Thesis defence in the University of Oulu

Doctoral Candidate

MA Merja Torvinen

Faculty and research unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, Finnish language

Field of study

Finnish language

Date and time of the thesis defence

14.8.2020 12:00

Place of the thesis defence

Martti Ahtisaari hall (L2), Linnanmaa, University of Oulu, via Zoom:

Topic of the dissertation

Translation strategies and discourses - an analysis of French travel descriptions of Lapland from 17th to 19th century and their modern Finnish translations


associate professor Simo K. Määttä, University of Helsinki


professor Harri Mantila, University of Oulu

In the early French travel books the Finns are peasants and the Sami noble savages

The image of Lapland in the early French travel books is rather stereotypical. In the hands of the Finnish translator the historical texts become not only easier to read, but also more descriptive and polyphonic.

Lapland has interested travellers throughout the ages, and the travel literature has had an important effect on the development of the image of Finland. In her dissertation, MA Merja Torvinen has studied the ways discourses of Finnishness and Saminess are being construed in three French travel depictions dating from 17th to 19th century and their Finnish translations dating from the late 20th century.

The study shows that the images of the Finns and the Sami in the French travel books are in many ways stereotypical and recurring. However, they also reflect the societal ideals, values and circumstances of their own era and evolve and transform with and through the changes in the society. As the exoticism of the earliest travel depiction evolves into a discourse of pity in the 18th century and romanticism in the 19th century, the image on the Finns especially becomes more positive.

A great deal of literature published in Finland is translations, and the translators are an important link between one’s own and the foreign culture. The study shows that translators play a crucial role in re-contextualising and rendering the travel books more comprehensible to the modern reader. The translations are for example more explicate and descriptive than the originals. The translations also become polyphonic as the voice of the translator is introduced next to and above the voices of the French writers, in order to direct and guide the modern Finnish reader.


Last updated: 30.6.2020