Areas of expertise
Hanna Meretoja is Professor of Comparative Literature, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, and the director of the research centre SELMA: Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory. In 2001, Meretoja received her MA from the University of Turku, where she majored in comparative literature and minored in philosophy, art history, cultural history and communications. In 2010, she completed her PhD in comparative literature at the University of Turku (the title of her doctoral dissertation: The French Narrative Turn: From the Problematization of Narrative Subjectivity in Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Dans le labyrinthe to its Hermeneutic Rehabilitation in Michel Tournier’s Le Roi des Aulnes). Meretoja has served as a visiting scholar at the University of Tübingen (1 August 2002 – 31 July 2003), Sorbonne Nouvelle (1 February – 30 June 2004) and Uppsala University (1 February – 30 June 2008) and as a visiting professor at the American University of Paris (1 August 2013 – 31 July 2014). Between 2013 and 2015, Meretoja worked as a professor of comparative literature at the University of Tampere (fixed-term post) and between 2015 and 2016 as a professor of comparative literature at the University of Turku (fixed-term post). Between 2014 and 2015, she served as the first director of the research centre Narrare: Centre for Interdisciplinary Narrative Studies (University of Tampere). In August 2016, Meretoja was appointed Professor of Comparative Literature (permanent chair) at the University of Turku, and since August 2018 she has served as the Head of the Department of Comparative Literature.
My teaching responsibilities include a course on literary theory,
advanced theoretical studies, the Master’s thesis seminar and the supervision
of MA theses and doctoral dissertations. I also teach special courses that are based
on my ongoing research on the issues related to narrative studies, aesthetics
and cultural memory studies. My approach to teaching is comparative in nature, and
I mainly draw on my expertise in French, German and English-language
literature. I have taught as an Erasmus teacher at Royal Holloway, University
I have completed the University of Turku’s Separate Pedagogical Studies
in Teacher Education module, which includes the University Pedagogy I and II courses
(60 ECTS, 2010–2014). As a teacher, I aspire to engage my students in the
dialogical process of understanding, cultivate their sense of the social and
cultural relevance of literature and encourage them to develop as independent,
critical and socially engaged thinkers who creatively use the analytical skills
that they acquire in comparative literature.
My approach to comparative literature is both historical and theoretical, combining complex contextualisation with theoretically rigorous literary analysis that articulates how literature both manifests and critically reflects on our being in the world as cultural, historical, and social subjects. By acknowledging that theoretical frameworks need to be continually challenged and revised through confrontation with literary texts, my teaching and research tie in with the strands of literary, narrative, and cultural studies that aim to reflexively analyse theoretical concepts while carrying out close analyses of specific works.
My research deals mainly with issues that are related to narrative, ethics and memory. I
serve as the director of SELMA: Centre for the Study of Storytelling,
Experientiality and Memory, which is an international hub for
interdisciplinary research on the interrelations between storytelling,
experientiality and cultural memory. Together with Eneken Laanes, I run the
international research network Narrative and Memory: Ethics, Aesthetics and
Politics. I am the Principal Investigator of the Turku-based subproject of the
Consortium Instrumental Narratives: The Limits of Storytelling and New
Story-Critical Narrative Theory (2018–2022, Academy of Finland). I
am also the project leader of the EU project #NeverAgain: Teaching
Transmission of Trauma and Remembrance through Experiential Learning.
Between 2013 and 2016, I served as the project leader of the Ethics
of Storytelling and the Experience of History project (Emil Aaltonen
My research monograph The Narrative Turn in Fiction and Theory: The Crisis and Return of Storytelling from Robbe-Grillet to Tournier (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) explores the philosophical and historical underpinnings of the postwar crisis and return of storytelling and demonstrates their relevance to the ongoing debate on the significance of narratives for human existence. I develop a framework that can be used to analyse the philosophical (ontological, epistemological, ethical, aesthetic) and cultural-historical underpinnings of different conceptions of narrative. It aspires to bring into dialogue narrative theory and the study of narratives in literary history.
In my research monograph The Ethics of Storytelling: Narrative
Hermeneutics, History and the Possible (Oxford University Press, 2018), I
develop narrative hermeneutics as a theoretical-analytical framework for
exploring narratives as ethically complex cultural practices and models of
sense-making. I present a heuristic model for evaluating the ethical potential and dangers of different
kinds of cultural narratives through six evaluative continuums, which invite us
to examine whether narratives 1) expand or diminish our sense of the possible,
2) cultivate or distort personal and cultural self-understanding, 3) promote or
impair our ability to understand the experiences of others non-subsumptively in their singularity, 4) participate in creating inclusive or exclusive narrative in-betweens, 5) develop or impede our
perspective-awareness, and 6) function as a form of ethical inquiry or
dogmatism. In dialogue with narratives by Julia Franck, Günter Grass, Jonathan
Littell, and David Grossman, I explore how it is as dialogic storytellers –
fundamentally vulnerable, interdependent, and implicated in violent histories –
that we become who we are as individuals and communities.
In addition to these monographs, I have published over 90 other scholarly publications. I
have co-edited 11 volumes, including Values of Literature (co-edited with Saija Isomaa, Pirjo
Lyytikäinen and Kristina Malmio, Brill Rodopi, 2015) and Storytelling and
Ethics: Literature, Visual Arts and the Power of Narrative (co-edited with
Colin Davis, Routledge, 2018).
My research is motivated by the belief that scholarship in the humanities should ultimately contribute to cultural self-understanding. It should help us understand the historical processes that underlie our current cultural situation, provide us with conceptual tools to analyse complex cultural phenomena, and expand our possibilities of thought, experience, action, and imagination.