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Lotte Tarkka

Lotte Maria Tarkka
Born January 19, 1963, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1989, Licentiate 1994, PhD 2005 (folkloristics), University of Helsinki
Docent in folkloristics 2007–09, University of Helsinki

Professor of folkloristics 2009–, University of Helsinki
Acting professor of folkloristics 2007, University of Helsinki
Postdoctoral assistant 2006–09, University of Helsinki
Research associate 1999–2006, University of Helsinki
Research assistant 1992–95, Oral Epics project led by Academy Professor Lauri Honko
Research associate in folkloristics 1991–96, University of Turku

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Academy of Finland research project Oral Poetry, Mythic Knowledge and Vernacular Imagination: Interfaces of Individual Expression and Collective Traditions in Pre-Modern Northeast Europe (2012–16); Cultural Meanings and Vernacular Genres research group

Research themes:
Kalevala-metre folk poetry, the Kalevala, mythology and folk religion, verbal magic, epics, genre theory, intertextual analysis, performance analysis, textualisation, proverbs, the transformation of tradition, the ideological use of folklore, Viena Karelia

Awards and special achievements
The Kalevala award of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters 2007

First prize, Stadin kompostikisa (‘Helsinki compost competition’) 2003

Kalevala Society junior researcher award 1990

Best Master’s Thesis Award, University of Helsinki Faculty of Arts 1990

Photo: Markku Javanainen
Written by Lotte Tarkka (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

My Best Moments from the University of Helsinki

My University is plural:it is a community, a state of mind, and an institution. All these have their best moments.

Research and teaching are communal enterprises, communication. The research community within folkloristics is a tightly-knit unit, with a sense of solidarity and an eagerness to engage in dialogue, and many of my best moments at the University are related to this. Our intellectual collective also shares its meals and an anarchic sense of humour based on plays on words. It helps us keep going. We have also achieved results, and Cultural Meanings and Vernacular Genres, a research team of folklorists from the University of Helsinki, received formal recognition for excellence in a research evaluation carried out between 2010 and 2012. Part of the communal spirit is also a feeling of continuity. Two of my best moments involve doctoral defences. The Custos at my own doctoral defence was my teacher, academician Anna-Leena Siikala, and nine years later, in winter 2015, I had the opportunity to be Custos myself when the first student I had taught from master’s thesis to PhD defended their doctoral thesis.

Custos Chain, part 1. Anna-Leena Siikala (on the left) as the Custos at Lotte Tarkka’s doctoral defence in 2005, and in 2014 Lotte Tarkka (on the left) as the Custos for Ulla Savolainen. Drawing by Ami Lindholm.
Photo: Markku Javanainen.

The other half of the university community is the students. Every year the freshers inspire and initiate new projects. It is a privilege to closely follow the workings of their critical minds and the growth of their courage. Although teaching and research compete for the same limited time, they still need one another.

For me, the University, as an institution, represents humanistic values, the most perfect manifestations of which are docent lectures. Their evaluation is definitely the most rewarding of my administrative duties. The scale and depth of humanities research is crystallised in these lectures, which last all morning—from metaphysics to ethnography and back, from images to texts and sounds, from the past to the future. When future docents put their best foot forward, you can witness the meeting of passion and expertise. Then I feel I am at home.

As a state of mind, the University relates to research. The community and the institution account for the lion’s share of university life, but those intense moments when you can focus on thinking are the heart of this work. Although I study oral poetry, I think in writing and I remember by seeing. I work in text.

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