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SCAND 312 A: Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm
RAI 121
Joint Sections: 
C LIT 320 B
Photo of Marianne Stecher
Marianne Stecher-Hansen

Syllabus Description:

C LIT 320 (Studies in European Literature)/SCAND 312 (MASTERPIECES of Scandinavian Literature)

W (Writing Credit)

Nordic Maritime Tales -- Sailors, Ships, and Seafarers  

This course seeks to explore the Nordic maritime world and nautical spaces via tales and stories that depict sailors, ships, and seafarers (including migrants).  We will look at the maritime themes in the literature of the North and its depictions of the ocean as the primary element of our biosphere and as a space outside/beyond/or in opposition to landed societies.   Our study of the Nordic maritime literary tradition will explore seagoing vessels (and other maritime spaces) inhabited by humans and how this relationship between human and the oceanic environments is represented.  The class will investigate both classic and modern themes in Nordic literature of the sea, including representations of sea-captains, sea-creatures, sea-lust as well as migration by sea.  How are the labor, gender and social roles aboard the ships and other vessels depicted?  How are ships, sailors, and sea-creatures depicted in Nordic folklore, myth and medieval sagas that inspire modern Scandinavian literature?

During the Fall quarter 2021, CLIT 320/SCAND 312 will focus on several canonical texts in Nordic literature that speak 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 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.   Note that W (Writing) credit is awarded for the successful completion of this course, thus the requirement regarding a final term paper of 8 - 10 pages in length.    The course grade will be based on the following criteria:

10%     Prepared and regular participation (5%); presentation in “class conference” (5%)

30%     Three critical response papers  (350 - 400 words each)

10%     Term paper topic proposal (max. 250 words).

40%     Term paper, 8 pages, double-spaced (two drafts).

10%     In-class final essay (selection of questions).

Specific guidelines for each assignment will be discussed in class and posted on 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 critical response papers.


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

**Shorter texts will be posted on Canvas!

  • The Vinland Sagas (“The Saga of the Greenlanders” and “Eirik the Red’s Saga”), translated by Keneva Kunz. (Penguin).
  • Hans Christian Andersen, “The Little Mermaid,” translated by Tiina Nunnally (Penguin Classics).**
  • Amalie Skram, Betrayed, translated by Katherine Hanson (Norvik Press, 2018).
  • Vilhelm Moberg, The Emigrants [part II: “Peasants at Sea”] New York:  Borealis Books.
  • Isak Dinesen, Winter’s Tales, selected tales: "The Young Man with the Carnation,"  “The Sailor-Boy’s Tale,” "The Fish," and “Peter and Rosa.”
  • additional texts TBA

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 (

Catalog Description: 
Major works of Scandinavian literature by selected authors.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
May 19, 2021 - 11:25pm