Nordic Studies

The Nordic studies program enables students who enter St. Olaf with advanced competence in Norwegian (or another Nordic language) or those who wish a more interdisciplinary approach than that offered by the Norwegian major an opportunity to pursue their interest in Nordic language, culture, and society.

Overview of the Major:

The Nordic studies major at St. Olaf College is designed to meet the needs of students who wish to pursue both advanced proficiency in the Norwegian language and an interdisciplinary understanding of the Nordic region. Students complete foundational courses in Norwegian language before pursuing advanced proficiency. In addition, students take a variety of courses on Nordic language, culture, and society from a variety of departments and/or disciplinary perspectives, including at least one course that explores diversity, inequity, and social justice in the Nordic context. Students also have many opportunities to complete coursework through study and/or internship opportunities in one or more Nordic countries. Finally, students participate in an upper-level research seminar in which they design and complete a research project that explores an academic question about Nordic language, culture, or society through an interdisciplinary lens. Students wanting to complete both the Nordic Studies and the Norwegian majors must complete a minimum of 10 credits beyond the foundational course requirement.

Overview of the Concentration

The Nordic studies concentration is designed for students who wish to gain an interdisciplinary understanding of the Nordic region, including its languages, cultures, and societies. The Nordic studies concentration provides students with a foundation of Norwegian language knowledge and skills. From there, students undertake coursework that situates Norway within the broader social and cultural region of the Nordic countries. Students compare and contrast the Nordic languages, cultures, and societies and engage critically with the question of what makes the Nordic countries distinctive. 

Intended Learning Outcomes for the Concentration

Overview of the Sámi and Critical Indigenous Studies emphasis

The Sámi and Critical Indigenous Studies emphasis is a collaboration between the Norwegian Department, the Nordic Studies program, and the Race and Ethnic Studies program. In addition to courses in these programs, the emphasis includes courses from a variety of other programs to create a space to critically examine indigenous academic knowledge and Nordic colonialism. The emphasis provides an in-depth understanding of the historical experiences, cultural traditions and innovations, and political status of the Sámi and the interconnections among the Sámi and other indigenous peoples worldwide. 

St. Olaf College stands on the homelands of the Wahpekute Band of the Dakota Nation. We honor with gratitude the people who have stewarded the land throughout the generations and their ongoing contributions to this region. We acknowledge the ongoing injustices that we have committed against the Dakota Nation, and we wish to interrupt this legacy, beginning with acts of healing and honest storytelling about this place.

The emphasis consists of four total courses: two required foundational courses and two electives. Note that RACE 252 cannot be used for the Norwegian major.

Special Programs

The Norwegian Department sponsors many speakers and activities relevant to the Nordic studies concentration such as the annual Christmas service and Seventeenth of May celebration and provides students with the opportunity to live in a language house with a native speaker assistant. The Norwegian-American Historical Association, a rich source of information on Norwegian immigration, is housed in Rølvaag Memorial Library. Many students choose to study in a Nordic country on a variety of programs such as the Oslo International Summer School and the St. Olaf-sponsored programs in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Norwegian professors also participate in the Foreign Language Across the Curriculum (FLAC) program, collaborating with disciplinary professors to offer students the opportunity to use their foreign language skills in selected courses in other departments.

Requirements for the major:

Foundational Courses (in Norwegian)
NORW 111Beginning Norwegian I1.00
NORW 112Beginning Norwegian II1.00
NORW 231Intermediate Norwegian I1.00
NORW 232Intermediate Norwegian II1.00
One (1) additional level II or level III course taught partially or fully in Norwegian (must total at least 0.5 credit)0.5-1.00
Nature in Nordic Literature and Culture (FLAC .25 credit)
The Sámi: Traditions in Transition (FLAC .25 credit)
NORW 277 Islamic Communities in Scandivania (FLAC .25 credit)
Oslo, Norway Internship Reflection Seminar
Off-campus study courses: grammar course, Nynorsk course (ISS)
Cultural and Historical Perspectives (in English)
One (1) course that critically examines questions of Nordic diversity, inequity, and social justice1.00
Topics in Contemporary Nordic Literature: A Window on Society
The Sámi: Traditions in Transition
Nordic Explorations of Sexualities and Genders
Islamic Communities in Scandinavia
Topics in Environmental Studies with ALS-L
Gender Equality in Norway (abroad)
One (1) course that examines the Nordic languages from a comparative perspective1.00
Introduction to Germanic Linguistics (additional courses coming soon)
Two (2) additional courses selected from those listed2.00
Advanced Course (in English)
One (1) Level III Research Course1.00
Directed Undergraduate Research
Directed Undergraduate Research
Independent Research
Independent Research
Total Credits9.5-10

Please note: Students completing both the Norwegian and the Nordic Studies Major must have at least 15 total courses. In the case of a student who tests out of the foundational courses, 11 courses are required.

*Up to three credits from off-campus study may be counted toward the major at discretion of program director.  

*By completing this major, the student also satisfies the OLE Core Writing in the Major requirement.

