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SCAND 100 A: Introduction to Scandinavian Culture

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 12:30pm - 1:20pm
SMI 205
Photo of Olivia Gunn
Olivia Noble Gunn

Syllabus Description:

When and Where: MTWTh, 12:30 to 1:20, SMI 205

Professor Olivia Gunn,

Office: Raitt Hall, 305P

Office hours: T/Th, 2:00 to 3:00, or by appointment

In this course, we will explore Nordic source materials through the lens of contraries: tradition and modernity, happiness and misery, homogeneity and diversity, human rights and human violations, the collective and the individual, pride and shame, human rights and human violations, nature and society. The goal is not to focus on opposition as such, but rather to address BIG concepts that are always in need of examination, to complicate stereotypes, and to demonstrate the range and fascination of the cultural traditions in question.

Some examples: People often claim that Scandinavia is homogeneous (what about forms of Scandinavian diversity, from class differences to Sámi, queer, and Afro-Nordic experiences and perspectives?). Sociological research tells us that the Scandinavian countries are the happiest nations in the world (what about high rates of depression and addiction, or depictions of misery in Scandinavian art?). Scandinavia is known for institutional stability and peace studies (why is the region a hotbed for crime fiction, and why are we still fascinated by the supposedly violent cultures of ancient Norsemen?). Scandinavia is renowned for modern design and treated as a model for social and economic policies of the future (so why do we still think about tradition, trolls, and pre-modern folk culture when we think about the Nordic region)? These are BIG questions. They can be debated, contested, and answered in multiple ways.

Required Texts

Available at the University Bookstore. Please be sure to purchase the editions listed!

Saga of the Volsungs *** Penguin Classics (2000) 978-0140447385

Hunger *** Penguin Classics (1998) 978-0141180649

Pippi Longstocking *** Puffin Books (2005) 978-0142402498

Faceless Killers *** Vintage Crime (2003) 978-1400031573

Other Readings/Viewings

Other documents, links, and streaming will be provided on Canvas

Other Materials

You will need a lined journal (college-ruled, around 7.5 by 9.75; for example, a Decomposition book) and glue or scotch tape



Journaling                   50%

All students will complete weekly and sometimes bi-weekly journal assignments. The journal will provide a place to collect short commentaries, to paste images, produce sketches, ‘brain clouds,’ etc. Prompts will be posted on Canvas and/or announced in class. On weekly journal days, students will exchange materials and respond with short, in-class writing and conversation (10-20 minutes). Journals will be evaluated and given a preliminary grade at midterm (week 7), a final grade at the end of the quarter. See the rubric posted on Canvas (“does not meet/meets/exceeds expectations”).

Goals of this assignment include 1) engaging thoughtfully and creatively with readings, lectures, and other course materials; 2) producing a document of interest (maybe even beauty); 3) receiving peer feedback and evaluation; 4) producing pre-writing for micro-papers and gaining familiarity with materials for quiz-prep; 5) thinking differently


Tests                  30%

Three tests will be given over the course of the quarter (during weeks 3, 6, and 10). Tests will consist of reading identification and analysis, as well as lecture-content and concept-engagement questions. They will be open note. They should be completed in groups.

Goal: testing your preparation, familiarity, and engagement with reading, lectures, and guest lectures


Micro Papers     20%

You will hand in two micro papers (225-255 words) during the quarter. These papers can be submitted earlier but no later than week 4 (paper 1: 16 April) and week 8 (paper 2: 14 May). See the prompts and “does not meet/meets/exceeds expectations” rubric on Canvas.

Goals: 1) receiving feedback from peers and the professor, 2) practicing the skill of short and concise communication (the ‘elevator speech’), 3) producing focused and revised work

Policies and Procedures

Bring readings to class, in hardcopy form whenever possible.

Do not cheat. Cheating and plagiarism include, but are not limited to

  • Copying the work of others or allowing others to do your work;
  • Directly quoting the words of others without using quotation marks, indented format, and in-text citations to identify them; or
  • Using sources (published or unpublished) without identifying them; or
  • Paraphrasing materials or borrowing the ideas of others without identifying the sources.

Plagiarizing, or copying and/or using the words or ideas of others without proper acknowledgement, undermines your learning, devalues the degree that you are seeking, and will result in failure of the assignment. Acknowledge and/or cite every single source that you consider when producing assignments! Over-citing is better than under-citing. If you need help understanding and avoiding plagiarism, talk to your professor.


Late assignments will NOT be accepted (except in cases of emergency or illness, to be considered on a case by case basis). Contact me before the due date if you have a legitimate reason for lateness or need an extension.


Please practice professionalism, care, and respect for yourself and those around you. The classroom is a community in which we learn from one another, so showing up and caring matter.


You are more than welcome to email me with well-considered questions. I will generally respond to emails within 48 hours. You are also welcome to visit me during office hours. My office is an LGBTQ friendly place.


Whenever possible, avoid using mobile phones or laptops in class, as it distracts me and other students. In some cases, it can detract from your own learning. See, for example, “Better Learning through Handwriting” ( or “A Learning Secret: Don’t take notes with a laptop” (


Grade scale

96-100% = 4.0 ; 93-95% = 3.9 ; 91-92% = 3.8 ; 90% = 3.7 ; 89% = 3.6 ; 88% = 3.5 ; 87% = 3.4 ; 86% = 3.3 ; 85% = 3.2 ; 84% = 3.1 ; 83% = 3.0 ; 82% = 2.9 ; 81% = 2.9 ; 81% = 2.8 ; 80% = 2.7 ; 79% = 2.6 ; 78% = 2.5 ; 77% = 2.4 ; and so on and so forth (0-59% = 0.0)


Catalog Description: 
The Scandinavian experience from the Viking Age to the present day; the background for contemporary Scandinavian democracy, with major emphasis on the cultural, political, and religious development of the Scandinavian countries.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:11pm