Birgitta Steene (1928-2023)

Submitted by Andrew Nestingen on
Birgitta Steene (1928-2023)

Professor emerita of Scandinavian Studies, Cinema Studies, Comparative Literature, and Drama at the University of Washington Kerstin Birgitta Steene died on November 1, 2023. She was born in Uddevalla, Sweden, on October 7, 1928. She was predeceased by her father Ragnar (1889-1961), mother Katrine (Kathe) (1903-1994), and son Mikael Steene (1962-2015).

Professor Steene was known as an international authority on the films of Ingmar Bergman and the writings of August Strindberg, topics she taught at the University of Washington from the 1970s. She was first appointed as Professor of Comparative Literature at the UW in 1973. Steene earned a Fil. kand. from the University of Uppsala in 1951. She earned a MA (’56) and Ph.D. (’60) in English and Comparative Literature at UW. Steene also held appointments at Louisiana State University-New Orleans, the University of Alberta, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, the University of California, Berkeley, Freie Universität, Berlin, Gothenburg University, Åbo Academy University, and Stockholm University. She was  professor of Scandinavian Studies at UW from 1973 until her retirement in 1990. She also taught at the University of Stockholm from 1990-1994. 

Steene was a prolific researcher, authoring eight books, editing six more, and publishing numerous articles as well. She is best known for Ingmar Bergman (1968, new edition 1975),  The Greatest Fire: A study of August Strindberg (1972), and Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide (2005). Her contribution was recognized by her colleagues, who elected her to serve as president of the International Association of Scandinavian Studies (IASS, 1984-6) and the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies (SASS, 1987-9). She also served as editor of the journal Strindbergiana (1995-2000) and on the editorial board of Cinema Journal and Scandinavica. The University of Uppsala awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1982. Steene’s academic work was also recognized by the King of Sweden and the Governor of Washington with honorary awards. Professor Steene remains connected to the University of Washington and Department of Scandinavian Studies through the Kathe and Ragnar Steene Endowment, which supports advanced undergraduate and graduate students “who have demonstrated academic merit in their study of Scandinavian culture.”