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Feature

Professor Jim Parente advising a student.

Professor Jim Parente (left) advising Ph.D. student Jurgen Laun.

Converging interests: Germany and Scandinavia

By Kate Tyler

From eNews, September 30, 2004

One student is studying contemporary exile literature in Sweden and Germany. Another is exploring masculinity in the work of Danish writer Herman Bang and German writer Frank Wedekind. A third is analyzing 1960s-70s documentary narratives by German and Swedish writers. These doctoral students are among the first to tap the opportunities created by a unique combined German and Scandinavian studies program at the University.

The program is "not just a German program with Scandinavian icing," says Poul Houe, a professor in the Department of German, Scandinavian, and Dutch (GSD). "[But it's] one with real opportunities for students to explore points of contact between German and Scandinavian literatures and cultures, and ultimately, to probe points of deeper nexus between the German and the Scandinavian."

Students who want to focus on Scandinavian literature "can come here to flesh out their knowledge of German in a premier German department," says GSD professor James Parente. At the same time, he adds, "the program creates opportunities for those who work primarily in Germanic studies to broaden their expertise."

The U--already one of the country's best in Germanic languages and literatures--is one of few U.S. universities with notable weight in Scandinavian studies, and the only one in the country with a true dual program in German and Scandinavian studies. Only three freestanding Scandinavian studies departments exist nationwide, along with just a handful of German departments with any Scandinavian studies emphases.

In addition to four professors who specialize in Scandinavian studies and two Germanists who do some of their work on Scandinavian topics, the U's program boasts one of North America's most extensive collections of Scandinavian materials, with more than 200,000 volumes on related subjects and disciplines.

"Our students are more competitive [because of our solid grounding in both German and Scandinavian studies]," says Houe. "A student standing on two feet instead of one foot is probably going to have more opportunities in the world."

To learn more about the program or the department, see www.folwell.umn.edu/gsd.

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