SCAND 312 A: Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature

Autumn 2021
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm / RAI 121
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
C LIT 320 B
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Fall 2021 - SCAN 312/CLIT 320B (5 credits VLPA, W Credit):

Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature

Tu/Thu 12.30 – 2:20pm, RAITT 121

Marianne Stecher-Hansen, Professor: [Mailbox: Raitt 318]

Office hours: Thurs. 3:00 – 5:00pm [Raitt 305Z]; alternatively, Zoom meetings by appointment

Masterpieces and Maritime Stories -- Sailors, Ships, and Seafarers:  This course seeks to explore the Nordic maritime world via tales and stories that depict sailors, ships, and seafarers as well as migrants and colonizers  We will investigate the maritime themes in the literature of the Nordic region as well as representations of the oceans as a vast natural environment, integral to our planet and human life.  Our study of this Nordic literary tradition will explore how seagoing vessels (and other maritime spaces) are inhabited by humans and how these environments are depicted in Scandinavian literature.  The class will investigate both classic and modern themes in this literature of the sea, including representations of sea-captains, sea-creatures, and  ‘sea-lust’ as well as immigrants and colonizers who engage in migration by sea..  How are the roles aboard ships (and the vessels themselves) gendered?  How are ships and sea-creatures depicted in folklore, myth and medieval sagas?   How is life at sea both idealized as romance and adventure and depicted as hellish nightmare.

 During the Fall quarter 2021, this course in "Masterpieces of Scandinavian literature" will focus on several canonical texts that are relevant to the questions above.  We will consider various literary genres:  from the medieval saga, to the modern novel, the literary tale, modern drama, and contemporary fiction.  We will read works from most of the Nordic countries, including Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Swedish texts in English translation.

Student Learning Objectives:

  1. Practice the skill of daily “deep reading” (i.e. 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading of hard copy text – ideally, without electronic devices present; highlighting with pen or pencil…)
  2. Gain an understanding of literary studies in a wide context, including knowledge of various Nordic authors, historical and national contexts, and literary modes..
  3. Exercise the tools of text analysis and improve critical writing skills to address topics in the arts, culture, literature, and society.
  4. Acquire knowledge in order to identify genres (the fairy tale, the saga, the novel, drama, film, etc) and forms of narration.

Evaluation criteria:  Grades will be based on course participation (in-person/online), contributions to in-person/online discussions, two “critical response” papers and term paper on an approved topic.   Note that W (Writing) credit is awarded for the successful completion of this course (see W credit below), thus the specific page requirement for course papers and revisions.  The course grade will be based on the following assignments, submitted online:

40%    Two critical response papers  (3 pages each; 750 words)

10%    topic proposal and title for term paper (1 page; 250 words).

40%    Term paper (6 – 7 pages: 1,500 – 1,750 words total);“peer-reviewed” online; revision submitted.

10%    Regular participation/online discussions (5%); ‘virtual class conference’ [in-class] (5%)

Paper format: All papers must be double-spaced; 1 inch margins; 12 point font and submitted on Canvas (in Word or pdf format); the document uploaded must include the name of the student  (See below UW policy on plagiarism).

Preparation: Class meetings will be a combination of lecture and discussion.  Please come prepared (see “deep reading” under Student Learning Goals) with questions and observations relating to the assigned text for that meeting.   All lecture outlines and slides will be posted on Canvas under “Modules.”   Online discussions will be posted every other week on Canvas, under “Discussions.”

Required editions and translations (4 paperback books to purchase at U Bookstore):

**These shorter selections will be posted on our Canvas under “Modules.”

  1. The Vinland Sagas (“The Saga of the Greenlanders” and “Eirik the Red’s Saga”), translated by Keneva Kunz. (Penguin Classics).
  2. Hans Christian Andersen, “The Little Mermaid,” translated by Tiina Nunnally (Penguin Classics).**
  1. Henrik Ibsen, “Lady from the Sea” in Four Major Plays, vol. II.**
  2. Amalie Skram, Betrayed, translated by Katherine Hanson (Norvik Press).
  3. Vilhelm Moberg, The Emigrants, part II: “Peasants at Sea” (Borealis Books).
  1. Isak Dinesen, Winter’s Tales (Vintage Books), selected tales.
  2. Morten Strøksnes, Shark Drunk (selection)**

Reading Schedule/Class meetings:

SUBJECT TO CHANGE - will be updated.

Week #1: Introduction

Thu 9/30:  Course Introduction/Assignments/Policies;

Reading: “Introduction,” The Vinland Sagas, pp. ix – xix, and “Ships, pp. 74 – 78.

Week #2: Medieval Icelandic Sagas and Viking seafarers

Tu 10/5: Reading: “The Saga of the Greenlanders,” The Vinland Sagas, pp. 3 – 21. See also “Maps; Family Tree; Chronology; The Farm; Social, Political and Legal Structure,” pp. 61 – 83.

Guest-lecture, Lauren Poyer, Assistant Teaching Professor

Th 10/7: Reading: “Eirik the Red’s Saga,” Vinland Sagas, pp. 25 – 50; See also reference sections.

Participation: Online discussion #1 (about Vinland Sagas)

Week #3: Fairy Tales, Folklore, Sirens and Mermaids.

Tu 10/12 Reading: Norwegian Folk-tale ("The Griffin") and Scandinavian Folk Belief & Legends ( "Witchcraft" and "The Spirits of the Sea."

