Course Descriptions

Scandinavian Welfare Culture
Studies of representative examples of tendencies and new departures in Scandinavian welfare culture based on texts and culture-historical accounts and texts from the cultural debate and literature.

Teaching takes its point of departure in the early debate on welfare, its artistic and cultural production of the time, and elucidates traits of the literary and cultural development of welfare after 1950, including the post-colonial features of this development.

The History of the Scandinavian Welfare State
The first part of the course provides a broad introduction to Nordic social history from the 19th century to the present. This will form the basis for more specific work on the historical development of the Nordic welfare model and challenges currently facing it.

Emphasis will be placed on common traits and inter-Nordic relations and on the differences between the Nordic countries.

The principal lines of the history of Nordic welfare and selected cases from it will be studied on the basis of accounts and texts from the political debate. Various types of production, such as political documents, films, television programmes and newspapers, will be used in this connection.

The Scandinavian welfare society
Subjects such as consensus culture, design and social engineering, relations between town and country, Lutheranism and religion, collectivism and individualism, Nordic cooperation and nation branding will be studied on the basis of texts, cultural-historical accounts and texts from the social debate.

Teaching takes its point of departure in the historical interplay between social culture and welfare policies in the Nordic countries. The focus will be on the 20th century and a number of different approaches to the study of social culture will be discussed.

Examples of elective subjects

Scandinavian Art and Design
The course in Scandinavian art and design will provide an overview of these central aesthetic phenomena in welfare society.

We will investigate the myth about the Nordic design tradition as a relatively independent expression that has evolved due to harsh regional conditions and economic limitations, which made it necessary to stress utility value instead of external brilliance.

According to the myth, luxuriousness was simplified and toned down in Nordic design, and the design thereby often got ”humane”, “democratic” and ”sincere” qualities. However, the myth is only partly true, but it proved to be a very profitable narration in terms of marketing.

The “Statens Kunstfond” in Denmark, which was instituted in the mid-sixties, made it possible for artists to receive substantial financial support from the state in connection with public commissions, and this had a very significant impact on the amount and the kind of art that saw the light of day in Denmark from the sixties and on.

The State’s Art Foundation will be the point of departure for our journey through Danish and Scandinavian modern art. The course will also address the question of “Art as Design” and “Design as Art”, a question that has been increasingly important through the past 50 years.

Crime Fiction in the Scandinavian Welfare State
Nordic crime fiction has been enjoying extreme popularity in recent years, not only in Scandinavia but world-wide.

This course takes its point of departure in a close analysis of central works and will cover the history of the genre in Scandinavia. A major challenge will be to consider why the genre, as it is portrayed in a variety of media such as TV series, films and literature, is so popular at present.

A theme that will be dealt with is the representation of gender roles, especially the way in which the new female protagonists can be considered as ambivalent role models in the welfare state, as well as how the development of male protagonists reflects changes in Nordic gender relations.

Other themes could include the study of how crime fiction thematises a special liberalist work identity and work ethic, and how the typically macabre murders depicted have a disruptive effect on some of the basic values of the welfare state such as happiness and ‘hygge’ (the untranslatable term Danes use to denote what they think is a culturally specific kind of ‘feeling cosy’).

The course deals with the TV series: The Killing, The Bridge and works by crime writers such as Henning Mankell, Sjöwall & Wahlöö, Stieg Larsson, Liza Marklund, Sissel-Jo Gazan and Jussi Adler-Olsen.

Scandinavian Moments of World Fame
From Saxo to Hans Christian Andersen, Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg and Karen Blixen.

A few notable authors have given Scandinavia a place in world literature. The history of Denmark by Saxo Grammaticus, Gesta Danorum, from  about 1200, gained European fame when it was published in Paris in 1514 by Christiern Pedersen, and Hans Christian Andersen became internationally renowned by establishing important personal contacts in Germany.

During the era of the Modern Breakthrough in the late 19th century,  Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg left Scandinavia and became affiliated with literary groups in the European capitals. They won their international reputation as exiles, a reputation which has been renewed in the 20th century.

Karen Blixen became part of world literature by writing in English and by becoming a bestselling author in the United States. She attracted the interest of modern Americans by composing excellent stories dealing with complex love affairs and old European culture.

This course deals with some world-famous Scandinavian authors. We read excerpts from their works, study international media productions on their works and discuss why and how they became so famous.