I am a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Helsinki. I began in 2015 but have only started a funded period of research in September 2018, which I enjoy immensely, with the generous support of the Finnish Cultural Foundation (thanks!).
My dissertation title is currently ‘Narratives of In-betweenness in Chicana/o and Finnish Roma Bildungsromane.’ I try to discover how in-betweenness is created and represented in narratives via the concept nepantla, which roughly translates as ‘torn between ways’ from Nahuatl, the Aztec language.
The texts are all Bildungsromane, or perhaps coming-of-age novels, and are of two kinds, which are compared.
First are the Chicana/o (Mexican American) texts: John Rechy’s City of Night (1963); Oscar ‘Zeta’ Acosta’s The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo (1972); and Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (1984).
Second comes the Memesa-trilogy, by Kiba Lumberg, which are considered as Finnish Roma literature. They are Musta Perhonen (2004), Repaleiset Siivet (2006) and Samettiyö (2008). Amazingly, there has been almost no scholarly work done on Finnish Roma literature, which is sad but also good for me, as I am busy doing it (academia is a zero-sum game). Another author I’m working on, but not for the dissertation, is Veijo Baltzar and specifically his novel Polttava tie.
I compare these novels through the concept of nepantla in dialogue with the World Literature debate, which, in short, is that no one knows what World Literature should quite be and should we, or can we, compare literatures and if so how and why. As contrasted with what could be call nationalistic literature–I mean national literature–it seems to me to be an odd conversation to be having. But in any case, methodology is central, and that is something one must careful construct while keeping all the various viewpoints in mind.
Please write, I’d be happy to hear from you!