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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

Fictional Confessions, Confessional Fictions: The Language of Confession in American Literature from the Postwar Period to the Present Day (Dissertationprojekt)

Dissertation in Literatur

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

Numerous scholars have recently echoed Michel Foucault’s claim that “Western man has become a confessing animal” (History of Sexuality 59), arguing that increasingly, we live in a ‘culture of confession,’ in which public self-disclosure is encouraged, even demanded, of individuals. Indeed, the language of confession, a term I adopt from Paul Ricoeur, gives license to speak about oneself, even when—perhaps especially when—one has somehow fallen short of expectations. In line with Foucault’s claim that confession is a discursive mechanism that produces truth, we generally trust confessions to offer not only a true account of what happened but, more importantly, to answer the difficult question of whose fault it was. This, my dissertation argues, is beyond what confessions can deliver. Seeking to rethink how confession can be understood theoretically, I look for an alternative to Foucault's ‘hermeneutics of the self,’ which is the predominant approach in today’s critical discourse, and find one in Paul Ricoeur’s ‘narrative identity.’ This shift from Foucault to Ricoeur allows me to recast confession not as truth-telling but as storytelling. Moreover, by ceasing to expect confessions to tell the truth, I am able to approach the language of confession as a palimpsest in which different layers—religious, legal, psychoanalytic, and literary, each of with their characteristic expectations and effects—become superimposed. This palimpsestic, polyvalent quality of confessional language is to my mind responsible for the contingent effects that, as critics have noted, characterize confessions made in different contexts. I then apply this theoretical framework to analyzing works of literature, specifically to a selection of American novels dating from the postwar period the present day; these, I propose to call confessional fictions. Building on the theoretical framework and the literary analyses both, I argue that confessional fictions seize the ambivalence of the language of confession as they concoct plots that transform the problem of guilt into an enigma of identity—one that turns out to be as enticing as it is irresolvable.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft