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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

Old Poems?

The most essential and cherished tool in the work of Lotte Tarkka, professor of folkloristics, is nearly two metres in height and bound in leather: Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot (‘Ancient Poems of the Finnish People’). This book series, published between 1908 and 1948, contains a total of around 100,000 poems, nearly all the Kalevala-metre folk poems that had been compiled by that time.

Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot is a thrilling window into the human mind, the expressive potential of the Finnish language, and the pre-modern worldview. The rough sonority of oral poetry can also be appealing to those who are not enchanted by the Kalevala as compiled by Elias Lönnrot. Oral poetry was “an equipment of living” (Kenneth Burke) for rune singers, and the spoken or sung word had both magical and social power. You can still feel it.

Now these poems have been digitised on a massive database, but there are no shortcuts for the researcher. Delving into these ancient poems is only possible through the original notes, in the archive. The Folklore Archives, maintained by the Finnish Literature Society, already became familiar to Tarkka when she was a student:

– As an intern I could play solitaire with index cards on which were written dozens of copies of unpublished poems. My task as a research assistant was to read and catalogue all the incantations published in Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot and write the commentary on them. My sense of reality dimmed while I was engrossed in that work, but my spellcasting and ear for poetry were enhanced.

Reading Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot (‘Ancient Poems of the Finnish People’). Photo by Markku Javanainen.


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