Hanna Meretoja profile picture
Professor, Literary Studies and Creative Writing
PhD, Professor of Comparative Literature


+358 29 450 3457
+358 50 329 1783
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Areas of expertise

Comparative literature
narrative studies
literary theory
the interrelations between literature, philosophy and history
philosophical and narrative hermeneutics
the philosophy of literary studies
the intersections between ethics and aesthetics
cultural memory studies
trauma studies
20th and 21st-century narrative fiction in French, German and English
the socio-critical dimension of literature
contemporary consumer culture
the study of subjectivity, identity and experientiality.


Hanna Meretoja is Professor of Comparative Literature 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. In 2017–2019, she was Vice Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. In 2019–2020, she was Visiting Fellow at Exeter College, University of Oxford, and at the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing. In the spring term 2023, she returned to Exeter College to resume her fellowship (disrupted by the pandemic).


I teach regularly literary theory, aesthetics, and the Master’s thesis seminar. I supervise MA theses and doctoral dissertations. I also teach special courses that are based on my ongoing research on issues related to narrative studies 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 been an Erasmus teacher at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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. I run the research project Counter-Narratives of Cancer: Shaping Narrative Agency (2023-2027, The Research Council of Finland). Together with Eneken Laanes, I ran the international research network Narrative and Memory: Ethics, Aesthetics and Politics. I was the Principal Investigator in the Consortium Instrumental Narratives: The Limits of Storytelling and New Story-Critical Narrative Theory (2018–2022, Academy of Finland) and 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 Foundation).

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.


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