Jessica Thomas, Tomson 331

Students at St. Olaf have the opportunity to study a unique subject — Norwegian. St. Olaf is one of a few colleges and universities where students can use Norwegian to complete their foreign language requirement — and beyond the requirement can study in depth the language, literature, culture, and history of Norway. In addition to graduating with a major in Norwegian, St. Olaf students have many opportunities to study and travel in Norway.

The study of Norwegian opens the door to another culture and another way of viewing the world. Students develop skills in communication, research, analytical thinking, and writing that are essential to a liberal education and are useful in a wide range of careers. They learn about Norway’s role in technology, environmental awareness, social equality, and international peace initiatives. Some of the world’s best literature awaits discovery by students of Norwegian: works by authors like Ibsen, Hamsun, and Undset, as well as by writers who have not been translated into English. Norwegian also enables many students to explore their cultural heritage and encourages contact with relatives and friends in Norway.

Overview of the Major

The Norwegian major allows students to gain competence in the Norwegian language and an understanding of Norwegian society through a combination of courses in the language, literature, history, and culture of Norway. Norwegian majors are encouraged to use their language skills for learning in other disciplines and to experience the culture firsthand through study in Norway.


See Academic Honors

Distinction in Norwegian should reflect a special interest in some aspect of Norwegian language and culture. A distinction paper or project may spring out of coursework, but must go beyond and must incorporate some public activity, whether that be print publication, website development, oral presentation, or other public performance.

Special Programs

The Norwegian Department sponsors many speakers and activities 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 Norway on a variety of programs such as the Oslo International Summer School and the St. Olaf-sponsored programs in Norway. 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.

NORW 111Beginning Norwegian I1.00
NORW 112Beginning Norwegian II1.00
NORW 231Intermediate Norwegian I1.00
NORW 232Intermediate Norwegian II1.00
NORW 253Advanced Conversation and Composition1.00
NORW 371Norwegian Literature: An Overview1.00
NORW 372Topics in Norwegian Literature/Culture1.00
One course with history/cultural component 11.00
One additional Level II or Level III course chosen in consultation with the chair1.00
A maximum of three courses may count from study in Norway.
One course may be taken S/U.
Total Credits9

Language Courses

NORW 111: Beginning Norwegian I

Proficiency in a second language opens the door to another culture and another way of viewing the world. This course starts students on the road to achieving such a proficiency. Students begin learning to speak, understand, read, and write Norwegian and learn about Norwegian culture through the language. Offered annually in the fall semester.

NORW 112: Beginning Norwegian II

Students continue developing proficiency in spoken and written Norwegian, increasing their vocabulary, improving grammatical accuracy, and gaining experience reading and listening to authentic materials. Offered annually in the spring semester.
Prerequisite: NORW 111 or equivalent.

NORW 231: Intermediate Norwegian I

Students improve proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing, with an emphasis on communication as well as improved grammatical accuracy. Reading and discussion of authentic literary and cultural texts allow students to expand their vocabulary and knowledge of the Norwegian way of life. Offered annually in the fall semester.
Prerequisite: NORW 112 or equivalent.

NORW 232: Intermediate Norwegian II

This course is a continuation of the approach of NORW 231, in which authentic cultural and literary texts provide the basis for writing and discussion on topics such as health, work, Norwegian history, society, politics, environmental issues, and minorities in Norway. Materials include a contemporary novel. Offered annually in the spring semester.
Prerequisite: NORW 231 or equivalent.

NORW 253: Advanced Conversation and Composition

Students gain insight into Norwegian identity and culture, expand vocabulary, and improve fluency and grammatical accuracy by reading a variety of texts and writing essays. Speaking assignments help students understand readings and become more effective speakers. Offered annually in the fall semester. Also counts toward management studies concentration.
Prerequisite: NORW 232 or equivalent.

NORW 371: Norwegian Literature: An Overview

This course is a historical survey of Norwegian literary and cultural history from the medieval period to contemporary times. Students read a selection of short texts and a play by Henrik Ibsen. They gain knowledge of the most imporatant periods of Norwegian literature and develop skills of close reading and critical reflection. The course emphasizes the understanding of individual texts in the light of their historical period, while also addressing how Norwegian literature has been used in modern constructions of cultural identity and how it has influenced and reflected larger societal developments. Taught in Norwegian.
Prerequisite: NORW 253 or equivalent.

NORW 372: Topics in Norwegian Literature/Culture

This course offers an in-depth investigation of a selected topic from Norwegian literary or cultural history. Topics may be organized by period (Realism, Postwar literature), historical events (literature and World War II), important themes (feminism, social democracy, religion and secularism), or genre (Norwegian poetry, literature and film). The course also emphasizes development of critical, interpretive, and research skills, as well as refinement of Norwegian language proficiency. This course is taught in Norwegian. Offered annually. Also counts toward Nordic studies concentration.
Prerequisite: Norwegian 253 or equivalent.

Scandinavian Literature and Culture (in English Translation)

NORW 130: Nordic Film Today

This film course introduces students to contemporary Nordic film. Readings/screenings present abroad spectrum of contemporary issues, along with current critique and theoretical approaches.Topics include: history, culture and society, translation, gender/sexuality, national identity, urbanization, minority issues, etc. Students attain an understanding of these cultural trends and the technical terminology to watch, read, think, talk, and write critically and intelligently about films as text. Taught in English. Offered periodically. Also counts toward film studies concentration.

