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Mervi Helkkula

Born May 27, 1957, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1982, Licentiate in Philosophy 1988 and Doctor of Philosophy 2000 (French Philology), University of Helsinki

Professor of French Language, University of Helsinki 2000-
Assistant in Romance Philology 1993–2000
Researcher 1987–93
Research assistant for a research project, Academy of Finland 1985–87

Publications, research projects and other scientific activities
Research areas: linguistic examination of French literature, text linguistics, stylistics, contrastive linguistics

Photo: Mika Federley
Written by Mervi Helkkula and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by Johanna Spoof. Revised by John Calton

Combining Linguistics and Literary Studies

Mervi Helkkula is a professor of French language whose research areas cover both language and literature. The common thread running through all of her research is textuality. She has adopted a research approach which involves text linguistics, stylistics, or pragmatics, or a combination of these.

Helkkula's publications deal with the stylistic and narrative features of works by Marcel Proust, Gustave Flaubert and Jean Echenoz. She is currently researching topics such as violence expressed through language and the occurrence of various negative emotions in literary texts, especially in contemporary French literature. Her focus is on the interaction between the text and its reader, paying particular attention to the ambivalent feelings the text evokes in the reader.  

Helkkula aims to combine both linguistic and literary approaches in her teaching, too. It’s interesting to note that linguists often perceive her to be a literary scholar, whereas for literary scholars she is clearly a linguist; this facility with distinctive fields can be seen as either a strength or a weakness. On the other hand, it’s a profile that fits well with the concept of philology broadly defined.

Mervi Heikkula served as the head of the Department of Romance Languages between 2006 and 2009 and has been on the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Arts since 2010. She is also a member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters.



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