"Criminal Utopias"

Science Fiction and
Crime Literature in Scandinavia

    Scandinavian Studies 436,
Literature in Translation 324

 

Course Description

Science fiction and Crime Literature are genres that hold up dual mirrors for their readers and facilitate discussions of the changing nature of society, and the nature of good and evil, through popular culture. Over the past decades, Scandinavian crime fiction has seen an explosion in both production and popularity.  Scandinavian crime authors have attracted large international audiences and are widely translated with names such as Mankell, Adler-Olsen, Nesbø, and Larson leading the ranks. This phenomenon poses interesting questions as the Scandinavian countries are known as peaceful, with low crime rates and a cradle-to-grave social-welfare system. Why has Scandinavia produced world-renowned writers of crime fiction and used the genre to international acclaim?  Does this conflict with our general perceptions of Scandinavia, and is there a specific Scandinavian element in the crime literature?  In contrast, science fiction which is a hugely popular genre in the US has never seen a large following in the Scandinavian countries, and again, this poses interesting questions.  Why are Scandinavians reluctant to embrace fantasy and science fiction? Is the Scandinavian culture too earthbound and secure to venture out onto imaginary limbs? What are the characteristic Scandinavian elements, if any, in the science fiction literature which is produced? 
Science fiction portrays imaginary realms which illustrate the highest potential for the achievements of the human race, both spiritually in conjunction with ideologies, philosophies, and religions, and technologically in conjunction with technical advances, technological inventions, and practical innovations in our contemporary lives.  At the same time, science fiction depicts the lowest common denominator of the potential of humanity in its inherent criticism of existing social human interactions, conditions, and societies.

Similarly, crime fiction shows the dualistic nature of the human race in its portrayal of the basest acts of humanity and the most exemplary human reaction to such acts. 

Hence, both genres are related in their exploration of the nature of good and evil and, consequently, eminently capable of spurring existential discussions about the role of humankind and our power to influence our surroundings. They both question the essence of the status quo and yield different answers to such essential questions as the nature of personal identities, values, beliefs, and worldviews. Obviously, since they both allow a critique of contemporary society, it is, then, very relevant to ask why one genre is more popular than the other in Scandinavia.

This course will attempt to answer the questions raised above, and more. It will, furthermore, include an examination of the origins of science fiction and the crime literature genre in a broader historical perspective, drawing on British and American texts and theories.

Through the reading of a variety of novels and short stories, as well as viewing of films, the course aims to heighten the ability of the students to engage in analytical and critical thinking, voice coherent argumentation, explore, examine, reason, and write academic essays.

The investigation of human issues is relevant to all literature courses; science fiction and crime literature is particularly relevant in its enquiry into human nature for better and worse, and this course will focus on the particular Scandinavian response to the above-mentioned questions as portrayed in two popular culture genres.

Online Readings ® will be prepared for the class, containing excerpts from books that need not be purchased and books that are difficult to find. These readings can be found in Canvas.

Grades are not entered in Canvas.

Please make sure you come to class having read the text(s) indicated for the class in question. (The first reading is for the Tuesday class, the second for the Thursday class - so for week 1, please read the excerpts from Utopia, Gulliver's Travels and Niels Klim's Journey for Thursday) etc.

The following books must be purchased:

Sissel-Jo Gazan: The Dinosaur Feather, 2008 (Danish)
Liza Marklund: Red Wolf, 2003 (Swedish)
Karin Fossum: Don't Look Back, 1996 (Norwegian)
Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2005 (Swedish)
Arnaldur Indridason: Jar City, 2005 (Icelandic)

Syllabus (liable to change!)

Week 1: Utopias and Dystopias, purpose and expression

Introduction to the Class

Utopias and Dystopias, purpose and expression

Thomas More Utopia, 1516, excerpts ®
Jonathan Swift Gulliver's Travels, 1726, excerpts ®
Ludvig Holberg Niels Klim's Journey to the World Underground, 1741, excerpts ®


Week 2: Defining science fiction and establishing it as a genre.

