Go Back

Lieven Ameel

Born 9.11.1978, Hasselt (Belgium)

Doctor of Philosophy 2013 (Finnish Literature, Comparative Literature), University of Helsinki & JLU Giessen (Germany)
Master of Arts 2006 (Finnish Language and Culture), University of Helsinki
Master of Arts 2000 (English and Dutch Philology), University of Ghent

Postdoctoral Researcher 2013–2016, University of Helsinki (funded by the Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth Foundation and the Kone Foundation)
Junior researcher/doctoral student 2008–2013, University of Helsinki, Finnish Literature
Translator and teacher 2001-

Recent publications, projects and other scientific activities
Research interests: City in literature, parkour, narrative planning

Helsinki Literature and the City Network founder and coordinator
Finnish Society for Urban Studies board member

Written by Lieven Ameel (Tomas Sjöblom, ed.)

In Search of the Literary City

Lieven Ameel has long been interested in how space, and urban space, in particular, is experienced, and how this experience is rendered in literature. This research interest, combined with his fascination for Helsinki, became the subject for his doctoral dissertation, in which he examined experiences of the city in literature written in Finnish during 1890–1940.

Lieven Ameel shows that Helsinki literature evokes a surprisingly wide range of urban experiences that is much more complex than contemporary critics have claimed, or than would appear from the limited attention that has been given to this topic during most of the last century. Contrary to the depreciative idea of literary Helsinki as an eternal Cinderella, Finnish prose literature set in Helsinki in this period is conspicuously rich, both in quantitative terms and in the range of experiences it covers.

Ameel’s study involved analysing more than sixty novels, collections of short stories and individual short stories. Rather than focusing on description, he looked, in particular, at the way in which urban public space is experienced, and at the description of movement through urban space. On the basis of his dissertation, the Finnish Literature Society published an abridged, peer reviewed monograph: Helsinki in Early Twentieth-Century Literature (2014), which is still the only academic monograph that examines Helsinki in Finnish-written literature.

The new picture of literary Helsinki that arises from Ameel’s research has several intriguing consequences. It puts into new perspective established authors who are relatively unknown as prolific, and complex, Helsinki-authors (Eino Leino is a case in point). It puts into question the received Finnish literary canon, adding a distinctly urban interest. It further questions the perceived centrality of the forest (or more broadly, natural environments) in dominant popularizing depictions of Finnish cultural history. It also contributes to laying the foundations for a further examination of Helsinki, its literature, and more broadly the mindscapes it has produced and informed.

Photo: Linda Tammisto.​
Photo: Linda Tammisto.​


Go Back