This interdisciplinary study abroad program will explore concepts of justice in medieval Scandinavia and modern Sweden; as well as an introduction to Nordic languages. We will reflect on questions around power structures, access to justice, norms, cultural identity, and intersections with gender, class, race, climate, and religion. We will use contemporary Swedish literature and film, especially those considered or inspired by “Nordic Noir”, to learn about modern Swedish culture and society. We will also examine medieval saga literature and law codes as a window into the cultural history of medieval Scandinavia from the Viking Age to the late Middle Ages. Situating our program in Sweden will provide opportunities for rich and unique experiential learning such as site visits, field trips, guest lectures. Course assignments will include reflective writing, group discussions, and co-created blogs. There are no prerequisites for this program. Although we will introduce you to the language, English is widely accepted in Sweden.
Program Course Description
Instructor: Kim Kraft
This course will introduce students to basic pronunciation of Swedish language to help them navigate their visit, as well as Viking Age runes. Students will learn about historical and cultural significance of the Nordic linguistic community; how the ability to understand one another linguistically has helped to bind the region together culturally; how policies such as the “Declaration on Nordic language policy” as well as media have impacted the Nordic languages.
Instructor: Lauren Poyer
This course gives students an understanding of medieval saga literature and law codes as genres, and as windows into the cultural history of Scandinavia from the Viking Age to the late Middle Ages. The Sagas of Icelanders narrate the legendary exploits of Iceland’s Viking Age ancestors and examine the power structures of a proto-democratic society bordering on anarchy. They contain stories kept alive by oral tradition and shaped by generations of storytellers, and are thus both reflections on the past and interrogations of their present. Themes of the sagas include the conversion to Christianity, the concentration of wealth, and the loss of sovereignty. Through their seamless integration of folklore, myth, and history, the sagas prompt us to examine our own cultural narratives. In this course, we will focus on answering the following questions: Who has access to justice? How does the execution of the law intersect with gender, class, race, and religion?
Students will read a selection of saga literature to examine these questions, as well as visit Saga Age archaeological sites in Sweden, as well as sites that seek to study, represent, recreate, and/or emulate different aspects of the Saga Age. Through encountering medieval Scandinavian people’s literature, land, and language, students will gain a deeper understanding of the broad relationships between landscape, identity, and power.
Instructor: Kim Kraft
We will use contemporary Swedish literature and film, especially those considered or inspired by “Nordic Noir” to reflect on how our interaction with a country’s literature can give us insight to the culture, politics, and society within which it was produced. We will explore diverse issues related to the topic of justice, with special attention to LGBTQ rights, feminism and advocacy, the prison and probation system, climate justice, and racism. To enhance our learning through literature and take advantage of being in-country, we will tour and hear from experts at museums, think tanks, governmental- and non-governmental organizations. Students will read at least two Swedish novels (in English translation), watch four films, and read several scholarly articles. The reading list will be given to students in advance. Readings and films will be contextualized in-country as students examine the relationship of these works to the topic of justice in Sweden. Students will also reflect on their own cultural identities as well as the power of the Humanities to contribute to social criticism.
Kim Kraft and Lauren Poyer
In 2019, I co-directed the following study abroad program: Honors Sweden: The Question of Rights: Looking to Sweden as a Global Model. This was an interdisciplinary study abroad program exploring how Sweden’s advancement of human rights continues to influence global human rights norms and wield enormous influence internationally. Through the lens of Sweden as a “norm entrepreneur” country, students examined Sweden’s innovative human rights policies on LGBTI rights and gender equality. Additionally, the program introduced students to Swedish authors and filmmakers whose work has reached beyond the Nordic borders with global impact. Photos from the program are below.
Program Leadership: Kim Kraft and Dr. Elise Rainer
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