Elina Suomela-Härmä
Humanist of the day

Elina Suomela-Härmä

Professor Emerita Elina Suomela-Härmä is a specialist in Romance languages at the University of Helsinki. She defended her doctorate on medieval French literature before taking up the post of associate professor in the University of Tampere. In 1998 she was appointed the University of Helsinki’s first ever professor of Italian Philology. She retired from this position in 2014.

Elina Suomela-Härmä

Born 30 November 1946  Helsinki

Master of Arts, 1970, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1973 and Doctor of Philosophy, 1981 (University of Helsinki)

Acting Lecturer and acting Assistant in Romance Philology, 1972–81, University of Helsinki
Assistant, 1981–86, Docent, 1984–98; lecturer, 1987–92, Professor of Italian Philology, 1998–2014, University of Helsinki
Junior Researcher, Academy of Finland, 1985–87 and Researcher, 2006–07
Associate Professor and Professor of French, 1992–98, University of Tampere
Visiting Associate Professor of Finnish Language and Culture, 1988–91, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris III
Associate Professor of Medieval French Literature and Language, 1994–96, Université Paris Diderot

Publications, research projects and other academic activities

Research interests: Medieval French literature, contemporary Italian pragmatics and literature, Italian-French translation, esp. sixteenth century.

Awards and special achievements:
Chevalier des Palmes Académiques (‘French knight of the order of academic palms’)
Cavaliere dell’Ordine “Stella della Solidarietà italiana”  (‘knight of the order of the star of Italian solidarity’)
Chair, Suomen italianopettajien yhdistys (’Finnish association of Italian teachers’),1980–85
Chair, Helsinki Dante Alighieri Society, 1992–2008
Member, Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, 2002-
Board Member, 2006–12 and Chair, 2011–12, Società Internazionale di Linguistica e Filologia italiana
Board Member, 2009-, Société des Anciens Textes français ('French medieval text society')

Written by Elina Suomela-Härmä
Translated by John Calton

When researching and publishing manuscripts from early centuries you get to know the author of the text, whether this be a giant of world literature or a long-since forgotten scribe. In a category of their own are the translators, especially if we think of those from the remote past, who can so easily remain unappreciated.

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For about a decade I have had the pleasant duty to serve on the prize-giving committee for a certain Italian literary award. Italy is the promised land for literary awards and all sorts of horse-trading and shenanigans go on to secure a worthy winner. In 1994 the town of Alassio, a delightful holiday destination in Liguria, came up with the idea of establishing a literary prize, whose distinguishing feature was, and still is, that the winner would be chosen by an international panel of judges, rather than a gaggle of local gossips.

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Before moving to the Metsätalo building, the Romance Philology department had several study rooms in the Porthania building at its disposal, enough for the professor, the associate professor and an assistant. Working in the Porthania building had the distinct advantage that the library collection was close at hand, i.e. on the next floor.

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