Rewarding discussions and diverse collaboration with HSSH Visiting Professor Ewan Jones (Downing College, Cambridge)

HSSH's Visiting Professor Programme's third round of applications will open soon.

HSSH's Visiting Professor Programme strengthens international cooperation by bringing internationally recognized researchers to the City Centre Campus of the University of Helsinki. The program runs from 2022 to 2025, and with two previous application rounds 13 researchers from different parts of the world have visited Helsinki. The visits will continue during the fall semester, and at the same time the programme's third round of applications will begin.

Ewan Jones, Assistant Professor of English Literature at Downing College, Cambridge visited the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki during late March and early April. Jones' visit to Helsinki was coordinated by Senior University Lecturer in English Philology Merja Polvinen from the University of Helsinki.

The Visiting Professors' programme during their visits includes, for example, public lectures and participation in the activities of research groups on the City Centre Campus. During his visit, Ewan Jones gave a lecture on his latest research on attention and distraction in 18th and 19th-century science and culture.

"In his official program this was the presentation aimed more at those interested in the traditional study of literature and culture. In addition, we organized a workshop on the use of computational methods in the study of the history of ideas, language, and literature. There, Ewan discussed the work of Cambridge Concept Lab, and there the focus was more on the methods available for the analysis of large amounts of data," Merja Polvinen says.

In addition, Jones participated in a research seminar in the field of English literature and met with Doctoral Researchers. The collaboration took place in the Faculty of Arts between several research groups. The collaboration included the Instrumental Narratives project (iNARR), funded by the Academy of Finland, which focuses on the analysis of the narrative form and the consideration of its cognitive and social roles. VARIENG, The Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English, on the other hand, represented research in linguistics. This unit uses many corpus methods to map the properties of various texts, including fiction. Also central was the Digital Humanities unit, from which Professor Mikko Tolonen was the second host of the visit. The themes of the visit – literary research, corpus linguistics and history of ideologies – were based on these three research groups.

The visit was a positive experience overall, and all parties are open to doing another one in the future, even though there are currently no concrete plans. Discussions and cooperation will also continue remotely.

"During both the visiting lecture and the workshop, there was a lively discussion about how digital methods, close reading and consideration of the historical context can support each other. There are still plenty of challenges, because starting from one angle can easily make invisible some information that is central to other disciplines. However, the idea may not be to reach the end point of the process, but to build feedback loops between different results and methods. Such discussions with Ewan were particularly fruitful, as he is one of the few researchers who has a very keen eye for the traditional reading of texts, their historical contexts, as well as being an expert on what computational methods can do," Polvinen says.

The third round of applications for HSSH's Visiting Professor Programme will begin soon. The call for applications will be announced on our channels in the near future.

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