Course Syllabus

Scandinavian Crime Fiction

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Semester & Location:

Fall 2022 - DIS Stockholm
Type & Credits: Elective Course - 3 credits
Major Disciplines: Literature


Faculty Member: Jan Holmgaard - 
Program Director: Andreas Brøgger -  
Academic Support:  

Time & Place:

Mondays and Thursdays 10:05-11:25   Room: E-509 


Course Description

In Scandinavian crime fiction, the most fantastic murders take place, families fall apart, their dark secrets are exposed, and the validity of the Scandinavian countries’ welfare system is questioned – all of this described in a distinctly Scandinavian tone and style.

Is this why Scandinavian crime fiction is so popular? What is it with the terse language, the Nordic landscape, and the protagonists as anti-heroes, feminists or outsiders that make these crime novels so appealing?

The course presents excellent opportunities for close reading and examining contemporary Scandinavian crime fiction. We introduce a variety of traditional literary terms and concepts, such as narratology, plot and character, in order to improve our analytical skills. But we also contextualize our readings by including political, ideological, and socio-cultural aspects of literature into our discussions. Furthermore, we will include a section on transmediality and adaptation. Few literary genres are as exposed to, and integrated with, various adaptation formats as crime fiction.

We will be reading a number of crime fiction novels representing different Scandinavian/Nordic countries. There will be introductions to the genre of crime fiction, and also to aspects of sub-genres and/or genre-hybrids, to the Scandinavian countries and the concept of the Welfare State as well as the themes of Scandinavian crime fiction and its adaptations.

The course is based on academic sessions, taking place twice a week during the entire semester. Attendance is mandatory.

Learning Objectives

This course aims at increasing the abilities to think and work analytically. This includes developing the ability to read and analyse literary, and non-literary, texts, to voice criticism through coherent argumentation, to reason by analogy, to pose relevant questions and communicate your analytical reflections in written and oral form.

In this course, the aim is for you to become more perceptive readers of crime fiction and criticism. In this course, we will explore concepts such as national & cultural identity, race, ethnicity, the environment as place, space and location, gender-related isssues, power structures etc. in the context of modern Scandinavian crime fiction.

At the end of the course, you will have increased your abilities to:

  • Identify and distinguish themes, genres, styles and influences in Scandinavian crime fiction
  • An acquired vocabulary for analysis of crime fiction and Scandinavian crime fiction in particular, including literary as well as cultural terms
  • Gain an understanding of Scandinavian society today as mirrored in crime fiction
  • Develop critical skills: to think analytically, to voice criticism through argumentation
  • Improve writing skills


Jan Holmgaard, PhD in Comparative Literature, Stockholm University. Associate Professor at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University. Formerly visiting researcher at Oxford University and The Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, Copenhagen University. Teaches literature and philosophy at DIS Stockholm. With DIS since 2017.



"The Crime Fiction Handbook", Peter Messent

"Scandinavian Crime Fiction", eds. Andrew Nestingen & Paula Arvas

"Swedish Crime Fiction - the making of Nordic noir", Kerstin Bergman

"The Theory of Adaptation", Linda Hutcheon (excerpts pdf)


Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Roseanna

Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Yrsa Sirgurdardottir,  The Legacy

Kerstin Ekman, Blackwater

Jo Nesbø, The Snowman

Niklas Natt och Dag, The Wolf and the Watchman

Arne Dahl, Watching You

Other sources

Film adaptations

Original Crime fiction series


Approach to Teaching

I believe that teaching is a passion. Each session, seminar or lecture is an opportunity not only to present facts, knowledge, and analytical perspectives, but to engage in dialogue with students on important literary, ideological, cultural, and existential questions and topics. I always encourage students to challenge themselves and to engage in critical thinking, whereby preconceived ideas and one´s own prejudices are questioned and put into context.

Expectations of Students

Students are expected to have done the reading for each class and to come prepared with notes and questions for the class to discuss. Engaged participation is part of the evaluation and grading of the course. It also makes the sessions so much more interesting and versatile. It is vital that the students engage in an ongoing critical dialogue based on the required texts. Engaged participation is also extended to include an oral presentation in class. Furthermore, students are expected to develop their writing abilities and their analytical approach to literature. During the course, students are expected to hand in two papers, as well as a final paper.


Students will be evaluated based on overall acquired skills, from demonstrating a basic understanding of facts and knowledge, over a comprehensive understanding of philosophical and theoretical concepts and contexts, to a fully developed critical approach to important and complex philosophical questions dealing with technology and human values. Students will be evaluated based on the following: the engaged participation in class, the oral presentation in class, two written assignments, and the final paper.






Paper 1


Paper 2 




Participation 10%

The student is expected to attend all sessions, to come prepared for each session, and to participate actively in all discussions during class.

Paper 1 35%

The student is expected to write an essay (4 pages) on a major theme from the first part of the course. Further instructions will appear as the assignment is handed out.

Paper 2 35%

The student is expected to write a second essay (4 pages) on a major theme  from the second or third part of the course. Further instructions will appear as the assignment is handed out.

Workshop oral presetations 20%

The student is expected to participate in a group presentation towards the end of the semester. The presentations are intended as creative re-readings of some of the crime fiction novel read during the course. Further instructions will follow.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on: 


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

Date Details Due