Requirements for the concentration:

Foundational courses (in Norwegian): 3
Beginning Norwegian I
Beginning Norwegian II
Intermediate Norwegian I
Intermediate Course (in Norwegian):
One (1) additional level II or level III course taught partially or fully in Norwegian (must total at least 0.5 credit):0.5-1.00
Intermediate Norwegian II ( )
Oslo, Norway Internship Reflection Seminar
Nature in Nordic Literature and Culture (FLAC)
The Sámi: Traditions in Transition (FLAC .25 credit)
Off-campus study courses: grammar course, Nynorsk course (ISS)
Cultural and Historical Perspectives (in English)
One (1) course that critically examines questions of Nordic diversity, inequity, and social justice:1.00
Nordic Explorations of Sexualities and Genders
Islamic Communities in Scandinavia
Topics in Contemporary Nordic Literature: A Window on Society
The Sámi: Traditions in Transition (FLAC)
Topics in Environmental Studies with ALS-L (When topic is 'Journeys: Lit of the North')
Gender Equality in Norway (abroad)
Three (3) additional courses selected from those listed above; students may also select from the following:3.00
Viking and Medieval Scandinavia
MUSPF 118 Hardanger Fiddle
Introduction to Germanic Linguistics
Directed Undergraduate Research
Directed Undergraduate Research
Nordic Film Directors
Independent Research
Independent Research
Kierkegaard and Existentialism
Tolkien and Theology
Total Credits7.5-8

*Please note: Students are not allowed to combine the Nordic Studies major with the Nordic studies concentration. If a student double majors in Norwegian and Nordic studies they may also add the Sámi and Critical Indigenous Studies. Students are not allowed to count the emphasis in Sámi and Critical Indigenous Studies twice (once for the Norwegian major and once for the Nordic Studies major).

Requirements for the Sámi and Critical Indigenous Studies emphasis

The emphasis consists of four total courses: two required foundational courses and two electives. Note that RACE 252 cannot be used for the Norwegian major.

Foundational courses
NORW 244The Sámi: Traditions in Transition1.00
RACE 252 Top: Theories of Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity1.00
Elective courses (minimum of two)2.00
To count towards the emphasis, students must have a project/paper connected to Norwegian/Nordic colonialism.
ENVST 283 Top: Arctic Journeys: Literature of the North
Nature in Nordic Literature and Culture
Topics in Norwegian Literature/Culture (taught in Norwegian; counts if topic is relevant)
Introduction to Musicology
Music and Social Justice
World Music
A Sociology of Colonialism and Postcolonialism
Off-campus study courses from DIS-Copenhagen; Postcolonial Europe: Narrative, Nationalism, and Race; and Arctic Geopolitics
Total Credits4

NORST 200: Transdisciplinary Topics in Nordic Studies

Students explore an interdisciplinary topic in language, literature, history, or culture through close reading, discussion, analysis, and interpretation of selected works, including theoretical texts. Recent topics include: Peace and non-violence from a Nordic Perspective, The Immigrant Experience: From Nordic to Contemporary Immigration to Minnesota, Nordic-American heritage, Social Welfare in the Nordic context. Taught in English. May be repeated if topics are different. Offered periodically. Some topics may count toward Norwegian major.

NORST 264: Nordic Explorations of Sexualities and Genders

This course examines how women writers from the Nordic region represent gendered identities and sexualities. Using a variety of texts from the nineteenth century to today, students learn how authors have challenged the socio-political role of women over time. Additionally, students investigate how authors make use of different literary genres such as dystopian writing, crime fiction, magical realism, or sci-fi to shine a light on gendered identities in society. Offered alternate years during the spring semester. Also counts toward Norwegian and gender and sexuality studies majors and gender and sexuality studies concentration.
Prerequisite: WRIT 120 or equivalent.

NORST 277: Islamic Communities in Scandinavia

This course investigates intersections of faith, culture, and politics in Scandinavian and Islamic communities. Students study early encounters between Islamic and Nordic societies and the history of migration to Norway, Denmark, and Sweden from traditionally Islamic countries. Students will examine the cultural challenges faced by Muslims, in particular women, media representations of the Muslim community in politics and society, and extreme reactions that have arisen in the face of multi-religious communities in Scandinavia. Offered alternate years. Also counts toward Norwegian major.

NORST 280: Nordic Film Directors

Numerous Nordic film directors have been celebrated around the world for their important contributions to the art of cinema. In this course students both survey Nordic cinema through chosen examples of such celebrated directors, while also scrutinizing the idea of the film author itself. It asks students to consider what it is about these particular filmmakers that make them special and different from both mainstream and non-Nordic ones. Offered periodically.

NORST 294: Academic Internship

NORST 298: Independent Study

NORST 394: Academic Internship

NORST 396: Directed Undergraduate Research

This course provides a comprehensive research opportunity, including an introduction to relevant background material, technical instruction, identification of a meaningful project, and data collection. The topic is determined by the faculty member in charge of the course and may relate to his/her research interests. Offered based on department decision. May be offered as a 1.00 credit course or .50 credit course.
Prerequisite: determined by individual instructor.

NORST 398: Independent Research

Examples of Courses from Outside the Norwegian Department

HIST 211 Viking and Medieval Scandinavia

Director, 2021-2022

Kari Lie Dorer

Professor of Norwegian

Norwegian language and culture; applied linguistics; Sami studies; Nordic film.

Elisabeth G. Alderks

Visiting Assistant Professor of Norwegian

Jenna M. Coughlin

Visiting Assistant Professor of Norwegian

Dana L. Gross

Professor of Psychology

developmental psychology; off-campus study

Björn Nordfjörd

Visiting Associate Professor of English

American cinema; world cinema; crime fiction; adaptation and narrative theory

Troy Wellington Smith

Adjunct Instructor in Norwegian

Tanya Thresher

Visiting Associate Professor of Norwegian