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SCAND 590 B: Special Topics in Scandinavian Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
SCAND 445 A, JSIS A 442 A
Photo of Marianne Stecher
Marianne Stecher-Hansen

Syllabus Description:

SCAND 445/SCAND 590/JSIS A 442: Winter 2021

War and Occupation in the Northern Europe -

The Nordic Region in World War II:  History, Fiction, Media and Memory.

Professor Stecher-Hansen, Department of Scandinavian Studies:

Office hours: Tuesdays 3:30 - 4:30pm  Join URL: by 

Course Description:

During World War Two, the Nordic region was clenched between two belligerent powers: the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.  While Finland resisted Soviet aggression from the East, Denmark and Norway suffered military occupation by Nazi Germany.  Sandwiched in between two warring powers, neutral Sweden avoided occupation by making concessions to the Axis powers.  Farther west and beyond the immediate path of war, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands were occupied by the Allies (the British and Americans). In the Arctic region, Greenland (then a colony of Denmark) also held strategic significance for the Allies.  This course offers a survey of the history of the Nordic region during the Second World War as well as close study of some key literary texts.

Emphasizing the ‘Eastern” (Soviet) pressure on Finland and the Baltic states in relation to the ‘Western” (Nazi) occupation of Norway and Denmark, this course investigates the difficult fates of these small nations in the northern periphery of Europe. We will read some historical scholarship in order to provide a context for studying literary fiction, essays, and memoirs from this historical period.  Some of the selected texts are written by famous writers of the period (for example, Nobel laureates John Steinbeck and Sigrid Undset); others are written by veterans, resistance fighters, or war victims and survivors.  We will consider the representations of invaders, collaborators, resistors, and victims of persecution in various texts, some of which were published under political censorship.  We will look at how these wartime texts represent the experience of military aggression and occupation by a foreign power. Finally, we will consider how individual and cultural memory shapes the representations of WWII experiences in fiction, cinema and historiography.

Note to enrolled students:  Assignment dates and readings for each class meeting are posted below. 

The readings and films are posted under "Modules."  Assignment guidelines are posted under "Assignments."

Student Learning Goals:

  1. To gain knowledge of the history and literature of the Nordic region during World War Two.
  2. To develop a vocabulary for the study of war and occupation (key terms: alliance, collaboration, neutrality, occupation, resistance) and to support effective cross-cultural communication skills.
  3. To exercise the skill of analysis in discussion of wartime literature, films, and memoirs (making use of such key concepts: agency, audience, censorship, narrative, propaganda, reception, and rhetoric).
  4. To enhance critical thinking about societal issues such as power, inequality, civil disobedience, activism, and social change movements.
  5. To develop the practice and skills of inquiry-driven research and scholarship.

The Diversity Requirement:

This course fulfills the UW diversity requirement, which requires all undergraduates to take a minimum of 3 credits that focus on the sociocultural, political, and/or economic diversity of the human experience at local, regional, or global levels. This requirement is intended to help UW students develop an understanding of the complexities of living in increasingly diverse and interconnected societies. Courses that fulfill the diversity requirement focus on cross-cultural analysis and communication; and historical and contemporary inequities such as those associated with race, ethnicity, class, sex and gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ability, religion, creed, age, and socioeconomic status. Therefore, course activities in this class on “War and Occupation in the Nordic Region” encourage thinking critically about topics such as power, inequality, marginality, and social movements, and support effective cross-cultural communication skills.

Assignments and Evaluation for SCAND 445/JSIS A 442 A:

Grades will be based on two short essays, and a term paper, and a final test as well as class participation.

20%      Two short essays (3-pages each; 10% each)

20%      Participation, In-class (5%) "Discussions" (10%), and “Class conference” (5%)

10%      One-page paper proposal and a bibliography.

10%      Final Test, consisting of multi-choice questions

40%      8 – 10 page research paper,

All students are advised to make use of the class guide in order to get started with the research for the term paper:   

Further, students are encouraged to make use of UW campus writing centers, such as Odegaard Writing & Research Center for assistance with the final research paper.

