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Sonja Pyykkö

Sonja Pyykkoe

PhD Candidate

Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin

Research Interests

  • Contemporary practices of writing the self: autobiography, autofiction, autotheory
  • Literary and Critical Theory
  • Feminist Theory
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Confession, subjectivity, fictionality, gender, genre

Relevant Experience

07/2015 Freelance Writer and Editor
Academic Editor Finnish Youth Research Society. Editing research publications in social sciences, history, and cultural studies.
Editorial Intern Nuori Voima -Magazine. Commissioning and editing submissions.



PhD Candidate Graduate School of North American Studies,Freie Universität Berlin, Germany



Humboldt Research Track Scholarship Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

Master of Arts in British Studies Centre for British Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

Thesis on transforming subjects in contemporary addiction memoirs by British women.

Bachelor of Arts in Literary Studies University of Tampere, Finland
09/2011 -
Comparative Literature University of Turku, Finland

Post-Confessional Subjects in Recent North American Autobiography (dissertation project)

Dissertation in Literature

Mentoring team:
First supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ulla Haselstein
Second supervisor: N/A
Third supervisor: N/A

My project connects emerging modes of life writing in North American literature with the shift in confessional culture that I recognise is currently taking place. I argue that as our trust in the confession’s ability to communicate authenticity continues to diminish in par with its use, and over-use, in high and popular culture alike, literary-minded autobiographers must find new ways of writing about the self. Consequently, many of today’s most inventive autobiographical texts – typically grouped together as autofiction and/or autotheory – should be examined not only in terms of their formal innovation, but as responses to the diminishing authority of confessional discourses at large. Theorizing contemporary confessional culture based on critical theory and literary- and cultural studies perspectives from Michel Foucault to Peter Brooks and beyond leads me to postulate that we are now entering, or have already entered, a confessional era beyond those previously defined, and that current trends in autobiography can best be understood as attempts to navigate that shift. My analysis looks at recent autobiographical texts from the authors Rachel Cusk, Chris Kraus, Olivia Laing, and Maggie Nelson, whose narrators might end up confessing despite their overt resistance to the confessional urge, or else they distance themselves from confessional speech using various means of fictionalization and theorization. It is this reluctance to be too closely aligned with what is perceived as “banal confessionality” which in these texts forces the confession to take on entirely new forms. A key hypothesis is that their texts construct what I call “post-confessional subjects”, by which term I want to emphasise the distinctly postmodern difficulties of confessing that are apparent in the texts, while remaining open to whether they constitute a clear break from previous confessional practices or a modification, and thus a continuation, of them.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft