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Pirjo Hiidenmaa

Pirjo Anneli Hiidenmaa
Born February 6, 1959, Anttola.

MA 1986 and PhD 1995 (Finnish language), University of Helsinki

Professor of Non-fiction Studies and Non-fiction Writing, University of Helsinki 1.1.2015-

Previously involved in much research, teaching and specialist work (the Institute for the Languages of Finland,  the Academy of Finland and the University of Helsinki). She has also worked as the Director of the Open University of the University of Helsinki and the Palmenia Centre for Continuing Education. Hiidenmaa was Chair of the Finnish Association of Non-fiction Writers (2003-11) and has been President of the European Writers’ Council since 2009.

Publications, research projects and other academic involvement
Research areas: Non-fiction, communicating science, status of non-fiction writing in communication flows, research in text and discourse, textual pragmatics and context analysis

Awards and special achievements:
The Finnish Literature Society Doctoral Dissertation Award in 1995

Photo: Linda Lappalainen
Written by Pirjo Hiidenmaa and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by Kaisla Kajava. Revised by John Calton.

Non-fiction gets its Professor

Pirjo Hiidenmaa has been appointed Professor of Non-fiction Studies and Non-fiction Writing at the Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies with effect from 1 January 2015.

The new professorship is the first in its field in Finland, as other literary professorships have been related to research and teaching in fiction. A professorship in non-fiction is more than relevant, since 80 per cent of Finnish writing today is non-fiction.

Non-fiction, communicating science, academic continuing education and the role of research and scholars in society have long been the central themes in Hiidenmaa’s work. Her key concern is the construction of information in the contexts of research, teaching and university administration alike: how information is conceived, how it is presented through language and in texts, and how different understandings are negotiated.

Professor Pirjo Hiidenmaa does research on non-fiction in a changing information environment, taking as her focus its genres, writers and just a little on its readers. Communication may be fast or slow, long or short, unidirectional or multidirectional, social or anti-social. Literature is slow, long, unidirectional and anti-social, but it intersects in many places with fast, short, multidirectional and social media. Hiidenmaa studies the role of non-fiction writing in the communication of information where many agents, media and operating principles are in play. 

Hiidenmaa began her career in text and discourse research, gaining expertise in purpose- and context-oriented approaches to texts. From there, her horizons have extended to the study of various media, different communicative functions and the study of audiences.

Photo: Mika Federley​​​​

Professor Hiidenmaa wants to combine teaching and research. As part of her first non-fiction course she will organise an exhibition called “Yliopisto kirjoittaa” (‘The University writes”) with her students in the Kaisa Library during the year 2015. Students taking the course will find out just how much non-fiction and educational literature is written at the university: for whom, in which languages, on what topics and in what form. It is particularly interesting to examine changes in authorship: does the literature consist of independently-authored monographs, separate articles in compilations or collaborative articles or books?

The relationship between, and relative status of, digital and printed books (‘e- and p-books’) amidst the changes happening in the publishing world are also pertinent. Alongside the analysis of publications, various ways of presenting information will be studied and a hands-on exhibition will be mounted using videos, infographics and captions.

The founding of the professorship in non-fiction was made possible by donations made to our university by the Centre for the Promotion of Non-fiction, the Finnish Association of Non-fiction Writers, Tieteen tiedotus ry, and the Lauri Jäntti Foundation.

Donations are of course good in that they make the professorship possible, but an even greater ‘fund’ would be the creation, through the donor communities, of a vast network of interested and like-minded people for future collaboration and discussion, as well as both critics and connoisseurs.

Further teaching and research supported by donations at the Faculty of Arts

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