The keynote lectures

Hassan Blasim: “Between the Margin and the Taboo”

The title of Hassan Blasim’s presentation, “Between the margin and the taboo”, uncovers his precarious position in the transnational literary field. When he started his career as a writer, no publisher in Arabic world would publish his work because of the various linguistic, cultural and religious taboos he was breaking in his texts, while in Finland, where he has lived since 2004, no one seemed to pay any interest in Arabic literature. However, the publication of Madman of the Freedom Square (2009, transl. Jonathan Wright) in UK opened up the literary world to his stories.

Hassan Blasim is a filmmaker and short story writer. He was born in Baghdad in 1973, but has lived in Finland since 2004. He writes in Arabic but his books have been translated to several languages, including Danish, Finnish, Icelandic and Swedish.

Blasim's debut collection in English, The Madman of Freedom Square was published in 2009. It was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2010. In 2010, Blasim was described by The Guardian newspaper as “perhaps the greatest writer of Arabic fiction alive”. His second collection, The Iraqi Christ was published in 2013. A selection of stories from both of his two collections was published in the USA in 2014, by Penguin USA, under the title The Corpse Exhibition.

In 2014, The Iraqi Christ was announced the winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize – the first Arabic title ever to win the award and the first short collection ever to win the award. In 2015 Blasim won the highly esteemed Finland Prize.

Helena Bodin: ”So Let Me Remain a Stranger”. Multilingualism and Biscriptalism in the Works of Finno-Swedish writer Tito Colliander

The Finno-Swedish writer Tito Colliander (1904-1989) lived in Borgå and Helsinki but was born and grew up in St Petersburg, and for many years he stayed in the Finno-Russian and Estonian-Soviet borderlands at the Karelian Isthmus. His Swedophone memoirs, published in seven volumes between 1964 and 1973, portray his multilingual childhood. As he describes it, there was never any mother tongue in his family – they used Swedish, Finnish, Russian, German and English alternately. In a few cases he even inserts words and phrases in Cyrillic script in his narration.

My intention in this talk is to examine the importance of Colliander’s use of Russian and Cyrillic script for his poetics, as it appears in his memoirs, where his decision to become a Russian-Orthodox Christian forms the peripeteia. Issues such as the complex relationship between poetry and mysticism, translingual life-writing (Ausoni), literary multilingualism (Tidigs), and monolingual readers and a bi- or heterolingual address (Grutman, Sakai) will be discussed. Various literary and translational strategies, by which Russian culture is not only thematized or referred to but is made present to the reader, are also highlighted.

It is demonstrated that multilingualism and biscriptalism play a decisive role in the rendered diasporic Christian identity of Colliander, which is characterized by a continuous feeling of being exiled – in concordance with Early Christian writings but realized in a late modern literary context.

Helena Bodin is Associate Professor in Literature at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics at Stockholm University (Sweden) and The Newman Institute (Uppsala, Sweden).

Her research concerns the functions of literature at boundaries such as between languages, nations, arts and media. She has particularly studied modern literature's engagement with the Byzantine Orthodox Christian tradition, from the various perspectives of cultural semiotics, intermedial studies, and translation studies, including aspects of multilingualism.

She has published the monographs Bruken av Bysans [Uses of Byzantium] (2011), including chapters on Hagar Olsson and Tito Colliander, and Ikon och ekfras [Icon and ekphrasis] (2013), including chapters on the poetry of Gunnar Ekelöf. Recently, she has also published articles on Sophie Elkan’s ambiguous dream of the Orient, the childhood narratives and pictures of Ilon Wikland on her exile from Estonia to Sweden, and the issue of Byzantinism from a cultural semiotic perspective, all of them from 2015.

From 2016 she is one of the members of the research program "Cosmopolitan and Vernacular Dynamics in World Literatures”, with a project on representations of Constantinople in literary fin-de-siècle and high modernism, by that time a multiethnic, multireligious and multilingual city with a diversity of writing systems in use.

Cia Rinne: "L'usage du mot, or: Noises, Voices, Languages, Media. A Reading and Conversation with Cia Rinne" (Cia Rinne, Berlin/Sweden, Julia Tidigs (University of Helsinki, Finland & Markus Huss, Södertörn University, Sweden)

The poet Cia Rinne will give a reading of her works L'usage du mot (2016) and notes for soloists (2009), followed by a conversation with Julia Tidigs and Markus Huss. Questions to be explored in the discussion include: How should we understand the use of different languages and media in contemporary poetic/literary production? What does it concretely mean to work in a multilingual and transnational space such as contemporary sound poetry? What institutional frameworks promote or hinder poetry moving beyond national borders? How do these texts find their readers - and who are they?

Cia Rinne is a transnational poet and artist, born in Sweden to Finnish parents, living in Berlin and with a relationship to many languages. Her writing is intensely multilingual, as well as exposing the material qualities of language – its auditive as well as visual aspects – and takes place on multiple material levels: in the shape of printed poetry collections (zaroum, 2001, notes for soloists, 2009); in digital, online versions (archives zaroum, 2008); as sound collages (sounds for soloists, 2011, together with Sebastian Eskildsen); her live, singular performances, as well as performances in art museums and exhibitions.

