Teaching Ecocriticism in Scandinavian Studies

Fifth Workshop of the Ecocritical Network for Scandinavian Studies (ENSCAN)

University of Bonn, Germany, and online, 9-10 June 2022

Call for Papers (download as a PDF file)


Conference Report:

The most recent workshop held in cooperation with the Ecocritical Network for Scandinavian Studies (ENSCAN) was hosted by the University of Bonn and organised by Judith Meurer-Bongardt and Thomas Fechner-Smarsly. As its theme, it tackled the teaching of ecocriticism, in a range of contexts – in and outside Scandinavia, in primary and secondary schools, and at universities. Attendees came from three main areas; those involved in teacher training in Nordic literature; those teaching Scandinavian Studies outside of Scandinavia; and those teaching contemporary Nordic (and Old Norse) literature in Scandinavia.

Given this wide remit, workshop discussions quickly found common ground and all of the papers generated lively conversations. One particular theme was the development of methodologies for teaching “litteraturkompetanse for bærekraft” (LKB), or literature for sustainability, with presentations from across Norway exploring different aspects of this key strategy in Norwegian education. A second theme was the choice of texts and approaches when developing ecocritical course syllabi: the anglocentrism of much ecocritical theory and analysis is one challenge here, as the tension between global problems and the implicitly localised and bordered concerns of national literary traditions. Participants were generous in sharing their own course methods in contents, ranging from individual text choices to pedagogical tools and new elements such as field trips and creative writing assignments. The presentation of two undergraduate students on their experience of different kinds of teaching was a welcome reminder at the end of day one on the importance of including students in discussions about university courses!

Following more than two years with scarcely any in-person conferences, the workshop that took place in Bonn was the first chance for some of us to socialise again. It is a great credit to organisers that they were able both to create the opportunity for in-person networking whilst still allowing those unable or unwilling to travel to join digitally. During the two days in Bonn, the technology worked faultlessly, the hybrid format allowed roughly equal numbers of digital and non-digital participants to interact, and it felt like a good way to reboot the academic event after the hiatus. Lessons have been learned – we all know now both to value the precious chances to meet and socialise in the same place, and also to be grateful for the technology that keeps us connected across distance.

The workshop provided a rich opportunity to exchange ideas with each other and gain insights on the different kinds of research projects and teaching that are underway in our different university settings. Besides comparing methods and techniques, participants shared their research across a wide range of subjects from the sea, conservation, and local history to legends, poetry, sci-fi and food ethics, in both formal and informal conversations. It was great to see such a diversity of interests brought together in an overarching shared commitment to teaching and to bringing the best of ecocritical thinking into the classroom. It bodes well for the future of ecocriticism in Scandinavian Studies!

Katie Ritson, 29 June 2022