NORW 140: Norway: Continuity and Change

Contemporary Norway is much more than lutefisk, lefse, Hardanger fiddles, rosemaling, and elaborate costumes. This course examines modern Norwegian society, imperfections and all, against the backdrop of tradition, looking at such issues as Norway's role in peace negotiations, its position as an outsider in Europe, and its evolving relationship with the United States. Taught in English. Offered periodically.

NORW 180: The Nordic Child in Literature and Film

Like the Swedish character Pippi Longstocking, who lives alone and can lift a horse above her head, the Nordic child is widely considered an autonomous being. Yet the child's autonomy is often at odds with their vulnerability. Through Scandinavian literature and film, this course considers questions such as: What is the child capable of and from what must they be protected? What is the difference between children and adults? And, what makes Nordic childhood particular? Offered periodically.
Prerequisites: FYW or concurrent enrollment in FYW.

NORW 224: Topics in Contemporary Nordic Literature: A Window on Society

Recently there has been an explosion in Nordic literature translated into English, providing unprecedented access to contemporary literary texts produced in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. In this course students read and analyze contemporary Nordic literary texts and examine those societies through a literary perspective. Sample topics: "Murder Nordic Style: Contemporary Crime Fiction" and "Gender and Nordic Society." Taught in English. Offered periodically.

NORW 240: Vikings Past and Present

Students engage with the Viking heritage from its Nordic origin to Hollywood superheroes inspired by Norse mythology. Students examine Old Norse literature, with its accounts of Odin, Thor and Loki in Eddic poetry, as well as the Icelandic sagas of Norwegian kings, Viking warriors and voyagers, including the first European encounter with North America. In the latter half of the course, students move on to both contemporary Nordic and American reworking of that heritage in literature, film and television. Offered periodically. Also counts toward Nordic studies concentration.

NORW 244: The Sámi: Traditions in Transition

This interdisciplinary course explores the Sámi, an indigenous people living mainly in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Students first place the Sámi in a historical-cultural context by examining the Sámi's social and economic systems, religion, customs, and values. The major portion of the course examines the Sámi primarily from within: the Sámi will present themselves through their literature, film, music, and art. Taught in English. Offered periodically. Also counts toward linguistic studies concentration.

NORW 246: Edvard Munch and Nordic Literature

The Norwegian artist Edvard Munch not only painted one of the world's most famous paintings ("The Scream"), he also produced a remarkable body of psychological and expressionist artworks from the 1880s to the 1930s. This course uses Munch's art as a window onto Nordic literature in a period of transition from naturalism to modernism. Students explore the work of writers with significant connections to Munch, investigating the interplay between art and literature in fin-de-siècle Scandivavia. Offered periodically. Also counts toward Nordic studies concentration.

NORW 260: Introduction to Germanic Linguistics

This course explores linguistic and social processes that underlie language change with a focus on the Germanic language family. Students learn the fundamental methods of comparative historical linguistics to analyze the development of modern Germanic languages (e.g., English, German, Norwegian, etc.) from a common ancestor. These processes concern how language operates as a cognitive system, as well as core social factors that impact language practices. Students also learn to critically engage with linguistic scholarship and develop their research and writing skills through a project on a topic of their choosing. Offered periodically. Also counts toward German major; and linguistic studies, Nordic studies, and German studies concentrations.
Prerequisites: LNGST 250 or NORW 231 or GERM 231 or permission of the instructor.

NORW 282: Ibsen

Students analyze the plays of Henrik Ibsen in English translation using a variety of critical approaches. Students investigate ethical issues and themes in Ibsen's plays by examining the plays through the lens of ethics, using readings in ethical theory to better understand both the ethical issues and the plays themselves. Students also study Ibsen's dramatic technique and the historical and literary context of his work. Taught in English. Offered annually. Also counts toward women's and gender studies major and concentration.
Prerequisite: BTS-T or permission of instructor.

NORW 294: Academic Internship

NORW 296: Oslo, Norway Internship Reflection Seminar

This seminar integrates the experience of work and the search for career in the context of Norway. Course content includes both an internship in Oslo and a reflection seminar. The reflection seminar connects academic theories/analyses of work and Norwegian culture with the internship experience. Through reading, writing, and discussion, this course provides a space in which to reflect on the challenges, hopes, and fears facing students embarking on their postgraduation careers. Also counts toward Norwegian, history, environmental studies, political science, and exercise science majors; and educational studies, Nordic studies, and statistics and data science concentrations. Offered alternate years during Interim.
Prerequisite: completion of FOL in Norwegian.

NORW 298: Independent Study

NORW 394: Academic Internship

NORW 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.

NORW 398: Independent Research

NORW 399: Seminar

May be repeated if topics are different.

Related Course

HIST 222: Modern Scandinavia

This course offers a survey of modern Scandinavian history from the period of the Protestant Reformation to the present with special attention to recent developments. Offered annually. Also counts toward Norwegian major and management studies and Nordic studies concentrations.


Chair, 2020-2021

Kari Lie Dorer

Associate Professor of Norwegian

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

Jenna M. Coughlin

Visiting Assistant Professor

Ida Moen Johnson

Visiting Associate Professor of Norwegian

Tanya Thresher

Visiting Associate Professor of Norwegian