Is there such a thing as a poetics of the welfare state? This talk will focus on the welfare states of Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, and Norway, and the ways in which Nordic welfare policies are picked up and negotiated in popular works of art from the 1950s until today. Building on close analysis of influential works of literature and visual art from Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and the United States, this presentation addresses historical factors and characteristics of the socio-cultural imaginary surrounding the rise and, some argue, subsequent dismantling of the Nordic welfare states.
Aside from offering a fascinating perspective on the Nordic countries and illustrating some of their most pressing social issues, this exploration of literature, film, design, and politics also reveals some of the core differences between Nordic and Anglo-American approaches to individual freedom and equality.
Verena Höfig is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds a PhD in Scandinavian Studies from UC Berkeley. Specializing on Northern Europe, Verena's research focuses on the intersection of literature, material culture, and social history in Scandinavia from the Viking Age until today. Her first book "Icelandic Origins - A History of Iceland's First Viking Settler" examines representations of the figure of the first Icelander in the context of (national) identity, nationalism, and memory formation. Besides coursework in Medieval Studies (Old Norse-Icelandic language, mythology, Icelandic sagas and poetry), Verena also teaches classes on modern subjects pertaining to Scandinavia, including Swedish language and literature.