Aside from her poetic work, Rinne has written about seven different Roma communities in The Roma Journeys / Die Romareisen (2007/2009, together with Joakim Eskildsen). 2016 sees the publication of Rinne's newest collection of poetry, l’usage du mot (kookbooks).

Workshop papers

Kaisa Ahvenjärvi (University of Jyväskylä)

The Question of Language in Sámi Literature

Sámi languages are among the threatened minority and indigenous languages in the world. Today, all the Sámi are bi-, often tri-lingual. Against all odds, most of Sámi literature is written and published in Sámi languages. The pioneers, who started their literary career in the 1980s (e.g. Rauni Magga Lukkari and Kirste Paltto), chose to use their mother tongue even though they had learned to read and write in majority languages at school. Today, not all the Sámi authors have the possibility to choose their writing language as the colonial practices of the Nordic states have silenced and wounded the Sámi languages and communities. Many families have lost their language decades ago. Thus, Sámi literature is published also in the majority languages.

This presentation scrutinizes the question of language in contemporary Sámi poetry. Whose voice is heard in the poems? Who is able to listen to these voices? What kind of role does multilingualism have in Sámi poetry? What are the effects of translation and publishing practices and difficulties for poetry?


Elisabeth Friis (University of Lund)

Rearticulating “The Mother Tongue”

The idea of “The Mother Tongue” as an expression of an assumed link between nation, identity and language is currently undergoing critical investigation [Yildiz: 2012]. This investigation is connected to a long range of critical investigations of the monolinguistic paradigm’s inherited centrifugal/de-territorializing and centripetal/territorializing  (fx Bahktin/Deleuze/Guattari/Glissant) but in the more experimental end of Post-colonial and migrant literature and performance art we also meet interesting work that seem to establish relations between “Mother” and “Language” that rearticulate and perhaps even revaluate the nation-identity-language-mother-construction. The multilinguistic, aesthetic play with “the place of the mother” can in unexpected ways include the “double-bind” that is the multilingual artist/writer’s point of departure – a double-bind which Greenlandic artist and writer Pia Arke in Ethnoaesthetics/Etnoæstetik described as: “the constant, ironic interplay between similarity and difference characteristic of global modernity”. [Arke: 1995].

 My paper will discuss a recent Greenlandic example of an aesthetic negotiation of the Mother Tongue, Greenlandic Performance artist and poet Jessie Kleeman’s text “Eskimothertongue” [2012] and briefly open a perspective onto other contemporary poets from Scandinavia working on the same matter, Athena Farrokzhad (S) and Maja Lee Langvad (DK).


Natia Gokieli (Humboldt-University Berlin)

Noise or Voice? Language and 'Immigrant' Identities in and around Jonas Hassen Khemiri's Novels

When in 2003 Jonas Hassen Khemiri's first novel 'Ett öga rött' earned glowing praises as the long-awaited depiction of Sweden's marginal realities, in the interviews the author denied any political intention of the text, and vigorously refused the label of the authentic voice of a 'real migrant'. 10 years later Khemiri's open letter to Sweden's Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask in Dagens Nyheter, in which he joined his voice into a public debate over immigration and ethnic discrimination, became the most shared article in Sweden’s online history.

This presentation stresses the role of literature in illustrating asymmetrical power structures that create discriminative categories and discusses performative troubles with the standard language, 'immigrant' bodies and normative gaze in literary and mass media discourse on national identities. Echoing Spivak's question about the power of voice, Khemiri uses literature in the broadest sense as a subversive platform for renegotiations of 'Swedishness' and 'Otherness'. Fascination and repulsion go hand in hand when the nearly insurmountable distance between the standard and the ethnicized language is challenged. Can the rule be questioned and if so, who has the right to do so? When does a literary voice become a noise?


Heidi Grönstrand (Stockholm University /University of Turku)

Translation as a Negotiation of Bordering Practices

In her paper, Grönstrand considers the fact that whereas literature has become more multilingual and transnational than ever before, the language hierarchies of the national literary fields have not necessarily adjusted to this change. The local literary field is organized on the grounds of the language norms originating in the heydays of nationalism, and multilingual literature has difficulties in integrating into it. In Finland, the literary field is formed around the two official languages of the country, Finnish and Swedish. The division into separate publishing houses, literary societies and associations and partly separate literary traditions and canons, too, defined by language, still predominates. For works that are written in non-dominant languages, translations are necessary in order to attract attention (and readers) in the local literary field. Various kinds of translation strategies are also employed when dealing with multilingualism in texts in which the main language is Finnish or Swedish.

In Grönstrand’s paper, translation is understood as one way of responding to and negotiating the bordering practices of the literary field. By looking at the translation strategies in different kinds of published autobiographies, a genre that often deals with language memories and language shift and is well-represented in contemporary multilingual literature in Finland, she demonstrates how translation is actively involved in re-formulating the relations between the languages of the literary field, and ultimately also the concept of language.


Markus Huss (University of Södertörn)

Conversations in Misspelled English”: Partial Comprehension and the Depths of Language in Tomas Tranströmer’s Östersjöar (Baltics).

