Students in field

To the Library of Congress and back with Finnish Professor Dr. Hilary Virtanen

December 15, 2017

Assistant professor of Finnish and Nordic studies, Dr. Hilary Virtanen dropped by Finlandia Fridays this past week to talk about her busy semester. Dr. Virtanen kicked off the academic year by attending FinnFest USA, which was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One of the highlights of the festival this year included an appearance by the Finnish president and his wife.  Dr. Virtanen gave a talk about Finnish-Americans traveling and the experience of going to and connecting to the home land when families have been away so long.Hilary Virtanen

Finnish Language and the Library of Congress

Visiting Washington D.C. and speaking in front of the Library of Congress was another event that took place for Dr. Virtanen this semester. Initially approached in March, the Finnish Embassy contacted Dr. Virtanen to ask her opinion on what she would like to see at a Finnish language symposium. After offering several suggestions, Dr. Virtanen was asked if she would be willing to talk on one of the subjects she suggested. Joined by two other professors, Dr. Virtanen’s talk was about “Finnish as a heritage language in the Upper Midwest.”

The symposium was centered around the “history and future of the Finnish language. Finnish, up until the 1800s, wasn’t written, wasn’t used for a lot of things and then it just exploded, and in part helped lead to Finnish Independence,” stated Dr. Virtanen. The influx of Finnish use helped to develop a Finnish culture, a topic brought up in a previous episode of Finlandia Fridays starring Finnish actor Anttii Holma. Holma visited for a brief time to showcase Finnish American culture here in the Copper Country. Holma’s Finlandia Fridays episode and the link to his television series can be found here:

American Folklore Society Annual Conference

After coming back from Washington D.C., Dr. Virtanen headed back out to Minneapolis again to give a talk at the American Folklore Society’s annual conference. Her talk at the conference focused on John Wesley Saatio, a local man who had escaped from jail, and how he was talked about in conversation, online, and over the news and how his folklore developed. After the talk, Dr. Virtanen was approached by the University of Mississippi press about writing a book on infamous criminals, with a chapter focused on the topic of her talk.

Paloheimo Fellowship

Mentioned at the beginning of the episode, the Paloheimo Fellowship is in its fourth year at Finlandia, and it will continue on next year for a fifth year. The Fellowship is open to all majors, and is a competitive opportunity to study Finnish culture with Dr. Virtanen. Students study Finnish culture for the spring semester and at the end of the semester, go to study and document Finnish culture for two and a half weeks. “To see Finland through their [the students] eyes, as a teacher is very thrilling to do this undergraduate research,” stated Dr. Virtanen. The students make a blog, where they document their studies. The link can be found here. Stay tuned for more content to be added in May.

Book Manuscript

Finally, amongst her hectic schedule, Dr. Virtanen has been working on a book manuscript. The manuscript is based off her dissertation, which centered on Finnish festival life, with a focus on Heikinpäivä. Dr. Virtanen’s proposal was accepted, and her full manuscript has been sent to the University of Wisconsin Press.


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