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SCAND 330 A: Scandinavian Mythology

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 12:30pm - 1:20pm
SMI 205
Photo of Lauren Poyer
Lauren Poyer

Syllabus Description:

Welcome to Scandinavian Mythology! Below is a text copy of the syllabus, which holds the answers to questions like, "Norse mythology? Cool! What are you going to do with it?" and, "When is the first exam?" and even, "Where lies Lauren's office, that I might inquire about proceeding with a double major in Scandinavian Studies?"

The syllabus can also be downloaded as a PDF.

I recommend you use the Modules tab to access the readings, quizzes, and assignments for each week. 


What is this course even about?

This course examines mythic and legendary texts concerning the old gods and heroes of Scandinavia, which were valued by medieval Norse pagans and Christians alike.  Through varying degrees of contact, medieval Norse peoples influenced—and were influenced by—a large number of communities across the North Atlantic, Europe, and the Near East. This course emphasizes these processes of intercultural exchange in shaping the body of Christian-written literature commonly referred to today as Norse Mythology, and offers tools for dismantling the illusion of homogeneity and continuity across pre-Christian Scandinavian religious traditions.


What will you learn?

First and foremost, the goal of this course is to explore what myth is and how it functioned in medieval Norse society. This course takes a culturally-specific view of myth and, like any cultural study, will model an attitude of respectful inquiry into the value systems of medieval Norse peoples.

This course will complicate your experience of reading historical texts and give you strategies for reading sources critically.  What questions can historical texts really answer? How do we reconcile what our textual sources say with other kinds of evidences, like archaeological evidence? To what extent is reconstructing Viking Age mythology possible, and what are our own motivations for trying?

This course will also apply this same mode of thinking to the medieval writers who produced the texts we will read. How did these medieval writers represent their motivations? Where does their authority come from? This course will help you better understand how medieval Norse people valued storytelling and used it to make meaning of their lives.

By the end of this course, you will be able to speak against the popular idea of a “pure,” “uniform,” or “ideal” Norse belief system and instead see a glimpse of the considerable diversity of belief across medieval Scandinavia, both pre- and post-Christianization. You will also be able to identify certain continuities in belief and practice.


How do you contact me?

Office hours are your time. If you have questions about anything related to the course material, the course itself, Norse language and/or culture in general, study abroad opportunities, a major or minor in Scandinavian Studies, or anything else, please come by my office hours. My office hours are from 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Raitt Hall Room 305U. If you are unable to make these hours because of scheduling issues or personal reasons, I am also available by appointment.

Please do email me with questions ( I will try to reply to all emails concerning material not on the syllabus within 24 hours. I only check email during business hours, or from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Keep in mind that we meet for class early in the morning, so if you email me with a question after 5:00 PM, I will not respond until after the next class meeting. Please plan accordingly.


What do you need?

Readings for each day are in the course plan. The three textbooks required for the course are listed below and available at the University Book Store; all other readings are available through Canvas.


What is unique about this course?

This course attempts to follow best practices for a Universal Design for Learning (Links to an external site). I will attempt to incorporate as many learning styles and strategies as possible into the curriculum for this course. If a particular learning style or strategy works best for you (or doesn’t work at all), please let me know in office hours or on your daily question card. Be mindful that what does not work for you might work for others and vice versa. Any classroom is a collaborative learning environment, even a large-scale “lecture” course like this one. Decades of research (Links to an external site). have consistently demonstrated that collaborative learning environments significantly increase critical-thinking skills compared to individual learning environments. Collaborative learning environments depend on mutual respect and understanding: we all learn best when we are invested in each others’ successes. If you require any accommodations, I encourage you to contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS) (Links to an external site..

The University of Washington is committed to a diverse, inclusive, and equitable educational environment. Do not be afraid to hold yourselves, others, and the university at large accountable. Report instances of harassment or discrimination (Links to an external site) based on “race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status, or parental status” or gender identity here (Links to an external site). Remember that you have a right to safety and that this includes safety against “sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, [and] sexual harassment (Links to an external site),” which you can report here (Links to an external site). Note that “all University employees...are required (Links to an external site). to report (Links to an external site). to their supervisors or the administrative heads of their organizations any complaints of discrimination, harassment or sexual harassment.”

I will ask for name and pronoun preferences privately at the beginning of this course. You are of course free to change how you wish to be called; simply let me know in writing or in person. Calling someone by their preferred name and/or pronouns is a sign of respect and the expectation in this course: refusing to do so will not be tolerated and you will be asked to leave.

College is hard. If at any point you notice a change in your health or habits that negatively affects your happiness or well being, I encourage you to contact the Hall Health Center (Links to an external site). or the Counseling Center (Links to an external site). Your Services & Activities Fee goes in part toward these services; you pay for this resource for managing stress, anxiety, depression, time management issues, and more.

Instances of academic misconduct will be handled on a case-by-case basis. For more information, please visit the the UW Community Standards & Student Conduct page on academic misconduct (Links to an external site).

As a lecturer at the University of Washington, I am a state employee. Salary information for state employees is public record and is available at (Links to an external site).


How will you be evaluated in this course?

Attendance and participation are mandatory. So much of the learning you will be doing in this course will happen in-class. Regular attendance and participation are necessary for your own learning and for the learning of your classmates; remember that learning in this course is a collaborative exercise. To receive full points for attendance and participation each day, you are expected to come to class having completed the assigned reading for that day, to participate in in-class activities and discussions, and to answer a daily question, which will either be posted to Canvas or completed in class. This daily question will help me as an instructor better tailor our class time to your needs; it’s not a test, so will not be graded on accuracy, but rather completion.

Out-of-class assignments are opportunities for you to apply the content-knowledge and critical-thinking skills you gain in this course to “real-world” scenarios. There will be 2 out-of-class assignments. Rubrics for these assignments will be given later in the quarter.

Weekly reading quizzes are quick checks of reading completion and comprehension. There will be ten reading quizzes over the course of the semester, one each week beginning in Week 2. These quizzes will be posted to Canvas and should be completed by the end of each week.

Exams will be  written in class. There are a total of 3 exams in this course, and practice exams and review sessions will be available for all 3. If you are absent for an exam, you have seven days (one full week) to schedule a time to write the exam and to write it.


What is the grading scale?

Grades for this course are calculated on a 100-point (percent) scale and converted to the University of Washington 4.0-scale (Links to an external site). prior to final submission. Conversion follows a linear scale recommended by Sharon Hargus and Laurie Poulson in the Department of Linguistics and available here (Links to an external site). According to this conversion scale, percentage ranges for each letter grade are as follows:

A: 90-100

A- (90-94); A (95-100)

B: 80-89

B- (80-83); B (84-86); B+ (87-89)

C: 70-79

C- (70-73); C (74-76); C+ (77-79)

D: 62-69

D- (62-63); D (64-66); D+ (67-69)

E: 0-61


How is your grade calculated?

20% Attendance and participation (0.5% ea x 40 days) 

25% Out-of-class assignments (12.5% ea x 2) 

10% Weekly reading quizzes (1% ea x 10) 

45% Exams (15% ea x 3) 

Catalog Description: 
Integrative study of religious life in the pre-Christian North. Emphasis on source materials, including the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda. Discussion of historical, archeological, and folkloric evidence.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 23, 2018 - 12:06pm