Defining science fiction and establishing it as a genre.
Samuel Butler Erewhon, 1872, excerpts ®

Harry Martinson Aniara, 1953 ®

Week 3: Technology and Warfare

George Orwell 1984, 1949, excerpts ®

Karin Boye Kallocain, 1940 ®

Week 4: Humanity and Survival

Anders Bodelsen Freezing Down, 1969 ®

Week 5: Female and Male perspectives

Dorrit Willumsen "The Creation of Bianca," 1981, short story ®

Henrik Stangerup The Man Who wanted to be guilty, 1982 ®

Week 6: Futuristic Societies

Svend Aage Madsen See the Light of Day,1980, excerpts ®
Summing up: science fiction in Scandinavia.

First Exam Thursday February 28


Week 7: Moving into Crime Literature:
A Brief History of the Genre

Edgar A. Poe, "The Murders in The Rue Morgue," 1841, short story ®

The history of Crime Fiction Continued:
Arthur Conan-Doyle, "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," 1892, short story ®
Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Necklace of Pearls," 1932, short story ®

Week 8: Crime Fiction in movies:

Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep, 1939, excerpts ®

Movie: "The Big Sleep" (dir. by Howard Hawks, 1946) 116 min.
This movie will be streamed so you can watch it on your own time, mandatory.

Spring Break March 16-24

Week 9:

Karin Fossum Don't Look Back, 1996 (Norwegian)

Week 10:

Liza Marklund Red Wolf, 2003 (Swedish)

Second Exam Thursday, April 4

Week 11: The Postmodern crime story

Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2005 (Swedish)

Week 12: A new Direction

Sissel-Jo Gazan, The Dinosaur Feather, 2008 (Danish).

Week 13: Darkness in Iceland

Arnaldur Indridason: Jar City, 2005 (Icelandic)

Movie: "Jar City" (dir. by Baltasar Kormakur, 2006 ) 95 min. Streamed, not mandatory.

Week 14: Summing Up and another movie!

Movie: "The Keeper of Lost Causes" (dir. by Mikkel Nørgaard, 2013) 96 min. Streamed, mandatory.

Third Exam Thursday May 2

 


Grading:

3 Exams: 75 %
Group Presentation/ Participation 25 %


Participation:

Active participation is crucial for you to benefit from this class. An involved and enthusiastic attitude is conducive to the best kind of learning, and in this class I encourage you to question the readings and participate in class-discussions.

It is essential that you have finished the assigned readings and come to class well prepared for discussions.
The course is a mixture of lectures, presentations, and discussion.


Exams:

There will be three written exams during the semester, each lasting 75 minutes and taken in class. The exams will cover the topics discussed up till the exam date.

There will be a mix and match section and essay questions.

 

Links:

For information about Scandinavia, please visit the following site:

 http://www.stolaf.edu/depts/norwegian/nordic/

Contact:

 

Nete Schmidt, Ph.D.

 

1368 Van Hise

262-2090

aschmidt2@wisc.edu

Office Hours:
T and R 12:15 - 1
and by appointment

Official UW Syllabus

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Syllabus, Scand. Studies 436 / Lit in Trans 324, Criminal Utopias.
Credits: 3-4
Course URL: https://canvas.wisc.edu/courses/90699
Course Designation and Attributes:
Breadth - Literature. Counts toward the Humanities req
Level - Intermediate
L&S Credit - Counts as Liberal Arts and Science credit in L&S
Grad 50% - Counts toward 50% graduate coursework requirement
T-R 11-12:15, Ingraham 22
Instructional Mode: Face-to-Face
Credit hours: Traditional Carnegie Definition
Instructor: Faculty Associate Nete Schmidt
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 12:15-1pm and by appointment
Email: aschmidt2@wisc.edu
Course Description:
Science fiction and Crime Literature are genres that hold up dual mirrors for their readers and facilitate discussions of the changing nature of society, and the nature of good and evil, through popular culture. Over the past decades, Scandinavian crime fiction has seen an explosion in both production and popularity.  Scandinavian crime authors have attracted large international audiences and are widely translated with names such as Mankell, Holt, and Larson leading the ranks. This phenomenon poses interesting questions as the Scandinavian countries are known as peaceful, with low crime rates and a cradle-to-grave social-welfare system. Why has Scandinavia produced world-renowned writers of crime fiction and used the genre to international acclaim?  Does this conflict with our general perceptions of Scandinavia, and is there a specific Scandinavian element in the crime literature?  In contrast, science fiction which is a hugely popular genre in the US has never seen a large following in the Scandinavian countries, and again, this poses interesting questions.  Why are Scandinavians reluctant to embrace fantasy and science fiction? Is the Scandinavian culture too earthbound and secure to venture out onto imaginary limbs? What are the characteristic Scandinavian elements, if any, in the science fiction literature which is produced? 
Science fiction portrays imaginary realms which illustrate the highest potential for the achievements of the human race, both spiritually in conjunction with ideologies, philosophies, and religions, and technologically in conjunction with technical advances, technological inventions, and practical innovations in our contemporary lives.  At the same time, science fiction depicts the lowest common denominator of the potential of humanity in its inherent criticism of existing social human interactions, conditions, and societies.
Similarly, crime fiction shows the dualistic nature of the human race in its portrayal of the basest acts of humanity and the most exemplary human reaction to such acts. 
Hence, both genres are related in their exploration of the nature of good and evil and, consequently, eminently capable of spurring existential discussions about the role of humankind and our power to influence our surroundings. They both question the essence of the status quo and yield different answers to such essential questions as the nature of personal identities, values, beliefs, and worldviews. Obviously, since they both allow a critique of contemporary society, it is, then, very relevant to ask why one genre is more popular than the other in Scandinavia.
This course will attempt to answer the questions raised above, and more. It will, furthermore, include an examination of the origins of science fiction and the crime literature genre in a broader historical perspective, drawing on British and American texts and theories.
Through the reading of a variety of novels and short stories, as well as viewing of films, the course aims to heighten the ability of the students to engage in analytical and critical thinking, voice coherent argumentation, explore, examine, reason, and write academic essays.
The investigation of human issues is relevant to all literature courses; science fiction and crime literature is particularly relevant in its enquiry into human nature for better and worse, and this course will focus on the particular Scandinavian response to the above-mentioned questions as portrayed in two popular culture genres.
Requisites: None.
Course Learning Outcomes:
The students will gain an ability to identify and understand the categories of science fiction and crime stories from primarily Scandinavia.
The students will analyze and discuss the important features of the science fiction and crime stories introduced and read in class.
The students will achieve the ability to compose and produce writing that applies the concepts introduced to describe, analyze, and differentiate the science fiction and crime stories from primarily Scandinavia.

Grading:
Presentation and discussion:                                      25%
3 exams:                                                                 75%

Required Textbooks:
Liza Marklund: Red Wolf, 2003 (Swedish)
Karin Fossum: Don't Look Back, 1996 (Norwegian)
Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2005 (Swedish)
Arnaldur Indridason: Jar City, 2005 (Icelandic)
Sissel-Jo Gazan. The Dinosaur Feather, 2008 (Danish)
Various short stories and other texts
Exams etc:
The class has three exams.
Homework is assigned every week according to the detailed syllabus.
Accommodations for students with disabilities:
The University of Wisconsin-Madison supports the right of all enrolled students to a full and equal educational opportunity. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Wisconsin State Statute (36.12), and UW-Madison policy (Faculty Document 1071) require that students with disabilities be reasonably accommodated in instruction and campus life. Reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities is a shared faculty and student responsibility. Students are expected to inform faculty [me] of their need for instructional accommodations by the end of the third week of the semester, or as soon as possible after a disability has been incurred or recognized. Faculty [I], will work either directly with the student [you] or in coordination with the McBurney Center to identify and provide reasonable instructional accommodations. Disability information, including instructional accommodations as part of a student's educational record, is confidential and protected under FERPA.
Diversity:
Diversity is a source of strength, creativity, and innovation for UW-Madison. We value the contributions of each person and respect the profound ways their identity, culture, background, experience, status, abilities, and opinion enrich the university community. We commit ourselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research, outreach, and diversity as inextricably linked goals.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison fulfills its public mission by creating a welcoming and inclusive community for people from every background - people who as students, faculty, and staff serve Wisconsin and the world.