Go Back

Heta Pyrhönen

Heta Marjatta Pyrhönen
Born December 4, 1960

Master of Arts, 1989, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1994, Doctor of Philosophy, 1998 (Comparative Literature), University of Helsinki

Professor of General Literature, 2000-
Research Assistant, Faculty of Arts, 1985-6
Research Assistant, Academy of Finland, 1986
Assistant, Department of Comparative Literature, Aesthetics and Theatre Studies (1989-90, 1992, 1994)
Doctoral Student, Graduate School for Literature and Textuality, 1995-7
Associate Professor, Comparative Literature, 1997-8

Research Interests
Popular literature, esp. crime fiction, women’s writing and writers, adaptations, narratology and psychoanalytical literary research.

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Photo: Maureen Cassidy
Written by Heta Pyrhönen, (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by John Calton

Crime...and love

My academic publications are mainly focused on literature written in English. I started off with detective novels; Murder from an Academic Angle examines the detective novel from the point of view of academic literary research. The genre has a rich and varied research history, which on the one hand is due to its applicability to nearly all approaches of literary research and on the other hand to the “acceptability” of scholars reading a genre which requires deductive skills without losing face, academic or otherwise. Mayhem and Murder: Narrative and Moral Problems in the Detective Story is my contribution to this research tradition. I examine the genre from a narratological and moral perspective, and their confluence, to demonstrate that the conventions of the genre strongly influence the thinking process of the detective, the composition of an appropriate conclusion, the shaping of moral questions and the formation of the genre’s world-view.

After the birth of my second child, when I was on parental leave, I found myself every day counting the steps that lead to the cellar where the washing machine was. (There were 12.)  In the nights when I was feeding my youngest child, I reread Charlotte Brontë’s works. These factors combined made me think of the Bluebeard tale even though our house concealed no deadly secrets.

I began to map out how the ur-text Bluebeard shapes Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre and how this particular combination has had an immense impact on British literature written by women. I wrote Bluebeard Gothic: Jane Eyre and Its Progeny, which offers a cross-section of Bluebeard gothic literature from the 19th century to the present. Its themes are important: a women’s growth into an independent agent, refusal to be victimised, survival from trauma, abandoning sugar-coated romantic formulae and challenging the patriarchy. Another equally central point was to demonstrate how these themes are treated in narrative terms. As I wrote the book, I paid attention to another particularly compelling writer, Angela Carter, whose works can be seen to have abandoned her Victorian predecessor’s way of writing.

In Jane Austen aikalaisemme (‘Jane Austen, our contemporary’), I analyse each of Jane Austen’s published novels. I dissect the author’s rich style, skilful narrative structures, scintillating characters, precisely-paced events and teasing irony. I pay attention to the flexible and far-reaching minds of the heroines, proof positive of a rich inner life. I demonstrate how it was that Austen became first a classic writer and then a cultural icon. Examining the fictional, film and televised versions of Austen’s novels allows a comparison between the age in which they were written and the differing perceptions of today. This is particularly interesting in the case of perceptions of love and marriage as the analysis shows that the prevalent conceptions of Austen’s time are no longer a part of our modern culture, although she is widely considered an “authority” on love in popular culture.

My articles deal with a great variety of topics, from hunting literature to the thematic analysis of fiction. My favourite is about the novel The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie McDonald, where I examine how a detective novel’s plot structures can be used in ‘high-brow’ literature, especially in dealing with trauma.

Some of Heta Pyrhönen's academic works. Photo: Heta Pyrhönen.​
Some of Heta Pyrhönen's academic works. Photo: Heta Pyrhönen.​


Go Back