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Current / Recent Courses

Fall 2011

SCAN 399 - Special Studies: 3rd Year Scandinavian


Winter 2012

SCAN 259 - The Twilight of the Family Saga: Vikings Through Icelandic Sagas - Of the entire corpus of Medieval European Literature, there is nothing quite like the ‘Sagas of the Icelanders’ or ‘Family Sagas.’ Falling somewhere between historical novel and prose epic, these fusions of history, genealogy, vita, and legend are composed against the grain of European aesthetics. The products of an experimental commonwealth that flourished in letters, they are long, prose narratives written in a vernacular tongue, saturated with an inexhaustible violence, recounting the exploits and affairs of Iceland’s greatest families. In this course, we will explore the notion that by the time we get the heyday of saga production in the middle of the 13th century, the art form is already in decay. The pressure brought on by the decline of the commonwealth, the subsequent subjection to the Norwegian crown, and the popularity of continental Romance see the end to this native art form; but, not before it gives us some of medieval literature’s brightest stars and roughest outlaws: Egill Skallagrimsson, Thorstein the Staffstruck, Gisli Sursson, Gunnar of Hlidarend, and Burnt-Njal. The primary texts will be supplemented with secondary readings, including selections from the Book of Settlements and the great Icelandic law code, The Gray Goose. Conducted in English.

SCAN 399 - 3rd Year Scandinavian

SCAN 407/507 - The Early Jewish Novel - What really was the first Jewish novel? What is Jewish literature? What is a Jewish novel? This seminar will revel in such elusive and shadowy questions.

In the wake of the Haskalah, a new body of Jewish fiction arises, one that is based on the German notion of Bildung. This corpus reflects a transformation in Jewish culture where Goethe and the German classics became for some German-Jews synonymous with Jewishness. We will begin our investigation by first examining the transformation that German Jewry undergoes during the age of emancipation. Crucial to our foundational knowledge is how the German notion of Bildung came to eclipse Judaism as a source of identity. From Joseph Perl's magnificent Megallé Temirin and the shaping of Haskalah, we will read Berthold Auerbach’s immensely popular Spinoza alongside Heinrich Heine’s unfinished piece from the same year The Rabbi of Bacharach. From there we will widen our scope to the English writings of Grace Aguilar and Meïr Aaron Goldschmidt’s Danish classic A Jew. We will end the class with one of the strangely compelling “novels of Jewish identity,” George Elliot's Daniel Deronda. Questions to be raised concern the role of folklore in literature, the history of reading, and the possibility of assimilation.


Spring 2012

SCAN 351 - Rise of the Scandinavian Novel - In this course we will explore the genre and theories of the novel and its development in the Scandinavian countries. Beginning at the end of the Danish Golden Age, we will follow the evolution of the novel into the aftermath of World War II and into the sensation that is modern Scandinavian crime fiction. We will pay particular attention to the novel’s reception in Romanticism, Naturalism, and Impressionism, and the small, post-war, experimental movement called Black Romanticism. To supplement our study, we will call into question the actual form and structure of the genre by reading current and classical thinking on novel theory. Writers to be discussed include, Meïr Aaron Goldschmidt, Herman Bang, Knut Hamsun, Pär Lagerkvist, Karen Blixen, Hans Christian Branner, Peter Fogtdal, and the duo Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö.

SCAN 352 - Norse Mythology - This course will be a critical evaluation of the religious beliefs in Scandinavia from prehistory through the Viking Age. We will examine very thoroughly three mythological texts, The Edda, The Prose Edda, and Ynglinga saga. To facilitate our study of the primary sources of Norse mythology we will make use of both Indo-European data and Scandinavian folklore and belief. Throughout the course the students will be encouraged to broaden their understanding of the primary materials by being introduced to many of the scholarly debates and trends of the field.