AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

Worlds Within and Without : Presenting Fictional Minds in Marja-Liisa Vartio's Narrative Prose

by Elise Nykänen

Institution: University of Helsinki
Department: Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies; Comparative Literature (Anglistik), Justus-Liebig-Universität, Giessen, Germany
Year: 2015
Keywords: kotimainen kirjallisuus
Record ID: 1130299
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/152722


Abstract This study examines the narrative tools, techniques, and structures that Marja-Liisa Vartio, a classic of Finnish post-war modernism, used in presenting fictional minds in her narrative prose. The study contributes to the academic discussion on formal and thematic conventions of modernism by addressing the ways in which fictional minds work in interaction, and in relation to the enfolding fictional world. The epistemic problem of how accurately the world, the self, and the other can be known is approached by analyzing two co-operating ways of portraying fictional minds, both from external and internal perspectives. The external perspective relies on detachment and emotional restraint dominating in Vartio’s early novels Se on sitten kevät and Mies kuin mies, tyttö kuin tyttö. The internal perspective pertains to the mental processes of self-reflection, speculation, and excessive imagining that gain more importance in her later novels Kaikki naiset näkevät unia, Tunteet and Hänen olivat linnut. In the theoretical chapter of this study, fictional minds are discussed in the context of the acclaimed inward turn of modernist fiction, by suggesting alternative methods for reading modernist minds as embodied, emotional, and social entities. In respect to fictional minds’ interaction, this study elaborates on the ideas of “mind-reading,” “intersubjectivity,” and the “social mind” established within post-classical cognitive narratology. Furthermore, it employs possible world poetics when addressing the complexity, incompleteness, and (in)accessibility of characters’ private worlds of knowledge, beliefs, emotions, hallucinations, and dreams. In regards to the emotional emplotment of fictional worlds, this study also benefits from affective narratology as well as the cognitive plot theory. As the five analysis chapters of this study show, fictional minds in Vartio’s fiction are not only introspective, solipsist, and streaming, but also embodied and social entities. Fictional minds’ (inter)actions are demonstrated as evolving from local experientiality to long-term calculations that turn emotional incidents into episodes, and episodes into stories. The trajectories of female self-discovery in Vartio’s novels are analyzed through the emotional responses of characters: their experiences of randomness, their ways of counterfactualizing their traumatic past, their procrastinatory or akratic reactions or indecisiveness. The gradual move away from the percepts of the external world to the excessive imaginings and (mis)readings of other minds (triggered by the interaction of worlds and minds), challenges the contemporary and more recent accounts of modernism both in Finnish and international contexts. Tiivistelmä Tutkimukseni Marja-Liisa Vartion romaanituotannosta analysoi kerronnan tekniikoita ja rakenteita, joita kirjailija hyödynsi fiktiivisten mielten kuvauksessaan. Vartion romaanit liittyvät modernistisessa kirjallisuudessa keskeiseksi nousevaan epistemologiseen ongelmaan. Kuinka tarkasti itse, ympäröivä maailma…