Have you ever heard of Finland? It’s the country of the trending concept kalsarikännit and the happiest people on earth. The endless summer nights spent at a lake cottage and the gloomy winter days spent developing the newest mobile games in a hip office decorated with minimalist Nordic design. It’s a country with literature that is not afraid to discuss the dark side of the human nature and music that is, well, just dark. It is also a country full of people who like to brand themselves as weird. How did that happen? During this course you will learn about all this, and so much more.
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 – without forgetting the contemporary Finnish lifestyle and art.
The overarching theme of the course is Finnish identity: how has it been constructed, reshaped, perceived and marketed from the birth of the idea of “Finnishness” until today. We will study this through works ranging from the earliest oral poetry to most important literary work to contemporary films and pop culture. We’ll place stories, visual art, music, poems, and literary figures in social context, and interpret literature and other forms of art 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.