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SCAND 445 A: War and Occupation in Northern Europe: History, Fiction, and Memoir

Meeting Time: 
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm
CHL 015
Joint Sections: 
JSIS A 442 A, SCAND 590 A
Photo of Marianne Stecher
Marianne Stecher-Hansen

Syllabus Description:


War and Occupation in the Nordic Region:

NORDIC WAR STORIES –Cultural Memory and World War II.


Course Description:

During World War Two, the Nordic region was clenched between two belligerent powers: the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.  While Finland resisted Soviet aggression from the East, Denmark and Norway suffered military occupation by Nazi Germany.  Sandwiched in between two warring powers, neutral Sweden avoided occupation by making 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). In the Arctic region, Greenland (then a colony of Denmark) also held strategic significance for the Allies.  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 and the Baltic states 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 some historical scholarship in order to provide a context for studying literary fiction, essays, and memoirs from this historical period.  Some of the selected texts are written by famous writers of the period (for example, Nobel laureates John Steinbeck and Sigrid Undset); others are written by veterans, resistance fighters, or war victims and survivors.  We will consider the representations of invaders, collaborators, resistors, and victims of persecution in various texts, some of which were published under political censorship.  We will look at how these wartime texts represent the experience of military aggression and occupation by a foreign power. Finally, we will consider how individual and cultural memory shapes the representations of WWII experiences in fiction, cinema and historiography.


Student Learning Goals:

  1. To gain knowledge of the history and literature of the Nordic region during World War Two.
  2. To develop a 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 discussion 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 societal issues such as power, inequality, civil disobedience, activism, and social change movements.
  5. To develop the practice and skills of inquiry-driven research and scholarship.


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 UW students 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.


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

Grades will be based on exams, two short essays, and a term paper, as well as class discussions.

The course grade is based on these criteria:

20%      Final Test, consisting of multi-choice and essay questions (Thurs. Dec. 5th).

20%      Two short essays (3-pages each) (Due: Oct. 12th; Nov. 9th)

10%      One-page paper abstract and a bibliography. (Due: Nov. 16th)

10%      Prepared participation, including “Class conference” (Tues. Dec. 3rd);

40%      8 – 12 page research paper (Due: Wed. Dec. 11th)

All students are advised to make use of the class guide in order to get started with the research for the term paper:   

Further, students are encouraged to make use of UW campus writing centers, such as Odegaard Writing & Research Center for assistance with the final research paper.


Assignments and Evaluation for SCAND 590A (applies to graduate students in course):      

20%      Two short essays (4-pages)  (Due: Oct. 12th; Nov. 9th)

10%      One-page paper proposal: abstract & bibliography.* (Due: Nov. 15th)

10%      One class “guest-lecture.” (ca. 30 minutes; TBA)

10%      Regular class participation, including “class conference” (Dec. 3rd)                  

50%      12 to 15-page research paper  (DUE: Thurs. Dec. 13th)


Approaches/Areas of investigation for term 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 Nordic or Baltic country or a comparative study of two countries.
  • Investigation of a particular topic in Nordic war history, literature or cinema that focuses on the representation of power, inequality, civil disobedience (resistance), and/or social movements.
  • Analysis of the representation of invasions, occupations, or resistance movements in the construction of national myths and political identities of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and/or Sweden.
  • 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 and Baltic

Here is the specialized "class guide" which will lead you to valuable online resources as well as library and database resources for this course:


Required Texts:

The following 4 books required (available at U-Bookstore, shelved under SCAND 445):

  1. Nordic Narratives of the Second World War, eds. Stenius, Österberg and Östling. Nordic Academic Press, 2011.(ISBN: 978-91-85509-49-2)
  2. Väinö Linna, Unknown Soldiers.  Penguin Modern Classics, [1954] 2015.  (ISBN: 978-0-141-39365-0)
  3. Göran Rosenberg, A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz, trans. By Sarah Death.  Granta, [2012] 2014.   (ISBN: 978-1-78378-130-0)
  4. John Steinbeck, The Moon is Down, Penguin Classics [1942] 1995.  (ISBN 978-0-14-018746-5)

In addition, there are numerous required readings posted on CANVAS (under weekly ‘Modules’).


Religious Accommodations Policy: “Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”

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: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:22pm