You are here

SCAND 312 A: Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
MOR 225
Joint Sections: 
C LIT 320 A
Photo of Marianne Stecher
Marianne Stecher-Hansen

Syllabus Description:

Love and Marriage: Masterpieces in Nordic Literature

How are love and marriage depicted in Nordic literature?   What is the representation of "youth" (or young adults) in love relationships and at the threshold of marriage?   Are these love relationships depicted as ‘legitimate’ and institutionalized, as rites of passage, or as “lawless” and transgressive?    How do certain literary texts depicting courtship and marriage, (and/or separation or divorce) engage ethical and moral questions?   What are the legal and social codes  around the institutions of courtship and marriage depicted in these Nordic 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 2020, this course  (SCAND 312/CLIT 320) will focus on several canonical texts in Nordic literature that speak to these questions, including the medieval Icelandic saga,  Laxdaela Saga ( ca 1245 CE), some of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, a couple plays by Henrik Ibsen, and modern Scandinavian works. Students will explore Nordic masterpieces within the framework of culture, history, and society.  Further, they will investigate the elements of various literary genres:  the medieval saga, the novel, the literary fairy tale, and the modern drama.     We will read masterpieces from all five Nordic countries, including Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Swedish texts in English translation.


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. 35 – 75 pages for each meeting!  Note that W (Writing) credit is awarded for the successful completion of SCAND 312, 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  (400 - 500 words each),

            Must be submitted by due dates.

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

50%     Term paper, 8 - 10  double-spaced pages (12-point font),


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 (books available for purchase at U Bookstore):

  1. The Saga of the People of Laxardal (Penguin Classics).
  2. Hjalmar Söderberg, Doctor Glas, translated by Paul Britten Austin.
  3. Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath, translated by Tiina Nunnally.
  4. Tove Ditlevsen, Youth, translated by Tiina Nunnally, (Penguin Classics).

In addition, there will be shorter, selected texts, posted on Canvas:

  • Hans Christian Andersen, “The Little Mermaid,”
  • Henrik Ibsen, “A Doll House."
  • Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), "The Pearls" and "The Sailor-Boy's Tale," from Winter's Tales.
Catalog Description: 
Major works of Scandinavian literature by selected authors.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
September 10, 2020 - 9:25pm