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Sonja Pyykkö

Sonja Pyykkoe


Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin

Research Interests

  • Confession and/in the novel
  • Philosophy, psychoanalysis, literary and narrative theory
  • Language, selfhood, subjectivity, consciousness

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

Confessional Fictions: The Poetics of Confession in American Literature (Dissertationprojekt)

Dissertation in Literatur

Mentoring Team:
First supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ulla Haselstein
Second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Mark Currie
Third supervisor: Prof. Dr. Florian Sedlmeier

After decades of exculpating relativism, the notion of individual guilt seems to be experiencing something of a renaissance. Pressing issues from the climate crisis to #metoo and COVID-19 all seem to demand a moral accountability that has become unfamiliar to a contemporary culture basking in the fruitless, internalized guilt of the Freudian unconscious. The language of confession, which has traditionally provided the means for such moral self-reflection, has itself been demoted to a vehicle of solipsistic self-promotion, more likely to be found in celebrity memoirs and on social media feeds than in more ‘serious’ literary-philosophical arenas. Or has it? My research provides new insight into the confessional imagination by focusing on a largely neglected genre of confessional literature: the confessional novel. Seeking to understand the poetic, aesthetic, and political dimensions of using confession as a literary device, I use Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955) as a focal point through which to explore a number of twentieth- and twenty-first century confessional fictions ranging from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1895) to Kate Elizabeth Russel’s My Dark Vanessa (2020). Drawing on both Paul Ricoeur’s writings on “the language of confession” from The Symbolism of Evil (1967) and on the genealogy of confessional truth-telling scattered amongst Michel Foucault’s later work, my research seeks to advance a more rounded understanding of confession than either philosopher alone can offer: One that is capable of accounting for how and why confessional admissions of guilt are made and what their effects are to the confessing subject and the society surrounding her.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft