COMP 218
Nordic Nights: Scandinavia and the Second World War Spring 2024
Division I Difference, Power, and Equity

Class Details

In April 1940, the Nazis invaded Denmark and Norway. In the lands of the Aurora Borealis and the Midnight Sun, the Nordic lights gave way to what seemed like one endless night of Nazi brutality. As the Danish and Norwegian peoples began five long years of occupation, Sweden remained neutral, walking the dangerous line between its role as a safe haven for Allied operatives and refugees (including Norwegian Resistors and Danish Jews) and its concessions to Nazi demands (for natural resources and troop movement across its borders). At the same time, Finland fought for its survival, first against the Soviet Union and then against the Nazis, in the boreal forests of its eastern border and the winter snows of its arctic north. In the Atlantic, the Danish colonial territories of Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands remained insulated from Nazi control in faraway Denmark, but struggled to maintain their autonomy, amid the occupation of their islands by Allied forces. While some Danes and Norwegians (like the writer Knut Hamsun and traitor Vidkun Quisling) collaborated with the Nazis, others risked their lives in the Resistance to carry out sabotage, espionage, and rescue others. Even as hundreds of Norwegian Jews were deported and murdered in Auschwitz, thousands of Danish Jews escaped to neutral Sweden with the help of their neighbors. Some Scandinavians continued this struggle beyond Nordic borders, like the Swedish diplomats Raoul Wallenberg (who saved thousands of European Jews in Budapest) and Raoul Nordling (whose careful diplomacy saved the city of Paris from total destruction). In this course, we will examine some of the most powerful literature and film on Scandinavia and World War II, and their representation of soldiers and civilians, invasion and occupation, collaboration and resistance, atrocities and genocide, cruelty and courage, survival and sacrifice. All readings and discussions in English.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 16
Expected: 16
Class#: 3543
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Active participation, two shorter papers, a midterm, and a longer final paper.
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: Comparative Literature Majors, and those with compelling justification for admission.
Distributions: Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
DPE Notes: This course centers on a critical examination of difference, power, and equity in Scandinavian war literature and film. Through the study of war (as invasion and occupation, collaboration and resistance, atrocity and genocide), the course employs critical tools to teach students how to examine the effects of class, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality in narratives on human violence and cruelty, sacrifice and solidarity.

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