75 Years of the Joys of English

The Department of English became a subject department at the University of Turku 75 years ago in 1946. In 1980, translation studies were transferred from Language Institutes into the university, and were merged with the philology departments in 2010. We celebrated this anniversary on Tuesday 14 December 2021. The Corona epidemic had postponed the occasion but this did not defeat the festive spirit.

Professor Emeritus Risto Hiltunen chronicling the department’s 75-year history — and beyond.

The programme of the seminar included an overview of the history of the department by Professor Emeritus Risto Hiltunen. He took us through the years from the first chair in English held by Yrjö M. Biese (and even earlier times) to the gradual expansion of the department, the merger of philology and translation departments and the introduction of the 2010 Universities Act that changed the juridical position of Finnish universities, until the present.

Risto’s speech reached all the way to the history of Academia Aboensis, the origin of university-level study of languages in Turku.

Risto’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Professor Matti Peikola, representing our alumni and present students: Taru Savolainen, Miika Katajamäki, Maija S. Peltola, Sanna-Kaisa Tanskanen and Marianna Sunnari. All the panelists had started their studies in different decades, and have had different careers, and were thus a very good cross-section of the Department. The discussion was very lively and higlighted various sides of the Department’s history and the people who had worked and studied there.

The alumni panel offered various views on studying English at Turku. All positive!

One of the highlights of the event was the presence of Professor Emerita Liisa Dahl. Liisa followed Inna Koskenniemi in the first English Assistant Professorship after Inna toook over Yrjö’s Professorship. Another delightful highlight was the tea and coffee service that we had at the end – provided by the ever so wonderful students of Anglica.

At the event, we also witnessed the publication of MM Examina: Two Thousand Theses from the Department of English, University of Turku 1950–2020 edited by Joel Kuortti. This volume, fresh from the printers, follows the former M Examina (edited by Janne Skaffari in 1995) by listing a thousand more theses and dissertations from the Department that have been completed after the 50th anniversary in 1995.

Current head of department, Professor Joel Kuortti, showcasing the new MM Examina bibliography. Professor Outi Paloposki (right) taking a photo in turn!

All in all, the event brought light and joy to a dark winter day in a time otherwise burdened with long-standing and widespread troubles and uncertainties. It gives great pleasure to celebrate with such a great bunch of people – past, present, and future!

Text by Joel Kuortti, Professor, Head of Department

Photos by Janne Skaffari and Elina Valovirta

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