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Abstract Viola Capkova

The Case of L. Onerva: A “Decadent New Woman” Cultural Mediator within the Finnish National Literary Institution

The Finnish writer L. Onerva produced her major works during the first decade of the 20th century, but the spirit of these texts, influenced mostly by French symbolism and decadence, can be characterized as a part of the European fin de siècle. L. Onerva is a most interesting case from the point of view of the early 20th-century translation studies as well as the studies of mediating foreign cultural influences in Finland. Finnish translation scholars labeled L. Onerva the most prolific translator and propagator of French culture in early 20th-century Finland, but as a literary critic and author she mediated not only influences from the “exporting”, “major” literatures and cultures (such as the French one), but also from the “minor”, mostly Nordic ones. Most of the authors whose work she translated, reviewed and researched were men (Musset, Baudelaire, Mauclair, Bourget, etc.), but there were also women (Germaine de Staël, Marcelle Tinayre, Selma Lagerlöf), some of whom sharing L. Onerva’s interest in the figure of the “New Woman” and the explicitly female point of view.

L. Onerva's work and her position in the literary field are also very relevant within the framework of the studies of gender and nationalism. She was a Finnish language writer in the still stateless Finland, where the national revival was reaching its peak and many visible writers oscillated between inclinations towards cosmopolitan, often French oriented decadent aestheticism, and didactic (“anti-decadent”) nationalism, which was required of them by the Finnish “national philosopher” J. V. Snellman.

By examining L. Onerva's case, I intend to tackle the crucial questions, issues and topics which will be central in this meeting.

AsK, October 2012

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