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Exploring Social Boundaries From Below:Class, Ideology and Writing Practices in Nineteenth Century Finland

Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies, University of Helsinki

Financed by the Academy of Finland

This project explores a new territory in social, cultural and literary history, as the primary sources consist of texts produced by persons for whom the act of writing itself was an object of wonder. The texts by self-taught rural people recently unearthed provide unique material for the research of the processes through which a semi-literate society became increasingly permeated by writing – and the consequences for the social order, new ideologies and the nascent Finnish-language literature. The project focuses on the boundaries between and within classes in 19th century Finland. The perspective from below indicates that the emphasis is on non-privileged people, their experiences, writing practices and points of view. By expressing, challenging and contesting social boundaries in their texts, self-taught writers found a way to engage in the processes through which the Finnish society moved from the hierarchical estate system towards a civic society.