Helsinki in Early Twentieth-Century Literature: Urban Experiences in Finnish Prose Fiction 1890-1940

Helsinki in Early Twentieth-Century Literature: Urban Experiences in Finnish Prose Fiction 1890-1940

By Lieven Ameel
Book Description

Helsinki in Early Twentieth-Century Literature analyses experiences of the Finnish capital in prose fiction published in Finnish in the period 1890–1940. It examines the relationships that are formed between Helsinki and fictional characters, focusing, especially, on the way in which urban public space is experienced. Particular attention is given to the description of movement through urban space. The primary material consists of a selection of more than sixty novels, collections of short stories and individual short stories. This study draws on two sets of theoretical frameworks: on the one hand, the expanding field of literary studies of the city, and on the other hand, concepts provided by humanistic and critical geography, as well as by urban studies.

This study is the first monograph to examine Helsinki in literature written in Finnish. It shows that rich descriptions of urban life have formed an integral part of Finnish literature from the late nineteenth century onward.Around the turn of the twentieth century, literary Helsinki was approached from a variety of generic and thematic perspectives which were in close dialogue with international contemporary traditions and age-old images of the city, and defined by events typical of Helsinki’s own history. Helsinki literature of the 1920s and 1930s further developed the defining traits that took form around the turn of the century, adding a number of new thematic and stylistic nuances. The city experience was increasingly aestheticized and internalized. As the centre of the city became less prominent in literature,the margins of the city and specific socially defined neighbourhoods gained in importance.

Many of the central characteristics of how Helsinki is experienced in the literature published during this period remain part of the ongoing discourse on literary Helsinki: Helsinki as a city of leisure and light, inviting dreamy wanderings; the experience of a city divided along the fault lines of gender,class and language; the city as a disorientating and paralyzing cesspit of vice;the city as an imago mundi, symbolic of the body politic; the city of everyday and often very mundane experiences, and the city that invites a profound sense of attachment – an environment onto which characters project their innermost sentiments.

This book is part of the Studia Fennica Litteraria series.

Table of Contents
  • Helsinki in Early Twentieth-Century Literature
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Contents
  • Prologue
  • 1. Introduction
    • An Eternal Cinderella?
    • Selected Material
    • Earlier Writings on Helsinki in Finnish Literature
    • Real and Imagined Cities
    • Outline
  • 2. Ways of Writing and Reading the City
    • Perspectives on the City in Literature
      • Dichotomies
      • Ambiguity
    • Metaphorizations of the City
    • Towards a Poetics of Movement
      • Trajectories through Space and Narrative
      • Focalization and the Flâneur
      • Walking as Enunciation
  • 3. The Shock of Arrival. Expectations and First Impressions of the City
    • Arrival in the City in Juhani Aho’s Helsinkiin (1889)
    • Mobility and the Degenerating City
    • The Young Man/Woman from the Province
    • Expectations and First Experiences of Helsinki
      • Competing Visions
      • Restlessness and Rootlessness
      • Arrival and the Paralyzing City
      • An Experience of Shock: Conclusion
    • Helsinki 1890–1918: A Short History
  • 4. The Fateful Esplanade. The Stratification of Public Space
    • A Shorthand Expression for the City
    • A Male Bourgeois Ritual
    • The Gaze and the Right to the City in Eino Leino’s Jaana Rönty (1907)
      • Jaana Rönty
      • Public Space – Public Women?
    • The Experience of Helsinki’s Public Space under the Aegis of the “Frost Years”
      • The Esplanade as Agent Road
    • Uneasy Encounters
    • Traces of Flânerie Beyond the Esplanade
  • 5. Experiences of a Metropolis in Motion. Changing and Disappearing Helsinki
    • A Panoramic View of the City
    • Helsinki in Arvid Järnefelt’s Veneh’ojalaiset (1909)
      • A Novel about the Land Question
      • City of Sin: the Brothel Scene
      • Tentacular City
    • Helsinki in Transformation
    • Intimations of Apocalypse
      • Nocturnal Outing to the Fortress
      • “All culture is swaying, all forms are inverted”
      • The Whore of Babylon
    • Towards a Sense of Belonging
      • A Fully-fledged Helsinki Novel
    • Helsinki 1917–1940: A Short History
  • 6. Aestheticizing the City. The Internalization of a New Helsinki
    • The Internalized Urban Experience in Mika Waltari’s Suuri illusioni (1928)
    • City Archaeologies
      • Thoughts Breaking off in Mid-Sentence
    • The Nocturnal Car Drive
    • Aestheticizing “New Helsinki” and Helvi Hämäläinen’s Säädyllinen murhenäytelmä (1941)
      • Helsinki as Urban Pastoral
      • Conclusion
  • 7. Towards the Margins. Cumbersome Movement through the Urban Fringes
    • Krokelby in Joel Lehtonen’s Rakastunut rampa (1922)
    • Henkien taistelu (1933): the Margins of the City as Testing Ground
      • A Deformed Landscape
      • From Carnivalesque to Grotesque Landscape
      • “Like meat on a grill”
      • The Slaughterhouse
    • Mapping a Socially Divided City: Place Names
    • The Loss of the Centre
      • The Shop Window and the City as a “Bordello of Consumption”
      • The Centrifugal City
    • Hampered Mobility
      • A Divided City: Class and Gender
    • A Home in the Margins?
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
    • Primary Sources
    • Secondary Sources
  • Abstract
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