Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Helsinki, Semiotics and Existentialism.

This spring semester (the last, alas, of my PhD Studies!)  I'm studying and working at Helsinki University, in Finland.
The city is beautiful - breathtaking under heavy snow - and the University one of the World's top 100, which is nice. They don't have a mayor in semiotics, unfortunately, but my discipline is well represented in the Faculty of Arts and especially among musicologists. The leading scholar in my field, here, is Eero Tarasti, prominent figure in Finnish culture and, in the '70s, student of many of the structuralism forefathers - Greimas, Levi-Straus, Foucault...
2016 is his last year before retirement, unfortunately, which means that I'm very lucky to be able to attend his farewell lectures. 

 In the picture: me, my beard and Eero Tarasti's portrait.

Tarasti has worked a lot on semiotics of music, which, although fascinating, is not particularly useful for my research. In the last years, however, he also developed a new semiotic theory called existential semiotics, that addresses also some issues that are of central importance fro game studies (like corporeality, norms and rules, appearance and many others). While I start to finally write down my dissertation, I will also try to learn something ore of this new exiting theory from a first hand source...

Other than that, the University is a dream for every visiting doc student, here just a couple of its perks:
-graduate students are considered like staff, meaning that you get actually helpful people helping you with all the bureaucratic stuff.
 -great places to live in. Thanks to the above point you are allowed to live in researcher's residences like TöölöTowers, which, although not more expensive that any other place in Helsinki (which is a damn expensive city), are a warm, new, clean and friendly new home, with breakfast included and sauna twice a week.
-a very good library, with open access shelves, easy-to-find books and a great variety of books about semiotics, almost always present in the original language, English translation and Finnish translation.
-finally, for less misanthropist people than me, there are also a huge lot of student organizations and activities available.

Finnish people are mush less solitary than they claim and are generally very friendly. The amount of Italian speakers among them, moreover, never cease to amaze me.

And then, of course, maybe my favourite Finnish thing so far: the marvellous frozen Baltic sea...