You are here

SCAND 312 A: Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature

Meeting Time: 
MW 12:30pm - 2:20pm
CMU 228
Photo of Marianne Stecher
Marianne Stecher-Hansen

Syllabus Description:

Masterpieces and Marriages in Nordic Literature

How are love and marriage depicted in Nordic literature?  How are marital roles gendered?  Is the love relationship depicted as ‘legitimate’ and institutionalized, or “lawless” and transgressive?  Who are the ‘outlaws’ in these texts?  How do literary texts about courtship, marriage, separation or divorce - which often conclude in murder or suicide -  engage ethical and moral questions?   What are the legal or social codes  around the institution of marriage, as depicted in these literary texts?   How is marriage represented as a contested institution, an aspect of family life, and as an expression of Nordic culture, history, and society?


During the Winter quarter 2019 SCAND 312 will focus on several canonical texts in Nordic literature that speak to the questions above.  From the medieval masterpiece Laxdaela Saga ( ca 1245 CE) to Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House (1879) and Isak Dinesen's Winter's Tales (1942), we will explore Nordic masterpieces within the framework of culture, history, and society.  Further, we will consider various literary genres:  from the medieval saga, to the modern novel, the literary tale, and modern drama.  A particular period of focus for the course is the "Modern Breakthrough" and the turn of the 20th century (around 1900), a time when the status of women, sexual morality, and institution of marriage were hotly debated in the Scandinavian countries, as reflected in the works of Henrik Ibsen,  Hjalmar Söderberg, Sigrid Undset and Aino Kallas.   We will read works from all five Nordic countries, including Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Swedish texts in English translations.


Student Learning Objectives:

  1. To gain an understanding of Nordic literature in a wide context, including knowledge of various authors, historical and national contexts, and literary movements.
  2. To exercise the tools of text analysis and to improve skills for discussing and writing critically about the arts, culture, literature, and society.
  3. To acquire ability to identify specific literary genres (the literary tale, the saga, the novel, drama) and particular narrative modes and perspectives.

Evaluation criteria:

Grades will be based on course participation, contributions to in-class discussions, response papers, the final exam, and final term paper.    In order to be prepared for class, you will need to read ca. 30 – 80 pages for each meeting!  Note that W (Writing) credit is awarded for the successful completion of this course, thus the requirement regarding a final term paper of 8 pages in length.    The course grade will be based on these criteria:


10%     Prepared and regular participation; contribution to “class conference" (held in peer- groups)

30%     Three short response papers  (250 words each),

            Must be submitted by due dates.

10%     In-class final essay (March 13)

10%     Paper Proposal for Term paper (submitted by assigned date)

40%     Term paper, 8 double-spaced pages (12-point font),  due Monday March 18th.


Specific guidelines for each assignment will be discussed in class and posted Canvas.  The lectures will offer the background and contexts for the selected works.  Students are encouraged to develop their own ideas and observations in class discussions as well as in the response papers.


Required editions and translations (available for purchase at U Bookstore):

**These shorter texts will be posted on Canvas

  • The Saga of the People of Laxardal.
  • Hans Christian C. Andersen, “The Little Mermaid,” “The Shadow,” and “The Collar.”**
  • Henrik Ibsen, “A Doll House” (1879) in Four Major Plays, vol. I.
  • Hjalmar Söderberg, Doctor Glas (1905), translated by Paul Britten Austin.
  • Sigrid Undset, Marta Oulie – A Novel of Betrayal, translated by Tiina Nunnally.
  • Aino Kallas, “The Wolf’s Bride” (1928). **
  • Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), selected tales from Winter's Tales (1942).
Catalog Description: 
Major works of Scandinavian literature by selected authors.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:19pm