- International Scholarshipiv Nordic Contributions
This section considers contributions from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. This year’s publications show an interest in immigration and identity, and also in studies of narrative genre. Current Danish scholarship focuses on 20th-century prose and the pyschological, and Swedish scholarship on race and identity. Norwegian and Finnish contributions include three significant monographs. Finnish scholars are the most prolific and their work the most varied, featuring publications on prose, poetry, drama, and the graphic novel.
a. 19th-Century Literature
In “Frances Willard’s Peep at Finland” (Journal of Finnish Studies 16, i: 59–79) Sirpa Salenius addresses Willard’s influential and widely known, though seldom studied, report of her visit to Finland in 1868 in the context of 19th-century transatlantic travel writing. Willard’s narrative, published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1869, is one of the few texts written by an American visitor to the Grand Duchy of Finland. Salenius shows that the information presented in Willard’s text relies on the guidebooks widely used by the period’s travelers but that the impressions of Finns and their social life are distinctively Willard’s own. Willard’s educated urban Finns, while others in terms of language, are represented in a positive manner as “natural northerner[s]” and prime examples of “ideal whiteness,” whereas the rural Finns serve as examples of backwardness and simplicity. As Salenius shows, Willard’s text, like those written by Isabel Hapgood and Edna Dean Proctor, two other middle-class writers able to travel to Finland in the period, tends to promote stereotypes of class and gender based on distinctively American ideals and prejudices. Nevertheless, the tour of Europe provided Willard with ample opportunities to observe the differences between Europe and the United States and hence served as a backdrop for her later career devoted to social reform.
b. Poetry to the Mid-20th Century
A study of E. E. Cummings is this year’s only study of an American modernist poet by a Nordic scholar. Mihail Oshukov’s “E. E. Cummingsin EIMI ja amerikkalaisten transsendentalistien perintö” (“E. E. Cummings’s EIMI and the Legacy of American Transcendentalism”), pp. 210–34 in Hanna Meretoja and Aino Mäkikalli, eds., Tulkintojen aika: Kirjoituksia ajallisuudesta [End Page 462] kirjallisuudessa (The Time of Interpretations: Writings on Temporality in Literature) (Turku: Utukirjat), addresses Cummings’s autobiographical prose work based on his travels in the Soviet Union in 1931. In his analysis Oshukov discusses the similarities between Cummings’s modernist work and the legacy of American Transcendentalists, with particular reference to the work of Henry David Thoreau. According to the essay, Cummings’s work is indebted to the Transcendentalist tradition in various ways, such as his choice of the autobiographical genre and his promotion of a natural aesthetics. In Cummings’s text, as well as in Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, a work characterized by the presence of various literary texts, the goal of the traveler’s journey is the world of art, identifiable in EIMI in the presence of characters such as Dante and Beatrice as well as in the narrator’s explicit views on aesthetics.
c. Fiction to the Mid-20th Century
Orm Øverland discusses the serialized short fiction of Johannes B. Wist in “An Editor Writes for His Subscribers: A Norwegian American Serialized Trilogy, 1919–1922,” pp. 183–99 in Patricia Okker, ed., Transnationalism and American Serial Fiction (Routledge). Wist was the editor-in-chief of the widely read Norwegian language newspaper the Decorah-Posten, published in northeastern Iowa. His stories were later published as a collection and have been recently translated into English by Øverland as The Rise of Jonas Olsen: A Norwegian Immigrant’s Saga (2006). Øverland focuses on Wist’s satirical treatment of immigrant culture and on his view that immigrant groups such as those from Scandinavia were involved in a transition from their original culture to identification as Americans. While Jonas Olsen is a character Wist’s readers would have laughed at for his mixed English and insistence on building a family dynasty, the stories also function as an important...