In his presentation, Huss will explore how borders between languages and sounds, understanding and misunderstanding are negotiated in Tomas Tranströmers poem Östersjöar (1974), or Baltics. In connection to this, Huss will probe the question of how the poem can help us explore the theoretical problem of literary multilingualism: How is literary multilingualism to be understood, and what pitfalls does a final definition of the concept entail? Drawing on scholarship underlying the need to take readers with different linguistic backgrounds into account in the study of literary multilingualism (Sommer, Tidigs), as opposed to limiting literary multilingualism to a question of authors’ linguistic backgrounds and the number of (most often national) languages present in the particular text, Huss will demonstrate how Tranströmer’s poem draws attention to the malleable border between sound and language, understanding and misunderstanding. The poem is shown to thematize partial fluency, misunderstanding and precarious communication in a translational, multilingual setting, opening up a space for philosophical, existential and political reflection. In this way, the poem according to Huss offers a fascinating opportunity to rethink common assumptions regarding how to understand a language and languages, the function of partial understanding and the creative potential of misunderstanding/miscomprehension in a literary multilingual setting.


Eszter Éva Hörcher (Holocaust Memorial Center, Budapest)

The Appearance of Demonstration in Contemporary Finnish Novels 

The presentation focuses on the relationship of the demonstrative expression and the translation’s role. It analyses contemporary Finnish novels, across emphasized examples which also have been published in Hungary, concretely novels of Sofi Oksanen, Katja Kettu, Elina Hirvonen, Kari Hotakainen and Tuomas Kyrö. There are mentionable authors and works, which can be connected to the main questions, like Tuula-Liina Varis or Susanna Alakoski’s texts.

The authors mediate moods and emphasize important social and political (historical) questions and problems (as categories), which are realized and cognizable by lingual aptitudes. The punctual and possible translation can mirror the wills of the author, the national and international particularities, and it has awareness-raising nature. The voicing and silence have philosophical meaning in these literary manifestations and translations, as material and a common language, which can mediate the important issues. Sometimes the author softens the theme by humour (Tuomas Kyrö’s Kerjäläinen ja jänis).

Next to literary and historic nature, there are spiritual and psychological correlations in written texts, which concern to society and people by given characters. Authors deal with essential contemporary phenomena (Estonian, Russian socialism in Sofi Oksanen’s novels, Nazi and Finnish relationships in Katja Kettu’s Kätilö) in Europe or other continents (about African circumstances in Elina Hirvonen’s Kauimpana kuolemasta) and depict the fate of man, empathy, defencelessness or vulnerability in novels by the narrative and characters, for instance young women are under sexual and eating compulsion in Oksanen’s novels (Puhdistus, Stalinin lehmät), and categories of fashion and criminals.

These works can be interpreted by combined structure of three concepts (society, politics, psychology), language aesthetics, lingual expressions, narrative, time and chronology, existentialism, ontology (Kari Hotakainen’s Ihmisen osa), as well as beauty.


Kristina Leganger Iversen (University of Oslo)

“Å få en degos til å oversette en perker”. Representations of the Migrant Voice in Poems by Yahya Hassan and Pedro Carmona-Alvarez

Voice and identity have been central topics in the academic criticism of Yahya Hassan’s Yahya Hassan (2013), (Pedersen 2015; Hoffman 2014; Kjerkegaard 2015). In this paper I wish to focus on representations of the migrant voice in two long poems, “Langdikt” from Yahya Hassan and “Om å oversette Yahya Hassan” from Samtaler med onkel Nico og tante Viola (2015) by the Norwegian poet and translator Pedro Carmona-Alvarez. Both poems explore how the migrant’s poetical voice is created in negotiation with the racialized expectations stemming from a predominantly white, middle class literary community. Read in light of Magnus Nilsson’s term “the ethnic lens” (Nilsson 2010), I wish to focus on how these poems narrate the relationship between a non-white body and a poetical praxis, and investigate the poems’ different means of resistance towards the racialized and limiting expectations emanating from the literary community.


Maïmouna Jagne-Soreau (University of Helsinki/ Paris‐Sorbonne)

Rinkebysvenska, Perkerdansk and Kebabnorsk: The Rising of the Postmigration’s Generation in Nordic Literature

In my paper, I will analyze the works of Hassen Khemiri (Ett öga rött, 2003), Yahya Hassan (Yayha Hassan, 2013), and Maria Navarro Skaranger (Alle utlendinger har lukka gardiner, 2015) from a postnational perspective, and will problematize the use of "ethnicity as capital"(cf Magnus Nilsson) and the search for "the voice of the migrants". My aim is to show how the use of Rinkebysvenska, Perkerdansk and Kebabnorsk in those works is used strategically, and can been seen as important in a new rising voice: the postmigration generation.

I will furthermore discuss the term postmigration literature, which I develop in opposition to the idea of “immigrant literature”. Finally, I argue that this–relatively-­‐new postmigration tendency   in Nordic literature is defined by the use of irony and satire, a play with the cliché about immigration and integration, the expression of in-betweenness, and often (but not always), the use of sociolect, discussed in linguistic as “multietnolect”.