Assignments and Evaluation for SCAND 590A (applies to graduate students in course):      

20%      Two short essays (4-pages) 

10%      One-page paper proposal: abstract & bibliography.*

10%      One class “guest-presentation” (ca. 20 minutes; TBA)

20%      Regular class participation, including online "discussions" and “class conference”              

40%      10 to 15-page term research paper 

Possible areas of investigation for term research papers:

  • Analysis or close readings of particular literary texts, memoirs or testimony, around a particular concern, theme, or idea.
  • Interpretation and contextualization of literary fiction or memoirs, published during wartime in a particular Nordic or Baltic country or a comparative study of two countries.
  • Research into the roles of Indigenous Nordic peoples (Greenlandic Inuit and/or Saami peoples) in WWII and impact of war and occupation on their communities.
  • Investigation of a particular topic in Nordic war history, literature or cinema that focuses on the representation of power, inequality, civil disobedience (resistance), and/or social movements.
  • Analysis of the representation of invasions, occupations, or resistance movements in the construction of national myths and political identities of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and/or Sweden.
  • Analysis of textual and/or cinematic representations of war or occupation in the context of a particular critical paradigm.
  • Analysis of the ‘revisionist’ tendencies of postwar and recent scholarship dealing with WWII in the Nordic and Baltic

Required Texts (in order which they will be read):

The following 4 books required (available at U-Bookstore, shelved under SCAND 445):.

1. John Gilmour and Jill Stephenson, Hitler's Scandinavian Legacy. Bloomsbury Academic 2014 (978-1-4725-7841-9); available as an eBook via UW libraries.

2. Väinö Linna, Unknown Soldiers.  Penguin Modern Classics, [1954] 2015.  (ISBN: 978-0-141-39365-0)

3. John Steinbeck, The Moon is Down, Penguin Classics [1942] 1995.  (ISBN 978-0-14-018746-5).

4. Göran Rosenberg, A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz, trans. By Sarah Death.  Granta, [2012] 2014.   (ISBN: 978-1-78378-130-0).

5. Highly recommended:  Marianne Stecher-Hansen, ed. Nordic War Stories:  World War II as History, Fiction, Media and Memory. Berghahn Books, 2021 (ISBN 978-1-78920-962-4 ebook). Order eBook now on

In addition, there are  required readings posted on CANVAS (under weekly ‘Modules’).

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 (”

Weekly Reading Schedule: Fall 2021

Week #1: Introduction and Overview

How do historians ‘narrate’ the plot of the war or wars in the North?  How does memory and cultural memory shape our understanding of the past generally and World War II specifically? We will begin by exploring the relationship between history and literary texts and by surveying the historical period and the geo-political region.  We will consider briefly the rise of Nazi Germany in relation to the Soviet Union in the 1930s and the race for domination of the Nordic and Baltic regions.

(Assigned reading is either posted on Canvas or in required books for course and should be read in advance of lectures)

Tu. 5 Jan:

Introduction: Course goals and requirements/The ‘Plot’ of the Race for the North

READ:  Marianne Stecher-Hansen, “Introduction” to Nordic War Stories, 1 – 15. (on Canvas under “Modules”)

READ: John Keegan, “Do We Need a New History of the Second World War?” (on Canvas)

Thu 7 Jan:

READ: Richard Overy, “Scandinavia in the Second World War,” in Hitler’s Scandinavian Legacy, 13 – 32.

READ: Aleida Assman, “Canon and Archive,” pp 97 – 107. (on Canvas)

Weeks 2 and 3:   Finland; The Nazi-Soviet Grip -The Finnish Wars - Unknown Soldiers

We take a close look at Finland during the Winter War of 1939—1940 (between the Soviet Union and Finland) and consider the “Continuation War of 1941-44,” when Finland was a ‘co-belligerent’ (ie ally) of Germany.  We will discuss selected chapters from Linna’s famous novel, Unknown Soldiers, depicting the Continuation War 1941 - 1944 and discuss how this collective novel depicts the Finnish war experience.  We will also ask the question: What is a ‘war novel’?  Finally, we will consider the battle over the Finnish cultural memory of the World War II.

