Finding the Right Answers in Fiction

Nana Arjopalo gave an outstanding performance defending her doctoral dissertation Narrating Deliverance: The Literary Double in the Writing of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Bharati Mukherjee on Friday, February 24, 2023. The viva was a true celebration of literature and the impact it has on humanity.

Professor Joel Kuortti testing the connection, picture and sound. Screenshot by Olga Harrison

The event was kindly streamed online via Echo360, the connection allowing remote viewers such as I to watch and listen to it closely. The broadcast began around 30 minutes before the actual event, and the early viewers had a chance to follow final preparations of the ceremony. The defense itself began at 12:15 with Nana Arjopalo proceeding to her microphone, followed by Professor Joel Kuortti acting as custos and Professor Jena Lee Habegger-Conti as the opponent.

Doctoral Candidate Nana Arjopalo giving her lectio praecursoria. Screenshot by Olga Harrison

Arjopalo gave the lectio praecursoria in Finnish, covering both personal and theoretical aspects of her dissertation. Arjopalo has been an avid reader ever since discovering the fascinating world of fairy tales in her childhood. In her speech she emphasized the significance of literature to humanity. The viewers learned how fiction may offer a space to process life even better than biographical literature, as it helps one to work on personal and collective trauma, and offers a connection to others, even if one is physically away from a community. Arjopalo concluded that the right answers emerge when one asks the right questions.

The questions followed, in English, as the opponent presented her assessment and critique of the dissertation. Professor Habegger-Conti was interested in an array of subjects from the positioning to critical regionalism. Despite the range of the issues covered, the conversation flowed smoothly. There was a great deal of agreement between the opponent and the doctoral candidate, and even some terminology discrepancies were resolved without a major dispute. In her concluding words, Arjopalo stated that the discussion was reflective of the work that she had done, and that she had succeeded in making the reader draw specific conclusions from her dissertation.

Professor Jena Lee Habegger-Conti discussing Positioning. Screenshot by Teppo Jakonen

Professor Habegger-Conti was evidently pleased to read and discuss the thesis, and ultimately recommended the faculty to accept the doctoral dissertation. As there were no questions from the audience to add to an hour-and-a-half long discussion, Professor Kuortti declared the event concluded. The newly-proclaimed Doctor of Philosophy Nana Arjopalo received congratulations from the numerous audience members on-site, and invited everyone present to further celebrate outside the lecture hall, where Echo360, unfortunately, did not follow.

That set aside, it was, indeed, a pleasure to follow the doctoral defense in literature and to be reminded about the importance of asking the right questions. Congratulations to Nana Arjopalo, Ph.D., and best wishes for her future endeavors!

Text by Olga Harrison

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