Ralf Kauranen (University of Turku)

De-bordering Comics Culture: Multilingual Publishing in the Finnish Field of Comics

Ralf Kauranen analyses the practices of multilingual publishing in Finnish comics. Since the 1990s comics artists and publishers in Finland have shown an increasing transnational orientation. This has meant that new conventions in the linguistic politics of publishing have been established. An increasing number of comics are published in English. Moreover, a substantial number of comics are bi- or multilingual; that is, comics in Finnish are equipped with English translations. Often these are submitted as so-called subtitles posted in the bottom margin of a (otherwise Finnish) publication, but they also come as appendices. In addition, more elaborate forms of presentation exist, where the Finnish and English versions run parallel and in a more balanced relation to the images of the comics. The focus of the paper is on the development and variations of the practice, on their implications for linguistic borders in comics culture on an institutional level, and in comics as a multimodal art form.

On the institutional level, the analysis posits the multilingual strategy in a framework of a transnational comics field, in which national and linguistic borders are increasingly being questioned and transcended. Multilingualism is considered an aspect of the transnational or cosmopolitan aesthetic outlook of comics publishing (cf. Beaty 2007), and is thus related to the communicability of comics over various cultural, national and linguistic borders. Bi- or multilingual publishing thus de-borders comics culture, while it simultaneously reproduces other borders, for example, by maintaining English as a lingua franca of comics culture. In relation to the multimodal framework of representation characteristic of comics, the connections between the verbal and visual are formed in different ways based on the chosen practice of multilingual presentation: these both invite variegated reading paths (connected to the linguistic competencies of different reader positions) and posit textual elements in different languages in distinct relations to the visuality of the comics page. This, in turn, has consequences for the ways in which comics can transcend linguistic and national borders.


Kaisa Koskinen (University of Tampere)

Translational Noises and Voices in a Literature Event: The Case of the Poetry Marathon 2016

More often than not, multilingual practices contain translational elements: two or more languages meet and mingle in ways that reflect and repeat content. The conference CFP states that “languages might turn up in unexpected places and assume different guises.” The same goes for translation. The more linguistic hybridity in literature is celebrated, and the more literature travels to new audiences, the more the various literary institutions rely on translation, but how that relying happens in practise is little studied. In my paper, I will present the results of a small-scale fieldwork experiment where I visited a literature event, the Poetry Marathon in Lahti, and observed the various translational practices involved in its programme during one day (18.6.2016). In the entire Saturday programme there was only one act involving poetry where translation played no significant role; all other performances had some connections to it, and they all had different approaches to tackling with the necessity of translating. Taking my cue from the conference title, I will pay particular attention to the voice or voicelessness of the translator (whose voice is it anyway?), the auditory or visual representation of translatorial material (voiced and silenced translation/original) and the status and centrality of its role (is it noise or does it have a voice?).


Michal Kovář (Masaryk University, Brno)

Silence and Text in Bengt Pohjanen’s The Realm of Faravid

The theme of the novel The Realm of Faravid by the Meänkieli author Bengt Pohjanen is dichotomy between memory and history, orality and literacy, personal identity and power. In the novel, different expressions and voices are set into an opposition with silence. Even the silence itself is stratified here: the “silence about” and the “silence of”, while the following one might be understood as an utterance, usually used in collocation with topoi of natural phenomena. Such “silence of” is full of meaning, and it is probably related to the silent potentiality of a text and sign (Pohjanen’s term “siima” < ‘séma’). However, is this analogy or similar type of relationship correct? Isn’t the “silence of” rather a voice, unbound for understanding in another way than the text? Has the “silence of” happened only in Meänkieli, and the “silence about” in Swedish? Is it a (text-like) petrification of memory or is it a stream of the memory itself?


Sirkku Latomaa (University of Tampere)

Multilingual Voices in the Making of Art

For a long time, the ideal of monolingualism infused the humanities and, therefore, the awareness of the importance and omnipresence of multilingualism, for example, in various fields of art has grown only during the past decades. A recent study (Latomaa, Saukkonen  & Sriebaliute-Norho 2016) analysed those 58 projects that were funded in the thematic grant call Multilingualism and Art by Kone Foundation. It was found out that multilingualism is present in the arts in many ways. Not surprisingly, art forms in which language plays a key role, such as literature and theatre, were prominent among the projects. However, there were also art forms in which the combination of multilingualism and the arts is not as self-evident or expected, such as dance, the visual arts, music and architecture. Collectively, the Multilingualism and Art projects demonstrate that multilingualism has a natural place in any area of cultural activity, and that there are a multitude of ways to combine multilingualism and art.

The present paper will look at the viewpoints that the artists expressed on the significance of multilingualism. Furthermore, it will be discussed how these viewpoints manifested themselves in various art forms and ways of creating art.


Karoliina Lummaa (University of Turku)

Avian Voices in Estonian and Finnish Literature (a Panel)

Fictional and non-fictional bird writing continues to attract wide audiences in Estonia and Finland. Literary descriptions of avian life and transcriptions of bird songs and calls evoke many interesting questions: what meanings do birds have in literature, and how are their voices communicated through human language. Is it possible to convey nonhuman meanings through writing, and what kind of interpretative challenges are involved in reading bird writing? Are avian voices actually just incomprehensible noises, and if not, what ethical consequences might this idea have?

