Academic year
2018/2019 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
LT70AB (AF:233027 AR:158048)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Bachelor's Degree Programme
Educational sector code
1st Semester
Course year
Go to Moodle page
History of Swedish Culture is offered at the second year of the BA-programme in Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures (Lingue, Civiltà e Scienze del Linguaggio) to the students who choose Swedish as one of their two main, three-year languages to be studied, and in particular to those who choose the international-political curriculum. This subject is included in the type B of subjects ("characterizing") or in the type C ("completing"), according to whether Swedish is chosen as the first or the second language. History of Swedish Culture is not included in the other two curricula offered in this BA-programme: the Literary-cultural one or the Linguistic-philological, but as a freely chosen subject it is recommended to all Swedish language students who wish to go deeper in Scandinavian Studies.
History of Swedish culture deals with “The construction of the Scandinavian welfare state in the 20th century and the writers’ critical standpoint”. It gives the fundamental historical, social and cultural knowledge that is necessary to possess in order to understand the kind of “modern project” it originates from, and its roots in the history of Scandinavian culture. It examines works of Swedish, but also Danish and Norwegian literature, written between the 1930s and the 1980s, in order to analyze the critical representation of this historical experience, with its dark and light sides, as it aims to set the individuals free and let them fully take part in the process of self-emancipation and education, while in fact also producing alienation and homologation, and what the Norwegian writer Dag Solstad calls “the great absence”.
The aim of the course is to give an in-depth knowledge of the theme in its specific Swedish and Scandinavian version; the students should also learn to contextualize the studied works historically, socially and literarily, and to analyze their contents and forms.
The course is addressed to the students of the political-international curriculum, who have already attended Swedish Literature 1. The course is open, as a free choice, also to the Swedish language students of the other curricula. Skills in Swedish language will allow the more advanced students to approach the original texts.
The construction of the Scandinavian welfare state in the 20th century and the writers’ critical standpoint

What cultural and historical preconditions does the Scandinavian model of democratic welfare state originate from? How is it seen by international observers already in the 1930s, the decade of totalitarianism and dictatorship?
In 1978 the Swedish writer P.O. Enquist reads, with hindsight, the emancipation of the last ones, the working class without any rights at the beginning of the 20th century, in his novel The March of the Musicians. In spite of the hardship and tragedy his story conveys, its message is hopeful: “there’s always something better that death” (taken from the Grimm brothers in the fairy tale about the musicians from Bremen) or, translated in Marxian terms, the proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. Already in the 1940s, however, the Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf sees this reality as a homologating nightmare, while the Swedish proletarian writer Folke Fridell, with the novel Sinful Creation, attacks the taylorism that also dominates in the factories of democratic Sweden.
In the 1970s the model shows signs of crisis. The Swedish writers Ivar Lo-Johansson and Astrid Lindgren criticize the nihilistic apathy and the oppressive fiscal policy respectively, although they have always supported the idea of the welfare state. In the same decade the Danish liberal writer Henrik Stangerup depicts a dystopic Copenhagen, dominated by the soft, suffocating dictatorship of the social workers. Finally, in the 1980s the Norwegian communist writer Dag Solstad observes “the great absence” from the viewpoint of a new town near Oslo, in fact built with the purpose of giving the Norwegian working class a high standard of living.
1) General part:

Outline of the history of Scandinavian culture, written by the professor and uploaded on Moodle:

pdf-file “Dispensa storia Nord”: the whole of it, with a particolar focus on the development of democratic practice in the 19th and 20th centuries (and the preconditions in more ancient times).

Contextualizing the works and the profiles of the examined authors within the Swedish and Scandinavian history of literature from the 1930s to the 1980s, through the notes written by the professor and uploaded on Moodle:

Pdf-file “Storia letteratura Nord2_2018-19”

any materials uploaded on Moodle and connected to the course

2) Studied works

Per Olov Enquist 1978, La partenza dei musicanti, Milano, Iperborea, 1992 / Musikanternas uttåg, Stockholm, Norstedt, 2014

Henrik Stangerup 1973, L’uomo che voleva essere colpevole, Milano, Iperborea, 2017 / Manden der ville være skyldig, København, Lindhardt og Ringhof, 1990

Astrid Lindgren 1976, “Pomperipossa a Monismania” / “Pomperipossan i Monismanien, Expressen”, 10/03/1976

Dag Solstad 1984, Tentativo di descrivere l’impenetrabile, Milano, Iperborea, 2007 / Forsøk på å beskrive det ugjennomtrengelige, Oslo, Oktober, 2001

3) Critical studies

A selection of texts by Gunnar Ekelöf, Aksel Sandemose, Ivar Lo-Johansson

Choose one of the following two works:

Folke Fridell 1948, Una settimana di peccato, Milano, Iperborea, 1990 / Syndfull skapelse, Stockholm, Litteraturfrämjandet, 1977

Carl-Henning Wijkmark 1978, La morte moderna, Milano, Iperborea, 2008 / Den moderna döden, Lund, Cavefors, 1978

3) Critical studies

Paolo Borioni (a cura di), Welfare scandinavo. Storia e innovazione, Roma, Carocci, 2003, pp. 11-62 (the essays by Paolo Borioni and Urban Lundberg & Klas Åmark)

Paolo Borioni, Svezia, Collana Storia dell’Europa nel XX secolo, Milano, Unicopli, 2005

Massimo Ciaravolo, “Postfazione”, in P.O. Enquist, Il viaggio di Lewi, Milano, Iperborea, pp. 563-574

Massimo Ciaravolo, “Postfazione”, in D. Solstad, Tentativo di descrivere l’impenetrabile, Milano, Iperborea, 2007, pp. 181-201

4) Additional syllabus for students not attending the course

The students not attending the course have to study both Folke Fridell 1948 and Carl-Henning Wijkmark 1978. Furthermore, they have to study the two books in English, in which the Swedish and Scandinavian model is “discovered” in the 1930s for the rest of the world:

Marquis William Childs, Sweden: The Middle Way, London, Faber and Faber, 1936

E.D. Simon, The Smaller Democracies, London, Victor Gollancz, 1938, pp. 5-13, 51-191
The examination is oral, it is generally in Italian and it lasts approximately 20 minutes. Some of the works dealt with in the course are discussed and they are referred to their significant literary, cultural and social contexts, as well as to the critical essays in the syllabus. Students at an advanced level of Swedish might be asked to translate, contextualize and analyze short passages from the original texts.
The students who have not attended the course must study the additional materials described above. They must come and talk to the professor at least once before the oral examination.
The course offers mainly frontal lectures, but with moments of participatory learning, as students may, on a voluntary basis, present in class one of the works included in the syllabus. The use of the original texts will be practiced in class. Italian is the language used in teaching, but with the presence of the original texts in Swedish, Danish and Norwegian.
If you have questions or need further explanations, please write to massimo.ciaravolo@unive.it. Booking time with an e-mail is recommended if you want to meet the professor. Student who cannot attend the course must contact the teacher in order to discuss the syllabus with the supplementary reading.

This subject deals with topics related to the macro-area "Poverty and inequalities" and contributes to the achievement of one or more goals of U. N. Agenda for Sustainable Development

Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 30/09/2018