of Lithuanian immigration to America and the immigrant experience in Chicago.

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Giedrius Subačius is an associate professor at University of Illinois at Chicago. His primary scholarly interests are historical sociolinguistics, development of standard languages, history of Lithuanian, development of alphabets. He is an editor of annual historical sociolinguistic journal Archivum Lithuanicum (since 1999; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag). For his scholarly achievements Subačius has received prizes by various Lithuanian and American organizations (1995, 1999, 2005). Along with the monographs on the history of the nineteenth century Lithuanian (1998, 2001) he has published several critical editions of the nineteenth century Lithuanian linguistic manuscripts (Simonas Daukantas’ Comprehensive Polish-Lithuanian Dictionary, 3 vols.; 1993–1996), Juozas Čiulda’s (1994) and X.D.K.P.S.’ (2002) grammars.
"…appealing on several levels, as it explores both linguistics and history, providing its readers with an in depth look into the origins of the Lithuanian language and culture in The Jungle. … also brings to real life the Chicago of Upton Sinclair." – in: Lithuanian Heritage, September/October 2006
"I enjoyed it greatly; it is a fascinating study. I was impressed with the thoroughness and depth of the research, and what Subačius’ carefully presented findings suggest about Sinclair’s personality, the composition process of The Jungle, and the possible reasons and methods behind his use of the Lithuanian culture in this important book. … a superb piece" – Patrick Chura, Professor of American Literature, Akron University
ONE. Sinclair’s Sources and His Choice of Lithuanian Characters
1. Sinclair’s Method of Gathering Material for His Novel
2. Immigrants in the Chicago Stockyards
3. Two Main Lithuanian Sources for The Jungle
4. The Wedding, Kaztauskis’s Story, and Lithuanian
TWO. The Lithuanian Language
1. Sinclair’s Passion for Foreign Languages
2. Lithuanian Words and Phrases
3. Surnames
THREE. Specific Locations
1. Carey’s Dump
2. Back of the Yards
3. The Wedding Feast Saloon
4. The Church of the Wedding Ceremony
FOUR. Conclusion