Our panel consists of three talks tackling with these and related issues. Elle-Mari Talivee focuses on the bird names, bird voices and bird symbolics in the poetry of Marie Under. Talivee also discusses Under’s role in the literary movement Siuru. Kadri Tüür addresses Jaan Kaplinski’s poetry collection Öölinnud, öömõtted / Yölintuja, yöajatuksia / Night birds, night thoughts. Tüür approaches this multilingual work and its avian voices from a semiotic perspective, and she also asks, what is the significance of silence in the context of noises and voices in Kaplinski’s poetry. And finally, Karoliina Lummaa asks how avian voices transform into linguistic noise art in Jouni Tossavainen’s poetry.

Members of the panel:

Elle-Mari Talivee, Under and Tuglas Literature Centre

Kadri Tüür, University of Tartu

Karoliina Lummaa, University of Turku


Bengt Lundgren (Södertörn University)

Remote Control. Telecommunication in Two Plays by August Strindberg

In Miss Julie, boundaries are broken when the Count’s daughter goes to bed with the servant during Midsummer night – not least the boundaries between classes. After the act they dream of a more permanent transgression – running away, they could still be together. But the spell is broken by a bell, summoning the servant.

The boundaries between masters and servants are architechtonically built into the set. The action takes place in the servants’ region, literally situated below the master’s domain. The only link between these different worlds is the bell, supplemented with another means of communication, the speaking tube, by which the Count delivers his orders to his footman.

In The Dance of Death, the Captain and his wife lead a secluded life in their fortress. They don’t use the telephone for fear of eavesdropping. The Captain prefers the telegraph, working with code not understandable to everybody. Very well trained, he himself can decipher the clacking noises from a distance. The use of the telegraph installs boundaries between man and wife, stuck as they are in a hate/love relationship. All the more astonished is he to learn that his wife since many years knows the language of the telegraph!

The bell, the speaking tube, and the telegraph, represent telecommunications relevant for the time and setting of the plays. But these means of communication are – as scholarship has pointed out – set to work for dramaturgical purposes within the naturalistic frame of Miss Julie – and the “super-naturalism” of The Dance of Death. In this presentation, I aim to listen closely to the sounds of these devices, which convey messages between different realms. This may be discussed in terms of “remote control”, transfer, and even transcendence.


Olli Löytty (University of Turku)

Follow the Translations! The Transnational Circulation of Hassan Blasim’s Short Stories

Olli Löytty focuses on the translation of literary works. His paper considers the practices and processes of bordering between source-texts and their translations in a contemporary world where the circulation of texts constantly recreates new hierarchies amongst languages. As a writer, Hassan Blasim does not fit into the classification system that circumscribes distinctive national literatures. He is an Iraqi refugee living in Finland who has been critically acclaimed as one of the most important contemporary authors in Arabic. Because no publishing house in Arabic-speaking countries agreed to publish uncensored versions of his short stories, they have been printed – in book form – as translations in over twenty different languages. These stories can be viewed as “born translated” (Walkowitz 2015), as they appeared first in English with the publication of The Madman of Freedom Square (2009) and The Iraqi Christ (2013). They can also be called “born digital”, as Blasim publishes his texts in Arabic on the Internet.

Löytty follows and maps the routes of Blasim’s short stories around the world. He also investigates the mechanisms through which they circulate. How do the stories find their publishers and translators, and what happens to the stories in their encounters with new languages and publishing contexts? Apart from written sources such as reviews and articles, Löytty bases his analysis on interviews with Blasim and his translators and publishers across borders. The role of his publisher in Great Britain, Comma Press, is of great importance, because it both introduced Blasim’s work to the world and acted as his literary agent in the international book market.


Kristina Malmio (University of Helsinki)

Multilingualism in Late Modern Finland-Swedish Prose

From the 1990s onwards multilingualism has become a widespread aesthetic strategy in Finland-Swedish minority literature (Malmio 2011). In this paper I will scrutiny the multilingual style and its functions as well as the discussions on language use and mother tongue in three Finland-Swedish novels: Emma Juslin, På barrikader av glas (2006), Marianne Backléns Karma (2001), and Malin Kiveläs Du eller aldrig (2006), which will then be analyzed in relation to the ideas of the monolingual paradigm and the multilingual practice, identified by Yasemin Yildiz in Beyond the Mother Tongue (2012). According to Yildiz, the monolingualizing pressure has slowly started to diminish due to globalization and the renegotiation of the place of the nation-state, migration and the development of new communication technologies. In this current situation, literature can imagine new modes of belonging, offer a critical way of dealing with the monolingual paradigm, and disrupt the homology between languages and ethno-cultural identity. My aim is to study the forms and functions of multilingualism and the discussions on language use in the novels as comments upon globalization, and the changing position of the mother tongue in minority literature in late modernity. What arises from the novels is a picture of a deeply ambivalent situation in which multilingualism functions as a symbolical solution to several social contradictions.


Kukku Melkas (University of Turku)

Re-shaping Language and Literature – Gender, Voice and the New Order

In her paper, Kukku Melkas focuses on the multi-voiced as well as multilingual novel Wenla Männistö (2014) by Riina Katajavuori, although not as a traditional object of literary analysis. Instead, Melkas utilises the novel as a prism through which she grasps more specific questions of the relationship between multilingualism and the novel. Wenla Männistö builds upon a Finnish classic – Aleksis Kivi’s Seven Brothers (1870), a contradictory work in its own time and later canonised as an emblem and as the starting point of the history of the

Finnish novel – focusing on the original novel’s female minor character, Venla. The modernisation (or updating) of the classic is concerned with the same problematics as its predecessor, introducing to the reader the vernacular (folksy) and in many ways improper or even vulgar language of the youth of its day.

