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Scandinavian 2310

Nature in Nordic and Germanic Literatures


GE Literature course, 3 credits, (taught in English)

This course explores how literature and culture––including, among others, traditional art forms, popular culture, folklore, lifestyle, social customs, and political culture––are deeply intertwined with our relationship toward nature and our natural and cultural environments, including forests, oceans, mountains, parks, and rural and urban spaces. At the center of this exploration are the history and culture of the Nordic and German-speaking countries (Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany), from the medieval period to the present, and their interrelationships. The rich and diverse literatures and cultures of these countries can help explain their strong environmental performance today, as well as their intense engagement with current global environmental issues, from climate change and biodiversity loss to ocean acidification and soil erosion.

Representations and concepts of nature will be explored in a variety of literary genres: medieval sagas; Gothic Romantic tales; 19th-century fairy tales (e.g., “Snow Queen” that inspired Disney’s Frozen); the modernist novel; graphic novel; poetry; essay; and science-fiction, both dystopian and utopian; and series. Topics include the cultivation of Iceland; the landscape of war; witchcraft and the magic of nature; urbanization and the destruction of nature; back-to-nature movements; the fascist instrumentalization of nature; nature and memory; the reality and imagination of nuclear disaster and pollution; the philosophy of Deep Ecology; dystopia and utopia in the age of climate change and fears of irreversible environmental damage.

All readings available in English; taught in English.
Cross-listed as German 2310