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SCAND 151 A: Finnish Literary And Cultural History

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 1:30pm - 2:20pm
LOW 115
Photo of Andrew Nestingen
Andrew K. Nestingen

Syllabus Description:


SCAND 151 will acquaint you with the culture and literature of Finland from the 19th to the 21st centuries. The course has three aims. First, it helps you develop skills of reading literature 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 to some of the main ideas and features of Finnish literature through historical and contemporary texts.

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. Today, Finland is a multimedial Western country, and literature and he arts have lost some of their earlier importance. How do cultural texts like novels and films play a role in giving societies an identity?

We will study this question by reading works 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 bloc of individual and national identity.


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 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.


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

  • IRAT Score - 20%
  • TRAT Score - 10%
  • Peer Evaluation Score - 20%
  • Combined Projects Score - 50%



Team Learning: This class is taught as a team-based learning course. Students will join groups of 5-7 members and work together as a learning team throughout the quarter. The teams will work on a variety of interactive formats in class including discussion, team debates, and presentation of team projects. Students are expected to attend each class period with all assignments completed by the beginning of class and ready to engage in and do online research about the topic of the day. Bring your laptops, and phones, as making slides and videos will be integral to completing the course work.

At the beginning of each unit, students will undergo a readiness assurance process to insure that they are accountable as individuals. The Readiness assurance Test (RAT) consists of questions about a set of pre-assigned readings. Students will take this test twice, once as individuals (IRAT), and again as teams (TRAT). Both tests will be scored as soon as possible for immediate feedback.

Class time will be devoted to the discussions of the readings as well as to task-based assignments that apply the critical concepts from the readings and discussions to projects. At the conclusion of each project, team members will evaluate each other’s contributions to the team in a peer assessment process. Teams will also evaluate other teams’ projects. 

IRAT and TRAT SCORE: You will take an individual and team-based, multiple-choice readiness assessment test. You will receive a separate score for both. The questions will be about the readings. Of the seven scores, I will drop your low score from the calculation of the IRAT and TRAT scores.

Peer Evaluation: Peer evaluation is designed to incentivize active, constructive, and substantive contribution to all team projects. Three times during the quarter, you will be asked to give each team member, including yourself, your feedback on his or her contribution to the team’s projects. You will do so by completing a form, and uploading it to Canvas. I will then distribute the forms (anonymously) to each team member. The first two evaluations will be provisional; they will let you know how you stand, without giving you a grade. The emphasis will be on constructive feedback, which will help everyone improve. The final evaluation will involve distributing a set amount of points among your team members, based on your evaluation of their contribution. I will use these points to calculate your peer-evaluation grade for the course. This evaluation is not curved: every member in a well-functioning team may earn a 4.0 grade for her peer evaluation grade.

Combined Projects Score: Each module project will be evaluated by the other teams and by me to generate a project score for each project -- except for Module 2, on Finn Family Moomintroll, which I will evaluate.  I will use a weighted combination of peer-evaluation (40%) and my evaluation (60%) to give a grade for each project. Throwing out the lowest score of the seven modules, I will calculate your combined project score from the average of your best six module project scores.




In evaluating your projects for the course, here are the course’s criteria:

  • Is there a thesis or argument clearly stated?
  • Is the project logically and effectively organized?
  • Does the project analyze in detail specific examples from the films and/or readings to support the argument?
  • Does the project use citations from the readings and films assigned to support and qualify the analysis



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.  

GRADE ERROR POLICY: If you believe an error has been made in calculating your grade, as an individual or team, you may email me about the issue with the subject line, Grade error. Your email should explain the error and propose a way to resolve the error.



Texts available at the University of Washington Bookstore

Jansson, Tove [1946] Finn Family MoominTroll. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux,    2011.

Lehtolainen, Leena [1995] Death Spiral. Seattle: Amazon Crossings, 2015.

Liksom, Rosa [2011] Compartment No. 6, New York: Graywolf Press, 2016.

Paasilinna, Arto [1975] The Year of the Hare. New York: Penguin, 1996.

Sahlberg, Pasi Finnish Lessons. New York: Columbia Teachers’ Press, 2010.



Week 1


T, Jan. 3          Introduction: Syllabus, Teams, Projects 

W, Jan. 4:       Module 1: Origins of Finnish Culture

                        Read: Lavery, “An introduction to Finland”

                        “The Sampo” (Canvas)

Lecture: What is Finland?  

