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Jyrki Nummi

Jyrki Tapio Nummi
Born February 9, 1953, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1980, Licentiate 1985, PhD 1993 (comparative literature and aesthetics), University of Helsinki

Professor of Finnish Literature 2003–, University of Helsinki
Research Fellow, 1999, 2000-03, Academy of Finland
Lecturer in Finnish Language 1989–2003, Helsinki Institute of Technology
Visiting professor of Finnish language and literature 1987–88, Indiana University

Research themes:
(Historical) poetics, the study of the canon, modernism and genre, research on the works of, inter alia, Väinö Linna, Aleksis Kivi and Juhani Aho

Publications, projects and other academic activity

Research and development projects:
Critical Editions of the Works of Aleksis Kivi (2010–)
Suomalainen klassikkokirjasto ( ‘Library of Finnish classics’) – electronic infrastructure (2010–)

Annual award of students of Finnish literature: “Blunder of the year in a lecture,” 2011

Written by  Jyrki Nummi (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Photo: Sasa Tkalcan
Translated by Matthew Billington

Scholar of a cornerstone of Finnish literature

Jyrki Nummi, Professor of Finnish literature, has researched the prose, lyrical poetry and drama of Aleksi Kivi as part of the birth of Finnish literature in the 19th century. In this process, where Finnish literature was consciously created according to the model of great literary traditions and classics, Kivi’s works offer a multifaceted research area. Kivi familiarised himself with world literature, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Cervantes in their Swedish translations. He had a good knowledge of the classics of antiquity and the renaissance and an intimate knowledge of the Bible and the psalms, and he incorporated traditions both small and large into his work. At the beginning of the 20th century, Viljo Tarkiainen already investigated the writer’s inspirations and models. Tarkianen’s background was nevertheless in positivist source-based research, and he failed to progress from authenticating the works to an analysis of the results of the creative process of integration. In contrast, modern research is interested, for instance, in how biblical quotes offer a limitless source of comedy throughout Kivi’s entire literary production, how the multiple plots of renaissance comedy are built into Nummisuutarit (Heath Cobblers), how classical symposium literature shapes the dialogical structures in Seven Brothers or how the symmetry and predimental nature of Homeric epic poetry is manifested in Seven Brothers.

There have also been changes in how Kivi himself is viewed. The picture of a bruised, downtrodden and misunderstood poet was an important symbol of identity for turn-of-the-century artists and later for the Finnish speaking academic elite of the newly independent country. There is no longer a demand for this picture, and the image of an unlearned, natural genius has given way to that of a determined, professional writer well aware of his ability.

Photo: Sasa Tkalcan


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