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SCAND 100 A: Introduction to Scandinavian Culture

Meeting Time: 
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
Photo of Olivia Gunn
Olivia Noble Gunn

Syllabus Description:

Welcome to SCAND 100!

Any questions? Ask the professor:


Harald Sohlberg, Vinternatt i fjellene (1918-24)

When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30 to 2:20

Where: MGH 389

Professor Olivia Gunn,

Office: Raitt Hall, 305P

Office hours: TBD

Course Description

In SCAND 100, we will explore Nordic, Scandinavian, and Baltic source materials through the lens of opposition: tradition and modernity, happiness and misery, homogeneity and diversity, local and global, rights and violations, pride and shame. The goal is NOT to focus on opposition as such, but rather to address concepts that are always in need of re-examination, to complicate stereotypes, and to demonstrate the range and fascination of the cultural traditions in question.

  • People often claim that Scandinavia is homogeneous.

    • What about forms of Scandinavian diversity, from religious and class differences to Sámi, queer, and Afro-Nordic 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. In search of answers, we will explore a range of sources from children's literature to crime fiction, from folktales to film, from hip hop videos to the novel.


Although this is subject to change (depending in part on whether we are able to meet in person), in the past assignments for SCAND 100 have included:

Journaling 40%

All students will complete 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 collective (completed in teams) and open note.

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

Micro Papers 30%

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

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: 
June 28, 2020 - 9:22pm