SCANDINAVIAN R5A, Section 2: Reading and Composition: A Ring of Retelling: The Romanticized Nordic Legend

MWF 8-9 , 106 Wheeler. Instructor: Adam Carl

Units: 4

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the first half or the “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

The stories told in ancient Scandinavian literature and folklore have proven to be extremely resilient, directly influencing the lore in modern works, such as The Hobbit, A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones), and Marvel Comic’s Thor. One Scandinavian legend in particular has captured popular imagination across the world: the Viking Age legend of The Saga of the Vǫlsungs. The saga – rife with curses, warring kingdoms, love triangles, and (of course) dragons – has been retold over and over. Authors, screenwriters, and composers simply can’t resist a good dragon-slaying.

Our reading list will sketch a genealogy of literature which cuts across national borders and historical eras. Retellings of The Saga of the Vǫlsungs are authored by familiar names, like JRR Tolkien and Richard Wagner. Some versions are by famous Scandinavian authors like Henrik Ibsen (sometimes called Norway’s Shakespeare) and Selma Lagerlöf (the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in literature). The retellings encountered in this course are hardly tired old tropes; they are moments of creativity for some of the Modern era’s most successful authors.

In this course, we will investigate the interplay between the content of writing, organization of a paper, and the stylistic/technical aspects at a sentence level. We will also consider the use of secondary materials, current critical methods of approaching a text. The course theme of “retelling” will help to highlight the contexts of historical writing and our own moment in history. We will attempt to move questions from “How is this different?” towards “Why is this different?” Along the way, the class will discover the rich cultural heritage of Scandinavia, and how a retelling of an old Viking legend can lead to the next Hollywood blockbuster or best-selling comic book.

Required reading:

  • Saga of the Volsungs translated by Jesse Byock. 978-0140447385
  • Lord Arne’s Silver (Herr Arnes Penningar) by Selma Lagerlöf translated by Sara Death in 2012. 978-1870041904
  • The Vikings at Helgeland by Henrik Ibsen. 978-1420930849
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. 978-0547928227
  • The Elements of Style, 4th Edition by William Strunk Jr & E B White. 978-0205309023
  • Other readings will be made available in a course reader or through bCourses.

 Prerequisites: Successful completion of the UC Entry Level Writing requirement. Students may not enroll nor attend R1A/R5A courses without completing this prerequisite