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  • iv Scandinavian Contributions
  • Liz Kella and Lene M. Johannessen

This year's scholarship from Scandinavia covers a broad array of topics, ranging from the documentary 9/11 to the library of the Norwegian immigrant Jon Norstog. The publication of an essay collection that brought a number of Norwegian scholars to bear on a single novel accounts in large part for the contributions from Norway.

a. 19th-Century Prose

Learning and education are essential to developing the American republic and a national identity; learning and education are antithetical to the American commitment to democracy and equality. Johanna McElwee's "The Nation Conceived: Learning, Education, and Nationhood: American Historical Novels of the 1820s" (doctoral thesis, Uppsala) explores these and other contradictions in the attitudes toward learning and education in historical novels of the Jacksonian era. Her work places novels by Lydia Maria Child, James Fenimore Cooper, and Catharine Maria Sedgwick in the context of the decade prior to Andrew Jackson's challenge to John Quincy Adams and contemporary debates on the value of book learning. McElwee focuses on the learned person in these texts and applies postcolonial concepts in her effort to show how American national identity was established in relation to British national identity—a foreign identity associated with a learnedness both emulated and despised. The texts that are the main objects of the study—Child's Hobomok and The Rebels, Cooper's The Prairie, and Sedgwick's Hope Leslie—are historical novels that display a common concern with learning and education. McElwee presents these writers as "contemporaries battling with similar issues, who, in doing so, reach different, but sometimes similar, solutions." Among the similarities are the representation of learning as something foreign but still necessary to American prosperity and a concern with how types of education and methods of obtaining it matter to both individual and nation. One of the main advantages of education is the "ability to [End Page 511] cross borders voluntarily, to belong in more than one place," and these border-crossings undermine the stability of boundaries of gender and class, for instance, while also drawing attention to their existence. Borders between indigenous and Anglo-American cultures, however, remain the most inflexible and impermeable in historical fiction of the 1820s.

A different take on the idea of learning and education is found in Øyvind Gulliksen's "Jon Norstogs Bibliotek," pp. 125–45 in Orm Øverland and Harry T. Cleven, eds., Norwegian American Essays 2004 (Oslo: NAHA-Norway), an essay in which Gulliksen takes seriously the dictum "Tell me what you read and I will tell you who you are." Norstog (1877–1942), who published poetry, novels, and biblical dramas, also wrote extensively for Norwegian American newspapers and journals. Greatly inspired by the Bible and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Norstog, contrary to what many thought, including his better-known contemporary Waldemar Ager, traced his literary influences to these texts rather than to Norwegian and Norwegian American authors. Gulliksen's essay is an interesting discussion of reading, mentality, and the history of the book.

One publication in Norway this year gathered a number of scholars in a book project centered on a novel by Drude Krog Janson. To Become the Self One Is: A Critical Companion to Drude Krog Janson's "A Saloonkeeper's Daughter," ed. Asbjørn Grønstad and Lene Johannessen (Novus), is devoted to explorations of this immigrant novel originally published in Norwegian in Minneapolis in 1887. Since the resurfacing of a version newly edited by Øverland in 2002, Janson's novel has found its place in the pantheon of American women immigrants' stories. From a wide range of perspectives, the scholars who have contributed to this collection explore themes and problems as different as the influence on the protagonist of transatlantic Unitarian ideas circulating at the time (Gulliksen, "The Lutheran Immigrant Turns Unitarian: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, William Ellery Channing, and Religious Idealism in A Saloonkeeper's Daughter," pp. 15–30) and Janson's engagement with gender conventions and women's social and political roles in the latter half of the 19th century (Anne Holden Rønning, "A Saloonkeeper's Daughter and the Woman Question," pp. 31–42). This theme is also taken up...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2125
Print ISSN
0065-9142
Pages
pp. 511-520
Launched on MUSE
2007-09-19
Open Access
No
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