SCANDINAVIAN 75: Literature and Culture of the Nordic World

TuTh 3:30-5 , 102 Wheeler. Instructor: TBA

Units: 4

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

What are Nordic values? The countries of the northern Europe (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) have been caricatured in recent American political discourse as either utopian or dystopian alternatives to American culture (in that we do/don’t want to be “like Sweden” or “like Denmark”). But what are the complex cultural and historical realities that have made the contemporary Nordic region what it is today? Proceeding from three main areas of investigation (sustainable relationships to nature; values of social solidarity; and a progressive view of gender equality), the course traces the ways in which literature, drama, film, folklore, and other forms of humanistic expression have both revealed the pressure points implicit in Nordic values and in some cases contributed to their formation. Beginning its historical arc around 1650, this course traces the historical development of contemporary Nordic discussions in four main phases. We begin with the Nordic Enlightenment, which saw the decline of Danish and Swedish state power and colonization but also was an age of scientific advancement, social satire, and the growth of vernacular cultures. Next we study the nineteenth-century, where the familiar features of Scandinavian culture begin to take shape: the emergence of folk culture, the existential individual, and the new woman. These currents move forward into the early twentieth century formation of the Nordic welfare state and its design of modern political and urban environments. Finally the course will focus on the contemporary multicultural life of the North as seen through its crime fiction, popular culture, film, and television.

Prerequisites:  none.