Melkas’s focus is on the problematics of ‘languages’ moving in and through axes of power, in terms of processes of bordering. Linguistic registers are connected to questions of social class, gender and place in the contemporary novel and arouse emotions in the literary field (in reviews and in research). What might be the ‘new Finnish’ or its characteristics in the contemporary novel? Is there a so-called ‘broken Finnish’ and what kind of a language is defined as such and why? How is it connected to questions of social class and gender?


Maria Mäkelä (University of Tampere)

The Feigned Voice of the People in Finnish Media: A Narratological Counter-Reading of Authenticity and Alterity Effects

My talk will challenge the commonplace notions of the authenticity of the “people’s voice” in Finnish media, as well as related theoretical claims of alterity effects propagated within different literary theoretical paradigms. The current media landscape provides various platforms for the uncontrollable emergence of the expressive and experiential “voices” of individual citizens, yet we have a strong national tradition of interpreting these allegedly singular expressions as representative of class, social identity and alterity. I will discuss a couple of comparative examples from literary fiction (naturalist representations of lower-class people’s experiential voice in Joel Lehtonen and Arto Salminen), a TV show (Karpolla on asiaa), a call-in radio show (Kansanradio), and an on-line discussion forum (vauva.fi).

While discussing these small samples, my talk will also provide a brief but critical overview of the notion of voice in contemporary narrative theory, and suggest further transdisciplinary and intermedial contexts for its use. One of my theoretical hypotheses will be that different modes and media interpellate (in the sense discussed by Louis Althusser) speaking and writing individuals to predetermined discursive agencies, and yet these preconditioned voices leave room for intentional and even artful manipulation.


Karin Nykvist (University of Lund)

Multilingual Language Play in Scandinavian Contemporary Hip Hop Culture

In my paper I intend to explore how Scandinavian hip hop lyrics – and Scandinavian hip hop culture in general – in often quite radical ways explore multilingualism and deconstruct the monolingual paradigm. As has been discussed by many scholars (among others Alim, Ibrahim and Pennycook in their aptly named 2009 study Global Linguistic Flows: Hip Hop Cultures, Youth Identities, and the Politics of Language) hip hop culture, while being a global movement, often uses an outspokenly vernacular voice. Through the multimodal, multimedial and increasingly multilingual genre of hip hop, languages, dialects and sociolects are brought together and apart through the use of rhyme and rhythm, and the effect of the linguistic choices is explicitly or implicitly political. Taking my cue from hip hop scholarship on the one hand and the vivid international discussion on multilingual language play (Sommer, Yildiz et al..) on the other, I explore the works of various Scandinavian hip hop lyricists, most notably Swedish artist Erik Lundin, but also other acts such as the Norwegian collective Yoguttene. In my paper I suggest ways of understanding their work as a politically multilingual force.


Gerd Karin Omdal (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

The Visual and the Dialogical Aspects of Voicing and Language in Athena Farrokhzad's  Vitsvit/White Blight

In the Swedish author Athena Farrokhzad’s poetry collection Vitsvit/White Blight (2013/2015), the visual aspects play a crucial part in the production of meaning: The poems are printed in a white font on a black background, and placed within a white surrounding space on the pages. The prominent typography will affect the reader’s interpretation of the poems’ verbal meaning. It also highlights the critical and political aspects of Vitsvit/White Blight in a very direct way, hardly achievable in verbal language.

Another interesting aspect of this collection is the distribution of voices. The poems are dialogical, as the I, or the speaker, steps back after the very first poem, taking on a delegating part, voicing its family members. The voices are reflecting and confronting cultures and values, and language is the prominent theme throughout the collection. Behind the surface of the dialogues, varying samples of cultural expressions are distributed into the poems as references and allusions – some to popular culture, others to highly recognized literature and the Bible.

In my paper I would like to look into both the visual and the dialogical aspects of voicing and language in Vitsvit/White Blight from a mainly postcolonial perspective.


Jarkko Oraharju (University of Turku)

Silent Days – The Obmutescence in the Short Fiction of Raija Siekkinen

The obmutescence defines someone´s quiet being and silence or when someone has an introverted and hidden appearance. The literary theme of obmutescence repeats often in the short fiction of Finnish author Raija Siekkinen (1953–2004). In my presentation I focus on her last short story collection Kalliisti ostetut päivät (Dearly Bought Days) from 2003. In these short stories a various female protagonist exists. The obmutescence appears in the narration about the characters and in their narrated intention: they don´t trust in the acts of speaking and the effectivity of spoken words. The characters also identify the obmutescence in their social environment. They see this in the other characters’ being and as the essential element of the interpersonal relationships and culture. The characters turn quiet and lose faith in the human connection. In my presentation I trace this fraud of the speaking and spoken words. The cause of obmutescence indicates to the generational heritage, to the gender roles and to the characters’ personal disappointment. Through the negation these prose texts place the spoken language to symbolize the trust which is absent in the experience of the characters.


