SCANDINAVIAN 75: Literature and Culture of the Nordic World: Northern Light, Northern Darkness

TuTh 3:30-5 , 234 Dwinelle. Instructor: Linda Rugg

Units: 4

L&S Breadth:  Historical Studies OR Social and Behavioral Sciences

This course is a prerequisite for the Scandinavian major.

This course will explore the most important cultural contributions of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden during the modern age, from 1650 to the present day.  We will open with the Swedish Age of Great Power, when Sweden rampaged through Europe and attempted to found a New Sweden in the Delaware River Valley. Then our studies will enter the 1700s, when the biting satire of Danish author Ludwig Holberg created a new theater, the bizarre cosmologies of Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg opened up new ways to think about the universe, and Swedish scientist Carl von Linnaeus created the system we still use to categorize every living being on earth.

The Danish Golden Age of the 1800s produces philosopher-theologian Søren Kierkegaard, whose writings on God, Death, and Existence still intrigue thinkers today, and Hans Christian Andersen, who was much more than a writer of fairy tales for children.  The 19th-century’s burgeoning interest in folklore and the mythology of the old Nordic world led to the creation of the great Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, as well as a new interest in the saga literature of Iceland. At the end of that century, hunger and the drive to create a new kind of life led thousands of Scandinavians to emigrate to North America; we will consider their story both from the point of view of arriving in an exciting new place and the loss experienced by those left behind.  And at home in Scandinavia, a revolutionary challenge to Europe’s old social order finds a voice in the drama of Norwegian Henrik Ibsen and the Swede August Strindberg. It should come as no surprise then that in the 20th century the Scandinavians take the world stage as the engineers of a new social and economic order. Storytellers Selma Lagerlöf and Karen Blixen (pen name: Isak Dinesen) recall the old traditions even as modernism comes sweeping in, in the form of new thoughts and designs for a new way of life.  Scandinavian filmmakers, from the silent era of the early 1900s to the current day, attract international audiences.  Finally, in the 21st century the art and architecture (and design for the people = IKEA), pop music, and crime fiction of the North constitute nothing less than a Nordic invasion.  Come learn about all this and much more: your world may be more Nordic than you think.

Søren Kierkegaard, The Seducer’s Diary, trans. Howard and Edna Hong, Princeton University Press, ISBN 6910117379

Henrik Ibsen, Ibsen: Four Major Plays I, trans. Rolf Fjelde, Signet Classics, ISBN 0451530225

August Strindberg, Five Plays, trans. Harry Carlson, University of California Press, ISBN 0520046986

Other works will be posted to the bcourse site as pdfs.

Prerequisites:  none