Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.


Chair, 2008-09: Margaret Hayford O’Leary, Norwegian literature and language

Faculty, 2008-09: Nancy Aarsvold, Norwegian language, language pedagogy, instructional technology; Kari Lie, Norwegian language, language pedagogy; Anne Sabo, Norwegian literature and language; Solveig Zempel, Norwegian literature and language

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 the language, literature, culture, and history of Norway in depth. 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 high 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.


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.



The required courses are Norwegian 111, 112, 231, 232, 253, 371, 372, one history/cultural component (Norwegian 140, History 222, Art 266, or other approved course), plus one additional upper level course chosen in consultation with the chair.


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 course work, but must go beyond and must incorporate some public activity, whether that be print publication, website development, oral presentation, or other public performance.


The Norwegian Department sponsors many speakers and activities such as the annual Christmas service and Seventeenth of May breakfast 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. For information on the Oslo International Summer School and the International Studies programs in Norway, consult the Index. 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. (See the listing for FOREIGN LANGUAGE ACROSS THE CURRICULUM.)



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. Fall Semester only.

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. Prerequisite: Norwegian 111, or equivalent. Spring Semester only.

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. Prerequisite: Norwegian 112, or equivalent. Fall Semester only.

232 Intermediate Norwegian II

This course is a continuation of the approach of Norwegian 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. Prerequisite: Norwegian 231, or equivalent. Offered Spring Semester only.

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." Prerequisite: First-Year Writing. Offered annually or periodically.

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. Prerequisite: Norwegian 232, or equivalent. Offered Fall Semester only.

371 Norwegian Literature from the Saga Period to 1890

A study of Norwegian literature from the Saga period through Ibsen, this chronological overview examines literary developments in the context of historical, cultural, and linguistic change and relates Norwegian literature to international trends. Lectures, essays, and class discussion are in Norwegian. Prerequisite: Norwegian 253, or equivalent. Offered Fall Semester only.

372 Norwegian Literature from 1890 to the Present

A study of Norwegian literature from 1890 to the present, this chronological overview places contemporary Norwegian literature in the context of historical, cultural, and linguistic change and relates Norwegian literature to international trends. Lectures, essays, and class discussion are in Norwegian. Prerequisite: Norwegian 253 or equivalent. Offered Spring Semester only.


125 Norwegian Folklore and Folk Narrative

Students study Norwegian folk narratives considered in historical and cultural contexts. Texts include traditional fairy tales and legends from 19th century nation building, collected by Asbjørnsen, Moe, and others, as well as nation-keeping folklore (riddles, jokes, and stories) in World War II-occupied Norway and modern urban legends. Students write a fairy tale and study the functions of folklore through classic articles, lectures, and discussion. Taught in English.

130 Nordic Film Today: Love, Sex, and Family

This film course focuses on the increasingly non-traditional ways of forming relationships in the Nordic countries. Rejecting the values of previous generations, young people from different backgrounds and ethnicities form relationships according to their own integrity and sexual preferences. 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.

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.

233 Nordic Literature: Medieval to Modern

Students explore great works in Nordic literature from the medieval period through the 20th century, including mythology, sagas, folktales, and works by eminent writers such as Holberg, Hans Christian Andersen, Ibsen, Strindberg, and Hamsun. The focus is on literary development in its historical and cultural context. Readings, lectures, speaking, and written assignments are in English.

240 Vikings in Literature: Medieval to Modern

The sagas, myths, and poetry of the Vikings rank with the world's great literary treasures. Strong men and clever women engage in a heroic struggle with a tough and unyielding nature and face perennial human problems: love and hate, crime and punishment, travel and adventure. These works will be read in their historical and cultural context, as well as examining their impact on popular culture, including film, video games, comics, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction. Taught in English.

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. Prerequisite: completion of BTS-T.

294 Internship

298 Independent Study

394 Internship

396 Directed Undergraduate Research: "Topic Description"

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. Prerequisite: Determined by individual instructor. Offer based on department decision.

398 Independent Research

399 Seminar

May be repeated if topics are different.

related course

History 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. Foreign Language Across the Curriculum course available in Norwegian. Offered most years.