Elisabeth Oxfeldt (University of Oslo)

Refugees, Poetry, and Postfeminism in Aasne Linnestå’s Morsmål (2012)

Aasne Linnestå is one among several Nordic writers who have been actively involved with refugees recently arriving in Scandinavia. Her involvement at one point inspired Morsmål (2012), an epic poem in which the poetic “I” seeks to describe her encounter with a refugee woman arriving from “outside Europe’s borders”. In my paper I focus on Linnestå’s poetic means of representing the Other as well as, more specifically, the voice of the Other. My paper, thus, speaks to the topic of voice, power, resistance, and silence, drawing on feminist and postfeminist assumptions about gender, language, and solidarity. Julia Kristeva forms an important theoretical backdrop; her language theory is considered in light of a postcolonial sensitivity to the pitfalls of speaking about Women as a universal category. Furthermore, place and nature are analyzed as important components of Linnestå’s poetic space while, thematically, her optimistic message of global female solidarity is considered in light of Sara Ahmed’s thoughts on migration and multiculturalism (as expressed in The Promise of Happiness).


Veijo Pulkkinen (University of Helsinki)

The Silence of the Page: Iconicity in the Typography of Aaro Hellaakoski’s Hiljaisuus

When the Finnish poet Aaro Hellaakoski (1893–1952) commented upon his typographically experimental poetry collection Jääpeili (Ice mirror, 1928) he stated that: ”a poem is a print product nowadays.” (Hellaakoski 1964, 61, 63) In other words, poetry is a multimodal art where both aural and visual senses play a part in the production of meaning. The interplay between various sensory modalities appears also in the content level of his poetry. For instance, Hellaakoski makes use of phenomena such as synaesthesia and sensory substitution.

This paper investigates the concept of silence in Aaro Hellaakoski’s collection Hiljaisuus (Silence, 1949). The focus is in the iconic representation of silence in the typography of the work. In Finnish, blanks (i.e. the typesetting material that is used for the unprinted areas of the page) are called ”sokeisto” which translates roughly as ”blinds” (cf. blindmateriel in Swedish, blindes Material in German). Moreover, it has been argued (Saenger 1997) that the development of silent reading is connected with the adding of space between words. The white space of the page can thus be thought of as an analogy of silence in more than one sense.


Clemens Räthel (Humboldt-University Berlin)

Look Back in Anger! Voices of Disease, Suffering and Death in Jonas Gardell’s Don’t Ever Wipe Tears without Gloves (Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar)

In Jonas Gardell’s trilogy Don’t ever wipe tears without gloves otherwise often silenced voices take central stage. It tells of a generation of young gay men in Sweden during the 80s: their loves and lives, their sufferings, hopes and fears linked to HIV and AIDS. Gardell’s trilogy bears witness to their zest for life and frightful but courageous fight. Equally, it shows the humiliations, the social isolation and ignorance the protagonists have to face.

My paper aims to look closer at how Gardell makes these suppressed voices heard. I want to argue that Don’t ever wipe tears without gloves is a noisy book, a furious eulogy to the untimely departed as well as a reckoning with an ignorant and marginalizing society. Gardell’s literary tactility – the wounded language (or language of wounds) as well as the waiving of narrative gloves – distances his work from the concept of bildungsroman or coming‐of‐age novels and creates a sometimes (un‑)pleasant, yet deeply moving hubbub.


Kristian Lødemel Sandberg (University of Oslo)

Jerry Dørmænen as the Silent History of the Finnish Civil War in Kjartan Fløgstad’s Grand Manila (2006)

In the novel Grand Manila by Kjartan Fløgstad from 2006 we meet the Finnish worker Jerry Dørmænen, who lives in industrial exile in Norway. He emigrated from Finland following the Finnish Civil War in 1918, as a survivor of the drumhead court-martial held at Västankvarn.

His Finnish name was Jeremias Törmänen, but his colleagues at the ironworks in Norway only know him as the silent and boring Jerry Dørmænen. They know nothing about the dramatic events he experienced as a young man, proving that he succeeded with his strategy, which is described in the novel as “tagnad, list og landflykt” (p. 335). His memories are unknown to his colleagues, as they are peripheral in the present historical consciousness.

Jerry Dørmænen is the silent history of the Finnish Civil War, and in many ways he represents the history of the subaltern, as described by Antonio Gramsci. He is one of the ways Fløgstad illustrates the memory of the working class as a contrast to the amnesia in the bourgeoisie history writing. With the use of postcolonial perspectives on memory I will elaborate on Fløgstad’s representation of Jerry Dørmænen’s silent voice and history.


Andreea Stefanescu (Jaume I University, Castellon)

The Voice of Finnish Literature through Translation

Translations have played and continue to represent a powerful role in society, being an important means of communication in the political, economic, social and cultural area between people, contributing to the exchange of moral values and to the mutual enrichment. This paper deals with the relevance of translation as an important voice of Finnish Literature. The first part of communication presents the definition of translation and its main role in literature. The second section focuses on an analytical comparison within the translation field, between the enrichment of national literature and international one, based on the following  affirmation: ”writers make national literature, while translators make universal literature” (Jose Saramago). The article emphasizes the paradigm of translation as a phenomenon of a constant concern for the human being that existed, exists and will probably exist in this area.


