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SCAND 445 A: War And Occupation In Northern Europe: History, Fiction, And Memoir

Meeting Time: 
MW 12:30pm - 2:20pm
SAV 131
Joint Sections: 
SCAND 590 A, JSIS A 442 A
Photo of Marianne Stecher
Marianne Stecher-Hansen

Syllabus Description:

Nordic War Stories: The Second World War as History, Fiction and Film.

During World War Two, the Nordic region was clenched between two belligerent powers: the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. As Finland resisted Soviet aggression from the East, Denmark and Norway suffered military occupation by Nazi Germany. Sandwiched in between these powers, neutral Sweden avoided occupation by making considerable concessions to the Axis powers. Farther west and beyond the immediate path of war, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands were occupied by the Allies (the British and Americans). This course offers a survey of the history of the Nordic region during the Second World War, as well as close study of some key literary texts.

 Emphasizing the ‘Eastern” (Soviet) pressure on Finland in relation to the ‘Western” (Nazi) occupation of Norway and Denmark, this course investigates the difficult fates of these small nations in the northern periphery of Europe. We will read  historical scholarship in order to provide a context for studying literary fiction, essays, and memoirs from this particular period. Some of the selected texts are written by canonized authors; others are written by ordinary citizens, resistance fighters, and war victims. The effort will be to identify the ideological, national, as well as narrative perspectives in these texts. We will consider the representations of invaders, collaborators, resistors, and victims of persecution in various texts, some published under political censorship. We will look at how these wartime texts represent the experience of occupation by a foreign power.

Student Learning Goals:

  1. To gain knowledge of the history and literature of the Nordic (Scandinavian) region during World War Two.
  2. To develop an informed vocabulary for the study of war and occupation (key terms: alliance, collaboration, neutrality, occupation, resistance) and to support effective cross-cultural communication skills.
  3. To exercise the skill of analysis in discussions of wartime literature, films, and memoirs (making use of such key concepts: agency, audience, censorship, narrative, propaganda, reception, and rhetoric).
  4. To enhance critical thinking about topics such as power, inequality, marginality, and social movements.
  5. To develop the practice and skills of inquiry-driven research and scholarship.


Required reading:
Hitler's Scandinavian Legacy: The Consequences of the German Invasion for the Scandinavian Countries, Then and Now, edited by Gilmour & Stephenson  ISBN 978-1-4725-7841-9 (Bloomsbury)
The Dwarf, by Par Lagervist.  ISBN-13: 978-0374521356
The Moon is Down, by John Steinbeck. ISBN: 978-0-14-018746-5 (Penguin Classics).
Return to the Future, by Sigrid Undset. ISBN: 1-886-62712-6 (Scandinavian Marketplace).
Unknown Soldiers, by Vaino Linna.  ISBN-10: 0141393653 (Penguin Books - Modern Classics).

In addition, there are numerous assigned weekly readings (articles and shorter texts), posted on this Canvas site under "Files."


The diversity requirement

This course fulfills the UW diversity requirement, which requires all undergraduates to take a minimum of 3 credits that focus on the sociocultural, political, and/or economic diversity of the human experience at local, regional, or global levels. This requirement is intended to help you develop an understanding of the complexities of living in increasingly diverse and interconnected societies. Courses that fulfill the diversity requirement focus on cross-cultural analysis and communication; and historical and contemporary inequities such as those associated with race, ethnicity, class, sex and gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ability, religion, creed, age, and socioeconomic status. Therefore, course activities in this class on “War and Occupation in the Nordic Region” encourage thinking critically about topics such as power, inequality, marginality, and social movements, and support effective cross-cultural communication skills.



Areas of investigation & potential directions for research papers:

  • Analysis or close readings of particular literary texts, memoirs, or testimony, around a particular concern, theme, or idea.
  • Interpretation and contextualization of literary fiction or memoirs, published during wartime in a particular region or country or a comparative study of two countries.
  • Investigation of a particular topic in Nordic or Baltic wartime literature and/or film that focuses on the representation of power, inequality, marginality, and/or social movements.
  • Investigation of the representations of invasions, occupations, or resistance movements in the construction of postwar national myths and identities of the small states in these regions.
  • Analysis of textual and/or cinematic representations of war or occupation in the context of a particular critical paradigm.
  • Analysis of the ‘revisionist’ tendencies of postwar and recent scholarship dealing with WWII in the Nordic or Baltic regions.

A supplementary bibliography of recommended secondary sources for research papers is posted on Canvas. Selected secondary sources are placed on course reserve at Odegaard Undergraduate Library.


Assignments and Evaluation for SCAND 445/JSIS A 442 A:

Grades will be based on exams, two short essays, and a term research paper, as well as other class contributions. Ad hoc Writing (W) credit is available for this course. The course grade will be based on the following criteria:

20%      Final Exam, consisting of multi-choice, objective questions and essay questions.

20%      Two short essays (3-pages each)

10%      One-page paper proposal: abstract & bibliography.*

10%      Prepared participation; “Class conference” (present term paper to peer-group);  

40%      10 – 12 page research paper on approved topic (see 'paper proposal') 

All students are encouraged to make use of a Writing Center on campus,  such as  Odegaard Writing & Research Center for assistance with the final research paper, as needed and other writing centers on campus..

Catalog Description: 
The study of literary representations (fiction, memoirs, and personal narratives) dealing with World War II and the occupation of the Nordic and Baltic countries. Offered: jointly with JSIS A 442.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:29pm