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Pirjo Lyytikäinen

Pirjo Riitta Lyytikäinen
Born October 10, 1953 Helsinki

Master of Philosophy 1986 and Doctor of Philosophy 1992 (Finnish Literature), University of Helsinki; Professor of Finnish Literature 1998- (University of Helsinki); Researcher, University of Helsinki 1987-90 (Kone Foundation grantholder), Assistant 1990-93 (University of Helsinki), Senior Researcher 1994-98 (Academy of Finland)

Publications, research projects and other academic activities

Research interests:  Early modernist periods in Finnish literature, concentrating on turn of the century symbolism and decadence through to the modernism of the 1930s; international  influences on Finnish literature; literary genres and issues of allegory; allegorical nature fantasies, from Alexis Kivi’s romance to contemporary fiction and their relationship to international literary traditions; recent research concerns: literature and emotions.

Prize for non-fiction, Finnish Association of Non-fiction Writers 2014.

Written by Pirjo Lyytikäinen
Translated by John Calton, Kaisla Kajava and Johanna Spoof. Revised by John Calton

Finnish literature, European culture

Professor Pirjo Lyytikäinen has researched the development of Finnish literature and its connection to international currents, genre traditions and philosophical trends. The interchange between literary texts, genres and the repertoires of particular periods, together with intertextuality, form a central part of this research endeavour.

Her research focus has been on key texts of Finnish fiction in the age of modernity and classical Finnish authors. Initially, Lyytikäinen conducted research on Volter Kilpi, moving on to symbolism and decadence. More recently she has revisited the research tradition centring on Aleksis Kivi’s Seven Brothers (Seitsemän veljestä). She has also written the first monograph on the works of the author Leena Krohn.

In recent years, Lyytikäinen has directed Finnish literary research towards imaginary worlds and the emotional impact of literature. This started out with the Styles of Mimesis project, funded by the Academy of Finland (2008-10), which involved researchers of Finnish, comparative literature and English literature. Since then she has been active in establishing the research group on affectivity and emotion in language and fiction at the Faculty of Arts with the aim of investigating, through multidisciplinary collaboration, emotional responses to literature. She also enjoys co-operation with literary scholars from the Universities of Tampere and Jyväskylä. Funding bids have been submitted for a new Literature and Emotions research project.

In her work as director of the national doctoral programme for literary studies between 2007 and 2013, Professor Lyytikäinen laid special emphasis on the programme’s international co-operation. Her teaching and supervising activities in the PhDnet in Literary and Cultural Studies, a five-nation doctoral network (2008-13), and in the organising committee of the international Hermes summer school have also led to research collaboration on genres and emotion.

During her time chairing the doctoral programme, Pirjo Lyytikäinen organised annual international conferences in the University, bringing together leading literary scholars and postgraduates, followed up by the publication of academic anthologies on the themes of the conferences; the most recent of these is Imagining Spaces and Places (2013), and Values in Literature is forthcoming.

Professor Lyytikäinen initiated an international research network on literary decadence in 2010. The network has resulted in conferences and subsequent proceedings. Lyytikäinen’s most recent article, ‘Decadent Tropologies of Sickness’, is very much in this contemporary vein.

Lyytikäinen’s 1992 monograph Mielen meri, elämän pidot (‘The Sea of Mind, the Symposium of Life’) is a groundbreaking study of Volter Kilpi’s novel Alastalon salissa (‘In the parlour at Alastalo’), and it raised Kilpi, deservedly, to the status of classic author. The 1997 study Narkissos ja sfinksi (‘Narcissus and the sphinx’), widely used as a textbook, demonstrates how at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century the central currents of Finnish literature were bound up with the international movements of the age. As for Kivi’s Seven Brothers, in her 2004 study Vimman villityt pojat (‘Brothers wild with rage’) Lyytikäinen reads the work as a text of romantic transgression.

Her latest (2013) monograph Leena Krohn ja allegorian kaupungit (‘Leena Krohn and cities of allegory’) for its part gets to grips with the fantastic realm of Finnish contemporary literature’s most important author.

Lyytikäinen’s English-language academic articles mostly cover her research on Finnish literature, but there are more theoretical articles as well as edited anthologies focussing on a variety of themes.

Photo: Pirjo Lyytikäinen.​


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