Recent television production in the Nordic countries has reached a new global audience outside the media circuits (such as art-house cinema) that historically have been the more typical Nordic outlets to international markets. Successful branding of some content as “Nordic Noir” and the radical reorganization of the distribution model for international television have allowed more mainstream circulation of television content abroad, reaching a wider audience than the earlier niche appeals of Dogme 95 filmmaking, the art films of Bergman, Dreyer, and von Trier, or the “Swedish New Wave” of the 1960s. How have contemporary Nordic television series (in both Nordic Noir and other modes) created these new forms of appeal? To what degree do they form an alternative to the contemporary American practices of television production, and as a consequence, what do current Nordic television series tell us about today’s cultural configurations in the global North?
To understand these questions, this course takes the idea of the “remake” as a diagnostic tool for examining for investigating the border zones between cultures. The examples range from direct, almost slavish remakes to looser forms of inspiration, but in every case a Nordic television show will be paired with a US or UK comparison piece to ask questions about cultural adaptation and translation. The course looks at this extensive “version-making” activity in order to answer questions such as: why are so many successful Nordic TV series be remade in English (and how are American and British audiences different in this regard)? What constitutes local color? What are the mechanisms of cultural and linguistic translation that allow shows to flow from a native context to a more global audience? What does one get out of watching an original that differs from watching a remake? Is one inherently better than the other?
Examples investigated will include multiple episodes of television series from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Great Britain, and the U.S., presented in these configurations: Riget/Kingdom Hospital; Henning Mankells Walllander/Wallander; Forbrydelsen/The Killing; Bron-Broen/The Bridge/The Tunnel; West Wing/Borgen; Äkta människor/Humans; Okkupert/Man in the High Castle; and Skam.
There are no prerequisite courses for this upper-division elective, and all materials will be either in English or in subtitled versions: no knowledge of any of the Nordic languages is required. Format of presentation will be a mixture of lecture and discussion.
Short readings (academic articles and journalistic discussions of various shows) will be made available on bCourses. There are no required textbooks.