Research at the department connected to South Asia
Associate professor Olavi
Hemmilä worked at the department from 1998 till mid-February 2010.
Instead he will work with a private company he has founded, Verbal Yoga. It offers lectures and workshops on sustainability. More information.
From March 16th to June 15th, 2010 he was a ”Visiting Fulbright Hildeman Professor” at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA. There, he taught a course entitled ”Sustainability in Contemporary Scandinavian Society”.
While working at Dalarna University, Olavi completed his PhD dissertation work at the Dept
of General and Comparative Literature, Stockholm University. He defended
his thesis on En yogi kommer till stan: Intresset
för indisk religion i svensk skönlitteratur med särskild
tonvikt på Dan Anderssons författarskap (A
Yogi Comes to Town: Indian religious thinking as reflected in Swedish
fiction with special focus on the works of Dan Andersson), on 14 september,
In his dissertation Hemmilä presents a basic survey
of the interest in Indian religious thinking as it is manifested in Swedish
fictional literature over the years, with special emphasis on an analysis
of the works of Dan Andersson. Certain aspects of how it was received
have already been mapped out but systematic studies of this kind are not
to be found in previous research.
After a brief review of early literature from the Middle
Ages up to Strindberg, Fröding and Selma Lagerlöf, the dissertation
is devoted to Dan Andersson (1888-1920). Hemmiläs analysis
shows that his constant switches between Indian and Christian influences
are representative in this connection. An eclectic attitude towards impulses
coming from abroad can be detected in many writers of that time. Themes
influenced by India occur regularly in Anderssons literary output,
mainly in his later poems and prose works. This is especially true of
the texts in which he expresses mystical and supersensual
Hemmilä has studied which influences Andersson might
have drawn from e g Arthur Schopenhauer, Rudyard Kipling, Rabindranath
Tagore, the philosopher Sri Ananda Acharya, as well as from the Bhagavad
Gita, and the theosophical movement. The dissertation mainly deals with
the period up to 1920 (the year Dan Andersson passed away), but the religious
sentiments prevalent at the time shows tendencies leading up to the current
pluralistic Swedish society, and a concluding chapter presents the contours
of the ensuing development up to the present day, when spiritual pluralism
is evident also in younger writers.
Dr. Hemmilä has written extensively on Rabindranath Tagore. In 2003, he published an article in the Swedish language magazine SYDASIEN, an article entitled ”Dröm om svunnet paradis etablerade idealbild av Tagore”. Read the article.
In 2005 and 2006, Olavi
Hemmilä organised a 5 credits (7,5 ECTS-credits) graduate course
on ”Images of India in Literary Fiction”.
It aimed at letting the students acquire knowledge about how India has
been perceived in literary texts throughout history. In 2005 the course
ran full-time for five weeks, and in 2006 as a half-time distance course.
In 2005 Dr. Hemmilä wrote a booklet on the Indian poet
Rabindranath Tagore's visits to Sweden in 1921 and 1926 (see photo
to the right). It was published at a ceremony in the Rabindra Bhavan
museum in Shantiniketan, West Bengal on 7 May 2005. This was in connection
with reinstatement of the the Nobel literature prize medal awarded to
Tagore in 1913. The original medal was stolen in March 2004, but the Swedish
Nobel Foundation in an totally unprecedented manner decided to present
the Indian government two replicas of the stolen medal (in gold and bronze).
Olavi Hemmilä was himself present at the reinstatement ceremony.
The booklet on Tagore is now being translated into Bengali (by Salam Azad), and was published in India in June 2010.