Th 10/14 Reading: Danish literary fairy tale - Hans Christian Andersen, “The Little Mermaid,”

Sat. 10/16 DUE:  Critical response paper #1 (see prompts)

Week #4: Modern Tales, Sea-lust, and Isak Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales

10/19  Reading: Isak Dinesen, “The Sailor Boy’s Tale,” Winter’s Tales, pp. 91 – 103; and and Scandinavian Folk Belief & Legends ( "Witchcraft"- the trial of Quive Baardsen).

10/21 Reading: Isak Dinesen,  “Peter and Rosa,” and "The Pearls," Winter’s Tales.

Participation: Online discussion #2 (about Andersen and Dinesen texts)

Week #5: Modern drama - Ibsen and Lady from the Sea

10/26 Reading: Ibsen, Lady from the Sea, pp. 203 – 246 (Acts 1 – 3)

10/28 Reading: Ibsen, Lady from the Sea, pp. 247 – 306 (Acts 4 – 5).

10/28 Guest lecture by Associate Professor Olivia Gunn

Participation: online discussion #3 (about Ibsen text)

Weeks # 6 - 7:  Gothic realism, Amalie Skram, and the Sea Captain’s Marriage

Tu 11/2  Reading: Amalie Skram, Betrayed, pp. 7 – 53 (chapters 1 – 5)

Thu 11/4 Reading: Skram, Betrayed, pp. 54 – 88 (chapters 6 – 8)

DUE Sat. 11/6: Critical Response paper #2 (see prompts)

Tu 11/9 Reading: Amalie Skram, Betrayed, pp. 89 – 121 (chapters 9 – 120); “Afterword” p. 123 – 129.

11/9 Guest lecture: Translating Amalie Skram – Dr. Katherine J. Hanson

Thu 11/11 Veteran’s Day holiday ; No class meeting

DUE Sat. 11/13: Paper proposal and title

Week #8 - 9.  Scandinavian’s Emigration Saga – Vilhelm Moberg’s ‘Peasants at Sea’

Tu 11/16 Reading: Moberg, The Emigrants, pp. 197 – 249.

Thu 11/18 Reading: Moberg, The Emigrants,  pp. 250 – 306.

Remotely taught class:  Tu 11/23 Reading: Moberg, The Emigrants, pp. 307 – 366 (Zoom)

Participation: online discussion #4 (on Moberg text)

Th: 11/25 Thanksgiving Holiday; No class meeting.

Weeks #10:  Modern seafarers and explorers in the Arctic region and Greenland.

Tu 11/30 Guest Lecture, Assistant Teaching Professor Andy Meyer.  Reading: Morten Strøksnes, Shark Drunk (selection)

Th 12/2   Thesis-writing Workshop - Term Paper drafting (in-class).

Week #11: Conclusions – Findings - Revisions

Tu 12/7 "Class Conference" in-person [Presentation term paper oral presentations in assigned peer-groups]

DUE: Wed. Dec. 8: DUE (by midnight) First draft of Term Paper on approved topic.

Thu 12/9 Peer-review Workshop (in class)

Participation: Complete assigned "Peer-review" of 2  term papers (2). 

Finals Week:

Tu 12/14:  DUE: Revised Term Paper, revised final version.


Writing (W) Credit: One of the most valuable skills you will develop at UW is the ability to communicate effectively through writing. It is a skill that is universally valued by employers as well as graduate and professional programs.  Writing cultivates self-expression and it fosters your ability to explain complex ideas. In university courses, your papers will not typically be summaries of what you have learned in class but in-depth exploration and investigation of aspects of topics discussed in lecture. In your papers, you will have the opportunity to develop your own ideas and interpretations concerning what you are learning in class. As you write for SCAND 312, you will practice organizing your thoughts into logical, persuasive arguments. Allow time to rewrite and revise your writing. Review the comments that I write on your papers (via Canvas) and use what you've learned in your next paper. Work at improving your writing!  Note that UW Writing (W) courses require a total of 10 to 15 pages of graded, out-of-class writing, (in this class: two short 3-page papers, and one longer 6- to 7-page paper with a revision, totals 12 - 13 pages, fulfilling the W requirement ). Students will receive some feedback on their writing; comments on papers are not restricted to content, my comments will also be directed to the formal aspects of writing.  On-campus Writing Centers are here to help you out:


Student Academic Responsibility and Plagiarism:  As in all college and university courses, you are expected to submit writing that is your own work and to cite texts and any sources properly.  Please read the UW policy on Student Academic Responsibility, especially the section on "Plagiarism"; this document is posted on our Canvas under "Modules."


Diversity and Equity:  The UW Scandinavian Studies Department is committed to thinking against and beyond fear of the other, to sharing knowledge, and to learning from students, colleagues, and the community. Our past, present, and future rely on intercultural exchange in a multitude of voices, from a multitude of perspectives, in more than eight languages. We are committed to diversity and equity. We strive to be an inclusive place that advocates and enables intellectual community, free speech and debate, and compassion.


Land acknowledgment: The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot nations” including the Duwamish, on whose traditional lands the University of Washington-Seattle stands.


Religious Accommodations Policy: Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (


Coronavirus and Covid-19; Facts and Resources: This autumn, the UW is safely returning to in-person instruction and activities. The University requires requires masks indoors for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, and also requires all students and personnel to be vaccinated. Please get vaccinated if you haven’t already, and attest to your vaccination status. These are just two of the many health and safety measures in place for autumn quarter.

We remain committed to providing a high-quality Husky Experience for every student, supporting the University of Washington’s vital research and service missions, and continuing to provide the outstanding medical care that keeps our community healthy.

If you are sick with any illness, you must stay home, even if you are fully vaccinated.

Catalog Description:
Major works of Scandinavian literature by selected authors.
GE Requirements Met:
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Writing (W)
Last updated:
February 25, 2024 - 2:52 pm