T, Jan. 5:         Team Assignments and Team Building

                        Individual Readiness Assessment Test (IRAT)

                        Team Readiness Assessment Test (TRAT)


Week 2


M, Jan. 9:        Discussion of “The Sampo” and begin Team Project (Poem)

T., Jan. 10:      Team Projects

W, Jan. 11:     Refine and complete team project

 T, Jan. 12:       Showtime: Poetry Reading of Team Projects and Discussion 


Week 3

M, Jan. 16: MLK holiday – No Class

T, Jan. 17:       Module 2: Finn-Family Moomintroll

                        Read: Finn-Family Moomintroll


Discussion of Finn-Family Moomintroll

W, Jan. 18:     Team Debate: Question: How do Moomin Mamma and Moomin Pappa parent? Are they good parents?

T, Jan 19:        Team Debate: What is most important in Finn Family Moomintroll?


                        Peer Evaluation #1 Due


 Week 4 

M, Jan. 23:      Module 3: Finnish Lessons

                        Read: Sahlberg, Finnish Lessons, Pp. 1-170

                        IRAT and TRAT

                        Discussion of Finnish Lessons

What is different between your educational experience and Finnish                                             schools?

T, Jan 24:        Team projects (2-min advocacy spot (presentation or video)): Make an advertisement or

presentation advocating for a “Finnish” change to an “American school”?                       

W, Jan. 25:     Refine and complete team projects

T, Jan. 26:       Showtime: Present and discuss advocacy spots


Week 5

M, Jan. 30:      In-Class Viewing: Fire and Ice: Finland’s Winter War

T, Jan. 31:       Visiting Lecturer Sirkku Latomaa, “Finnish Literature in Translation”

                        Read: Excerpts from Unknown Soldier by Väinö Linna (1954)

W, Feb. 1:       Module 4: Into the Forest

                        Read: Paasilinna, The Year of the Hare

                        IRAT and TRAT

                        Discussion of Year of the Hare

                        Question: What does Kaarlo Vatanen find in the forest?

T, Feb. 2:        Visiting Lecturer Sirkku Latomaa, “Finnish Literature in Translation”        


Week 6 

M, Feb. 6:       Begin Team Projects on Year of the Hare (Cartoon of at least 6 slides)         

T, Feb 7:         Refine and complete team projects

W, Feb. 8:       Showtime: Presentation of cartoons 

T, Feb. 9:        Module 5: Finnish Crime Fiction

                        Read: Lehtolainen, Death Spiral

                        IRAT and TRAT

                        Discussion of Death Spiral

Peer Evaluation #2 Due


Week 7

M, Feb. 13:        Class discussion and begin team project, “Feature News Story on Death Spiral” (Character

reporting; reporting on the crime; culture piece on Death Spiral as a crime novel; reporting on the police; Espoo today, etc.

T. Feb. 14: Team projects

W, Feb. 15:     Refine and Complete Team Projects

T, Feb. 16:      Showtime: Present News Stories


Week 8 

M, Feb. 20:     Presidents’ holiday – No Class

T, Feb. 21       Module 5: Compartment No. 6

                        Read: Liksom, Compartment No. 6

                        IRAT and TRAT

                        Discussion of Compartment No. 6

W, Feb. 22:     Discussion: Travel Narrative

T, Feb. 23:      Team projects (Travel Guide to the Siberian Railway)


Week 9 

M, Feb. 27:     Team projects (Travel Guide to the Siberian Railway)

T, Feb. 28:      Showtime: Presentation of Travel Guides (with Rosa Liksom)

W, Mar. 1:      Discussion of Compartment No. 6 with Rosa Liksom

T, Mar. 2:        Debrief on Compartment No. 6 and Liskom visit


Week 10 

M, Mar. 6:       Module 6: Finnish Cinema

                        View: view Tulio, Song of the Scarlet Flower; Kaurismäki, The Man                                          

Without a Past (both available on Canvas)


                        Discussion of films

T. Mar. 7        Team Project, Film Review of selected film (choice of format)

W, Mar. 8:      Showtime: Presentations

Peer Evaluation #3 Due

T, Mar. 9:        Final Discussion: What Did You Learn about Finland?



Hyvää kevätlomaa! Have a great Spring Break!


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: 
August 7, 2017 - 9:16pm