Tu 12 Jan:

READ:  Martti Häikiö, “The Race for the North,” 53 – 73 (only first 20 pages of article) (on Canvas)

READ:  Oula Silvennoinen, “Janus of the North?  Finland 1940 – 44; Finland’s road into alliance with Hitler,” in Hitler’s Scandinavian Legacy, 129 – 143.

Film clips on Canvas: “The Winter War” (1988), by Pekka Parikka; and Film clip: “Fire and Ice: The Winter War” (2005).

Thu 14 Jan: 

READ: Linna, Unknown Soldiers, Chapters 1 – 2: pp. 1 – 69.

READ: Julia Pajunen, “The Battle over Finnish Cultural Memory of War,” Nordic War Stories, 185 – 199.

 (Monday 18 January is Martin Luther King Day)

Tu 19 Jan:

Guest Lecture by Finnish Lecturer Ilona Härmävaara.

READ:  V. Linna, Unknown Soldiers, Chapters 12 – 13, pp. 334 – 386.

TBA: Film trailers of adaptations, The Unknown Soldier (1955; 1985; 2017)

Thu 21 Jan

READ:  Linna, Unknown Soldiers,  Chapters 14 – 16, pp. 387 – 466.

READ:  Juhana Auneslouoma, “Two Shadows over Finalnd: Hitler, Stalin and the Finns Facing the

Second World War as History 1944 – 2010,” in Hitler’s Scandinavian Legacy, pp. 199 – 215.

DUE: Sat 23 January:  Essay #1 on Narrating History/Finnish Wars.

Weeks 4 and 5: Norway: Allied and Occupied--Allied Propaganda – Steinbeck and Unset

We will explore the position of Norway as both allied and occupied during World War II, and look at  the role of civilian resistance as well as that of Quisling’s NS party.  We will consider books written in the service of the Allied cause, including Sigrid Undset’s work of 1942, published originally in the US, as well as John Steinbeck’s novella, The Moon is Down (1942) that enjoyed a wide underground readership in occupied Western Europe.  Lastly, we will consider how the cultural memory of the Norwegian experience in World War II is depicted in recent cinematic productions.  

Tu 26 Jan: Invasion of Norway – Views from the Allied Front

Film clip: Invasion of Norway “The World at War” (on Canvas)

READ: Tom Kristiansen,“The Norwegian War Experience,” Nordic War Stories, 49 – 63.

READ:  Undset, “”Norway, Spring 1940” and “Sweden, Summer 1940,” Return to the Future, 7 – 84.

Optional READ: Christine Hamm, “Sigrid Undset’s Problematic Propaganda,” in Nordic War Stories, 136 – 148.

Thu 28 Jan: Collaboration/Treason

Read: John Steinbeck, The Moon is Down (pp. 1 – 50).

WATCH: Documentary (2005), clip depicting Vidkun Quisling's 1945 trial & execution (on Canvas)

Tu 2 Feb: Acts of Resistance – Patriotic Memories

READ: Ole Kristian Grimnes, "Norway's Occupation and Collective Memory,"...

READ: John Steinbeck, The Moon is Down (pp. 51 – 112)

Optional READ:  Gunnar Iversen, “Acts of. Remembering – Norwegian Occupation Drama,” Nordic War Stories, 302 – 318.

WATCH: View trailers: The King’s Choice (2016) or The 12th Man (2017) [or entire on Amazon Prime Video]

Week 5 - 6 : Occupied Denmark and National Memory and Postwar Cinema

Finally, we explore the occupation of Denmark by Nazi Germany. We consider the Danish government’s “policy of negotiation” and the role of the resistance movement, as it has been constructed in the national memory and made the subject of documentaries and postwar films.

