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Helena Ruuska

Marja Helena Ruuska
Born May 7, 1958, Heinola

Master of arts 1984 (Finnish literature), licentiate 1995, PhD 2010, University of Helsinki
Qualified as a comprehensive school teacher 1980, University of Helsinki

Professor of Finnish language and literature 2009–, University of Helsinki, the Normal Lyceum of Helsinki
Publishing manager 2001–09, Otava publishing house
Lecturer in Finnish language and literature 1994–2001, Kruunuhaka secondary school
Class teacher 1980–94, City of Helsinki

Publications, awards and special achievements:
Eeva Joenpelto. Elämän kirjailija, 2015
Marja-Liisa Vartio. Kuin linnun kirkaisu, 2012

Textbooks and teaching material:
Kärki 7, teaching material for Finnish language and literature, 2015
Aleksis 7–9, teaching material for Finnish language and literature 2002–15
Piste 1–3 and 4–6, teaching material for upper-secondary school Finnish language and literature 2005 and 2006

Literary reviews in various newspapers, most recently Helsingin Sanomat 2009–

Positions of responsibility:
Vice-chairman of the Finnish Association of Non-fiction Writers 2012–
Member of the national curriculum working group for the primary school teaching of Finnish language and literature 2012–14

Photo: Pertti Nisonen / WSOY
Written by Helena Ruuska (Tomas Sjöblom, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

My best memories at the University of Helsinki

I love the dignity of the lecture rooms in the Main Building of the University of Helsinki, the black, straight-backed rows of seats, the lecterns. The rattling seats do not favour late-comers.

I believe in the lecture, the most old-fashioned of teaching methods. The professor speaks and the students listen. I remember Kai Laitinen’s lectures on J. L. Runeberg. I remember Maria-Liisa Nevala’s lectures on Scandinavian literature. I learned a lot, not names or dates, but the kind of literature that has been written in the Nordic countries.

I remember how Markku Envall lectured on aphorisms and used this as the basis of his doctoral dissertation Suomalainen aforismi. Keinoja, rakenteita, lajeja, ongelmia (Aphorisms and apothegms). I also believe in final exams, that teaching method so cheapened by learning by cramming. At the beginning of the 1980s, we revised for Finnish literature examinations by reading authors’ works and studying the literary epoch. We learned the whole picture, not just fragments.

After weeks of revising, you felt at tug in the pit of your stomach when in the main lecture theatre of Porthania the examiner declared: “you can now open the envelope.”

Books have been accumulating since her student days.


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