Kaisa Kaakinen, Ph.D., University Teacher/postdoctoral researcher

My research focuses on the intersections of literature, history, literary studies and historiography, especially in the context of historical transitions of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I am interested in posing methodological questions about the relationship between literary studies, historiography and social sciences. I have also studied the history of the discipline of comparative literature and the discussions on comparison as a method. My previous research focuses mostly on twentieth-century literature written in German and literary representations of history, especially of traumatic historical events. My current research deals with biographical forms and documentary strategies in contemporary fiction and the challenges faced by comparative literary studies in the age of globalization.
After a MA in comparative literature (minors: general history and theoretical philosophy) at the University of Helsinki in 2005, I began a doctoral degree in comparative literature at Cornell University, USA, and completed my PhD in August 2013. I have spent three years in total at German universities (Tübingen and Berlin) in various exchanges, last time as a DAAD Graduate Grant recipient in 2011-2012 at Humboldt University. After the PhD I have worked as a postdoctoral researcher and taken part in the University of Turku research project "Ethics of Storytelling and the Experience of History in Contemporary Arts" (2013-2015), led by Hanna Meretoja and funded by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation.

My  first book “Comparative Literature and the Historical Imaginary: Reading Conrad, Weiss, Sebald” will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017. The book deals with the challenges that increasingly heterogeneous global reading contexts pose to the study of transnational historical narration in literary fiction. Through the analysis of “weak analogies” prompted by the literary strategies of three twentieth-century writers Conrad, Weiss and Sebald, the study proposes that historical pressures in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries require comparative literature to address not only implied but also various unimplied reading positions that engage twentieth-century history in displaced yet material ways. Challenging overly global and overly local readings alike, the book opens new analytical paths for thinking about literary texts as media of historical imagination in the new century under the sign of heterogeneity but without resorting to mere relativism.

My  postdoctoral research project deals with historical biographies in contemporary fiction. The study analyzes recent fiction in which the use of biographies of real historical persons has less to do with probing and problematizing the status of the subject as such than with studying the both discursive and material conditions of subjectivity in concrete contexts. My analyses also highlight how recent fiction probes new forms of realism and mediation of historical experience after postmodernism and in an age of globalization. In addition to my research in literary studies I am translating sociologist Norbert Elias's book The Civilizing Process (Über den Prozeß der Zivilisation) from German to Finnish.
My  teaching experience before Turku includes seminars in comparative literature and German language at Cornell University and in comparative literature at the University of Helsinki. During the 2016-2017 academic year I am teaching five seminars in comparative literature at Turku and coordinating the interdisciplinary research center SELMA (as of January 1, 2017).

Selected Publications:

Comparative Literature and the Historical Imaginary: Reading Conrad, Weiss, Sebald. Palgrave Macmillan (forthcoming in 2017).

“Melancholy and the Narration of Transnational Trauma in W. G. Sebald and Teju Cole.” In Hanna Meretoja & Colin Davis (eds.): Storytelling and Ethics: Historical Imagination in Contemporary Literature and Visual Arts. Routledge (forthcoming in 2017).

"What are you comparing?" Avain 2014:4, 64-69.

"A Readjustment in Our Bearings. Untimely Reference in Peter Weiss's The Aesthetics of Resistance." In: Pirjo Lyytikäinen et al (eds.): Rethinking Mimesis. Concepts and Practices of Literary Representation. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.

Markus Huss, Kaisa Kaakinen, Jenny Willner (eds.): "Dislocating Literature: Transnational Literature and the Directions of Literary Studies in the Baltic Sea Region." Theme section in Baltic Worlds. Vol. 5:2, 2012.