The Scandinavian countries are known for their distinctive nature, from the geysers and glaciers of Iceland to the fjords of Norway to the vast forests of Sweden and Finland. While natural features may seem to provide static background for culture, understandings of nature have in fact shifted over time in accordance with human concerns. Literature plays a significant role in carrying out these shifts. In recent years, literature has also stopped to ask how we arrived at our present moment, when human impact on the planet seems to be remaking the notions of nature on which human life and thought are based. In this case, literature performs a critique of the past and speculates about possible futures.
This course examines the representation of nature and the environment in the Scandinavian context from the creation narratives of Norse myth through the project of 19th century nation-building and up to present concerns about climate change and environmental destruction. Students will encounter central works that have produced and contested notions of nature. Alongside these, they will be introduced to ecocriticism as method of textual analysis. This will provide an entryway into the environmental humanities, while also providing an opportunity to explore what makes Scandinavian literature and culture unique.