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SCAND 151 A: Finnish Literary And Cultural History

Meeting Time: 
MW 12:30pm - 2:20pm
SIG 226

Syllabus Description:

Course Information

5 credits
Room: SIG 226
Mon & Wed: 12:30-2:20
Office hour: Mon 2:30-3:30 & by Appointment


Visiting lecturer Ilmari Ivaska
Office: Raitt 305-Y

1. Course description

SCAND 151 will acquaint you with the cultural and literary history of Finland, with an emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. The course has three aims. First, it helps you develop skills of reading literature and other texts in an academic setting, and writing about it effectively. Second, we’ll try to sketch a picture of Finnish culture’s main conflicts, movements, changes, and underlying attitudes. Third, the course introduces some major figures of Finnish literature and culture, including, among others, Elias Lönnrot, Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Aleksis Kivi, Jean Sibelius, Väinö Linna, and Aki Kaurismäki.

Literature is especially significant in Finland because the country’s “founding fathers” thought that the nation expressed itself through writing in Finnish. Literature gave form to modern Finland’s identity. We will study this form through works ranging from the earliest oral poetry to contemporary films. We’ll place stories, poems, and literary figures in social context and interpret literary structure through close reading and written analysis. As a result, you will learn about Finland while building up a critical cultural vocabulary and developing writing skills. At the end of the course, we’ll also study how literature has changed, as popular culture has replaced it as an influential building block of individual and national identity.


2. Learning Objectives

Students will become familiar with the major figures, works, and ideas in Finnish literary and cultural history of the 19th and 20th centuries. You will be able to connect particular works with the larger cultural and historical context into which they fit. That is, given an exemplary passage from a text or the name of an author, you will be able to explain its significance by discussing it in connection with its form, content, or prominent ideas and texts of the time.


3. Course Activities

Reading: It is essential that you complete all readings, so that you can understand the frame of reference for each lecture as well as be ready to view and discuss the assigned poems and novels. You should have the reading completed by the day that it is listed in the syllabus, and be prepared to ask questions about and discuss the assigned texts.

Lectures: Another key component in the course is the in-class lecture. The lectures provide explanations of the key terms in the course, which provide context for understanding the readings. Each week’s lectures and discussion questions will be posted on the course website in general a day before the class. You can use the posted notes as a guide to taking notes in class.

Participation: Approximately half the course is based on discussion. You should be prepared to discuss the reading assignments, and ready to raise questions about lectures. If you raise questions and make comments regularly, the class will be productive, thought-provoking, and rewarding.

I see participation as your responsibility, and so I will ask that you help decide your participation grade. At the time of exam #1 and exam #2, you will complete an online survey on Canvas, in which you assign yourself a grade and give a brief statement explaining why you’ve awarded yourself the grade you have. Remember that according to the official policy of the university, presence cannot be graded and, thus, participation needs other elements than only being present. I will give you a participation grade based on your response to the survey. If you fail to complete the survey, you will receive a 2.0 for participation.

Pop quizzes: There will be regular in-class pop quizzes about the readings and the content discussed during lectures. They will focus on the key constructs and major figures of the course content. Besides testing your knowledge, the quizzes are also a good way to review the covered content and prepare for the exams. Your lowest two scores will be dropped.

Paper: You will submit one writing assignmen, and the due date is 2/28. The writing assignment will be a response to a question I post on the course website at least one week before the assignment is due. The paper should be at least three pages long, though no longer than four. It should have a title and be printed in double-spaced format. You will upload your paper to course website on Canvas, and I will provide you feedback according to the “Criteria for Evaluation” outlined below. We will then discuss and critique examples from student writing in class. On the basis of the feedback and the discussions, you may revise your paper and re-submit it by Friday March 11th. You should include in your submission a commentary explaining what your revised and why.

Your final writing assignment grade will take into account the revised version of the paper. If you turn the initial submission in less than one week late, I will deduct .5 GPA points from your final writing assignment grade as a penalty. Papers more than one week late will not be accepted and will lead to a deduction of 1.0 from your final writing grade. I will not accept any late papers for the final submission.

How will you learn from these writing assignments? First, the process of writing about literature and culture will help you understand the course material better. Second, the evaluation of the first submission will give you a sense of your papers’ strengths and weaknesses. Last, we will discuss passages from exemplary papers in class as a learning exercise. Of all the papers submitted, I will choose several passages – erasing any information that would identify the student that wrote the passage. We will then analyze, discuss and edit each passage together. This process will help you understand better how I read student papers, and focus in concrete ways on how to improve your writing about literature and culture for the final writing assignment.

Exam #1: Exam #1 will be held in class on Wednesday, February 3rd. The first part of the exam will include 15 multiple-choice questions based on the lectures and readings. The second part of the exam will provide you a list of fifteen keywords from the readings and lectures, of which you’ll need to define seven, using examples from the readings. These will include the names of authors, ideas, institutions, and works of literature. Finally, the test will include three essay questions, of which you’ll need to answer one.

Exam #2: Exam #2 on Wednesday, March 9th, will be the same format as exam #1, but cover the second part of the course.


4. Assignments and Grading

The course grade will be comprised of grades awarded for participation, and introductory letter, a writing portfolio and self-reflective essay, a mid-term, and final examination.

Participation                      15%
Pop quizzes                       10%
Writing Assignments         25%
Mid-Term                            25%
Final                                    25%


5. Criteria for Writing Assignment Evaluation

I will evaluate each writing assignment according to the following questions. You an use this as a checklist to guide your drafting, proofreading, and revision:

  1. Is a clear and rich thesis the basis for the paper’s argument?
  2. Are the different paragraphs organized both internally and in relation to each other?
  3. Does the paper analyze in detail specific examples from the films and/or readings to support the argument?
  4. Does the paper use citations from the readings assigned to support and qualify the analysis, and include a bibliography?
  5. Does the paper employ key terms from the course in accurate and useful ways?
  6. Is the writing clear and error free?


6. Course Policies

Academic integrity: The University of Washington is a community dedicated to learning. Ethical expectations of students belonging to the community are defined in the student conduct code ( Plagiarism, cheating, and disruptive behavior in class violate the code, and harm your own and others’ learning. Any violations of the code in connection with the course will result in referral to the university administration for appropriate action. If you want to learn more about how to avoid plagiarism, please consult the following resource page on academic honesty, (, or speak to me directly.

Grades grievance policy: If you disagree with the grade you have been awarded and wish to appeal your grade, you must follow the policy outlined below. I will make no exceptions to this policy. If you do not follow the policy, I will not consider your appeal.

  1. Wait at least twenty-four hours, but no more than forty-eight hours from the time you receive the grade to deliver a written statement to my post-box in Raitt 318 (Campus Mail Box 353420) explaining your complaint. (No emails or telephone calls accepted.)
  2. There is one exception to a): If you disagree with your final paper grade or final grade, you may send your appeal to me as an email.
  3. Include in your appeal a way of contacting you, so I can schedule an appointment with you to discuss your written complaint.
  4. After meeting with you, I will indicate my final decision to you by telephone, email, or mail, your choice.


7. Required Texts

Jansson, Tove. [1946] Comet in Moominland. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2011.
Paasilinna, Arto. [1975] The Year of the Hare. London: Peter Owen 1996.
Sinisalo, Johanna [2000] Troll - A Love Story. New York: Grove Atlantic 2004.
Other assigned and required course readings will be made available through Canvas course site.

Catalog Description: 
A survey of Finnish literature and cultural history during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Authors studied include Lonnrot, Snellmann, Kivi, Sodergran, Linna, Haavikko, and Kaurismaki.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:17pm