Kristiina Taivalkoski-Shilov (University of Helsinki)

From Voice to Noise: Theoretical Considerations

In the field of translation studies “voice” is a polysemic term and can mean, for instance, the writing styles of authors and translators, the discursive presence of translators in the texts they translate, traces of manipulation in translated or edited texts, and textual subject positions in source and target texts as defined by narrative structure, ideology and point of view (Taivalkoski-Shilov and Suchet 2013: 1; see also Alvstad 2013). The reason for this polysemy lies in the multidisciplinary background of translation studies.

In this paper I propose to give an overview of the concepts related to the term “voice” within translation studies, making comparisons to neighboring disciplines, such as literary studies. I will also discuss different connotations related to the term “voice” within translation studies. When does voice in translation become noise in translation, that is, something undesirable?


Alvstad, Cecilia, 2013. “Voices in Translation.” In Handbook of Translation Studies, vol. 4, ed. by Yves Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer, 207–210. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Taivalkoski-Shilov, Kristiina, and Myriam Suchet. 2013. “Introduction: Voice in the field of Translation Studies/De questionnement en questionnement.” In La Traduction des voix intra-textuelles/ Intratextual Voices in Translation (Vita Traductiva 1), ed. by Kristiina Taivalkoski-Shilov and Myriam Suchet, 1–31. Montreal: Éditions québécoises de l’œuvre.


Katri Talaskivi (University of Jyväskylä)

Non-dominant Language Writers in Finland in the 2000's and 2010's: A Survey on the Relationship of Writers and Their Language(s)

During the past decade the rapid change in Finnish population toward multilingualism has finally started to show in the Finnish literary field: according to Nissilä (2016) there are approximately 90 published writers with immigrant background living in Finland, and the majority of them write in other languages than Finnish, Swedish or Sami. In spite of this the most important writers' unions, Suomen Kirjailijaliitto and Finlands Svenska Författareförening, still exclude writers that have not published in Finnish or Swedish, respectively.

In my paper I discuss 1) the relationship between a writer's professional identity and their mother tongue, and 2) how the writing language of an author affects their professional position.  I am interested in giving a voice to writers whose work still seems to be just foreign noise as far as the core of Finnish literary field is concerned.  In my research I do this by interviewing and collecting writings from writers with different language backgrounds. My paper at Voices and Noises seminar is based on an interview with Yousif Abu al Fawz, a Finnish writer, who writes in Arabic.


Julia Tidigs (University of Helsinki)

What Have They Done to My Song? Recycled Language in Monika Fagerholm’s Novel The American Girl

Monika Fagerholm’s award-winning novel Den amerikanska flickan (2004, Eng. The American Girl) is full of intertextual and often intermedial references to poems, films and song lyrics in different languages and from different parts of the world. These references are often repeated and transformed, and they are one aspect of the many-facetted linguistic diversity of Fagerholm’s novel. These translated and transformed phrases evoke questions of intertextuality, intermediality, post-modernity, translation and the borders of multilingualism.

In my paper, I explore what the borrowed and translated musical lyrics in Fagerholm’s novel do, both in terms of the story, the style and the tone of the novel, and in terms of the spatiality of the novel’s language and of the spatiality of the literary work itself. Combining theories on literary multilingualism, intermediality and world literature, I ask: How do we understand this kind of multilingualism, these intermedial relationships – and what consequences do they have for the novel’s different kinds of readers?


Kendra Willson (University of Turku)

Saga Style in a Finnish Peking Opera

Sigurd Ring, a 2016 Finland-Swedish Peking opera based on a legendary 8th c. king known from 13th c. sagas, presents an example of translation across media and cultures. Elias Edström's debut as director and playwright, following studies at the National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts, is freely adapted from Erik Johan Stagnelius' early 19th c. Romantic play Sigurd Ring: Sorgspel, which in turn was loosely based on saga sources. The modern fusion of two different ancient traditions highlights parallels between the conventions of the source genres. Both show restrained and stylized expressions of emotion; both have clear formulae for character introductions and pacing that varies from very slow set up to intense battle scenes. Typical verbal features of 13th c. Scandinavian texts are translated into the movement and music of Chinese theater. In some ways the modes of expression of the formal Peking opera are closer to the saga ethos than to the Romantic intermediary.


Mia Österlund (Åbo Akademi University) & Katarina Jungar (University of Helsinki)

Racist Practices in Finnish Picture Books

Children’s literature, and especially picture books, frequently address issues of race and multiculturalism. Representing is part of a practice of voicing, and in picture books the multiple narrative levels, verbal and visual narration, work as an arena where silence and presence are played upon. In this paper we examine how children are racialized in award winning Finnish picture books. Drawing on both picture book studies, postcolonial feminist studies and critical race studies the paper examines both the visual and textual representation of these brown Finnish girls and boys. We also analyze the motivation texts to why these books were awarded. We are interested in how different dichotomies are created such as the individual/the collective, culture/structure, the normal/the exotic, Finnishness/non-Finnishness. Strategies as embracing culture, using ethnicity as spice and color the interplay between individual and collective representation are linked to the theme of voice and presence, as well as presentation. In conclusion we argue that the emphasis on diversity in the picture books reproduce whiteness as the dominant position.