Th 4 Feb: Occupation and Cooperation

READ: Niels Wium Olesen, “The Obsession with Sovereignty: Cohabitation and Resistance in Denmark 1940 – 45,” In Hitler’s Scandinavian Legacy, pp. 45 – 70.

WATCH: Documentary film, Denmark -Living with the Enemy (on Canvas)

Tu. 9 Feb. Legacy of Resistance and Rescue - Literature

READ: Kim Malthe-Bruun’s letters, “Resistance and Prison,”(1945) pp. 137 – 175.

READ:  H.C. Andersen, "The Wicked Prince - A Fairy Tale."

WATCH: Trailer for 'Flame and Citron" (2008)

Thu 11 FebRevisionist historical narratives - new Danish Cinema

READ: Sofie Lene Bak, “Danish Historical Narratives of the Occupation,” Nordic War Stories, 35 – 46.

READ: Tove Ditlevsen, "Oranges," short story.

WATCH trailer for "Land of Mine" (2015).


DUE: Sat 13 February – Essay #2 (on Occupied Norway and/or Denmark)

Week 7: Absent from Cultural Memory? – The Arctic: Indigenous Peoples in World War II

(Monday 15 February is President’s Day Holiday)

Tu 16 Feb Greenland and the Allies

READ: Niels Aage Skov, pp. 95 - 97 in “The Use of Historical Myth: Denmark’s World War II Experience”  (section about Greenland)

Optional read: Ulrik Gad, “Greenland: A post-Danish sovereign national state in the Making.”

Th 18 Feb Arctic front and the Saami

Guest presentation:  Prof. Troy Storfjell (Saami), Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma.

READ: Aalehtta, “The Sami and World War II” (webpage on Canvas Modules)

Optional READ: Gorter-Gronvik and Suprun, “Ethnic minorities and warfare at the Arctic front 1939 – 45”

DUE: Sat 20 February – Abstract and Bibliography

Weeks 8 and 9      Sweden’s Neutrality –Bystander and Rescuer Nation - Holocaust memoir

In relation to the war in Finland and occupied Norway, we will consider Sweden’s political neutrality during WWII, a position that has come under scrutiny in the postwar decades.  The paradox of Sweden’s humanitarian legacy will be considered. In the context of cultural memory study, we will read the award-winning memoir of the Swedish son of a Holocaust survivor in the context of the role of Sweden as a wartime neutral.

Tu 23 Feb

READ: John Gilmour, “Sweden’s Ambiguous War,”Nordic War Stories, 82 – 94.

READ:  Ken Zetterberg, “The Case of Sweden,” in Hitler’s Scandinavian Legacy, pp. 101 – 124.

Thu 25 Feb:           

READ: Goran Rosenberg, A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz, pp. 3 – 74 (“The Place” and “The Wall”)

READ:  Johan Östling, “The Rise and Fall of Small-State Realism: Sweden and the Second World War,” in Hitler’s Scandinavian Legacy pp. 127 – 142.

Tu 2 March:

READ: Rosenberg, A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz, pp. 74 - 157 (“”The Carousel” and “The Road”)

Guest Speaker at 1:30pm:  Holocaust Center for Humanity.

Thu 4 March:

Read: Rosenberg, A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz, pp. 275 - 330 (“The Shadows” and “The Aftermath”)

Guest presentations at 1:30pm by PhD students in Scandinavian Studies, Karin Filipsson and Helen Durst (20 minutes each), as preview to "class conference."

Week 10: Conclusions

Tu 9 March

“Class Conference” (Oral presentations of Term papers in “Break-out Rooms”).

Th 11 March

Final Review

Final Test online

DUE: Final Term Papers  - 17 March  on Canvas (Final Exam Week: March 13 – 19)



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Last updated: 
October 14, 2020 - 7:10am