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Kirsti Simonsuuri

Kirsti Katariina Simonsuuri
Born December 26, 1945, Helsinki

Postgraduate Diploma in English Studies (MA) 1969, University of Edinburgh
Master of Arts (English Philology) 1971, University of Helsinki
PhD 1977, Newnham College Cambridge
Docent in general literature 1981–, University of Turku
Docent in the history of literature 1984–, University of Helsinki

Writer and researcher of ancient literature
Assistant professor and acting professor of literature 1978–1981, University of Oulu
Researcher 1971–1977 and 2003, Cambridge; 1984–1986, Strasbourg and Boston 1986–1988 New York; 1989–1990 Paris; 1992–1993 and 2001 Berlin; 1994 Oxford; 2003–2004 Budapest and 2006–2007 Uppsala
British Academy Wolfson Fellow 1981–1982, Warburg Institute London
Director, 1995–1997, The Finnish Institute at Athens
Academy of Finland researcher 2000–2006
European Research Council expert panel member 2007–2010

Photo: Ingrid von Kruse
Written by Kirsti Katariina Simonsuuri (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta​ ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Opening the doorway to reflection

It is difficult for me to imagine the work of a researcher in the humanities from a monologous or mono-cultural perspective. Scholarly research topics are road signs indicating new possibilities; they never claim that things must be explained in a certain way. In my opinion, research in the humanities is a form of philosophical reflection.

I think of a university as a model or universal structure where freedom of thought is as wide as possible. A universe or free path, which must be constantly cleared. How research tasks are set can vary, but the essential goal of research questions themselves cannot change that much.

Kirsti Simonsuuri in Athens. Mount Lycabettus in the background.

Research can be exile or emigrant research – thus I think that someone starting out on a research career should always be able to wrench themselves free of the shackles of the current situation. Top European research has often been done in exile – with excellent results. My teachers came my way as if by chance, first in Helsinki, then in Edinburgh, Paris and London, and seeking was sort of self-evident. Ancient culture was a vast base from which to begin – as dangerous as the Mediterranean Sea. There were already teachers in Helsinki, as I have written before in many contexts. There were also teachers at the Warburg Institute, at Villa Serbellon, and at many other institutions within universities, such as the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, the Collegium in Budapest, the department of classics in Paris or the SCAS at the University of Uppsala.

Photo caption: Kirsti Simonsuuri in Athens.

The best that a university can offer are broad-minded teachers whose stance on life and work is actively transmitted strongly enough for it to be understood by every student struggling with the development of his or her identity. The birth of new insight is not self-evident. It requires a complex yet clear process, which opens the doorway to reflection.

Kirsti Simonsuuri with the Great Theatre of Epidaurus visible in the background.


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