Roland Thorstensson


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Professor Emeritus in Scandinavian Studies

Thorstensson writes:

Choices, a long time ago: When I was nineteen and in my last year of the Swedish gymnasium, different obligations and plans lay before me. The Swedish military wanted me to learn Russian at the Royal Interpreter School; my history professor wanted me to become a history professor; my physical education professors thought I should make physical education my career; and I wanted to escape and become a sailor on the Seven Seas. Then a letter from the University of Washington arrived to my parents' farm. This university offered me a scholarship, "a free ride!" The Swedish military gave me a deferment and my history professor was happy because he knew that I could now study American history, one of my major interests. What my physical education professors said I can't remember, but I do remember how seasick I was when I traveled across the Atlantic on an ocean liner called the M/S Kungsholm.

I have stayed on terra firma ever since, on university and college campuses or close to them. I have tried to remain physically educated and active on my own and while Russian never became one of my languages, my Russian daughter-in-law can now interpret for me, as can my son and grandsons. I hope to fly across the Seven Seas some day.

From American Studies to Scandinavian Studies: In Seattle I discovered Scandinavia and eventually something called Scandinavian studies. It appealed to me because it allowed me to pursue my interest in many things at one and the same time. Perhaps I have been interdisciplinary all my life. On the farm I had to be. In athletics I thought decathlon was fun because it was so diverse. My Latin teacher preached mens sana in corpore sano. And my work in Scandinavian studies provided many opportunities to go "home," at least in my mind. Because of my many and varied interests, my Graduate School advisor felt that I should become a teacher at a liberal arts institution. When I was ready to apply for teaching jobs he suggested I apply to a college with an unpronounceable name in southern Minnesota. I followed his advice.

Gustavus Adolphus College: Gustavus has been a good home for my family and me. My wife Edi, as knowledgeable a Scandinavianist as any, was a librarian here for many years. Martin and Liv, our two children, have lived in Sweden and Norway with us when I have had sabbatical leaves. They both speak my first language fluently (and several others). At Gustavus I have taught a variety of Swedish languages courses, courses in English on Nordic literature, Nordic theater and film, Sami culture and many other interdisciplinary courses. In the 1980s I even taught classes in Physical Education -- aerobics -- and I have assisted the coaches in soccer and cross-country skiing, both on campus and in Scandinavia. And now, as a professor emeritus, I still live just next to campus, with many opportunities to enjoy what the new members of the Department of Scandinavian Studies do to educate students and the community at large about the Nordic world.


B.A., University of Washington (History and German); Ph.D., University of Washington (Scandinavian Studies)


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Courses Taught

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
SWE-101 Swedish I 13 2009/FA, 2008/FA, 2007/FA, 2006/FA, 2005/FA, 2004/FA, 2003/FA, 2003/SP, 2002/FA, 2001/FA, 2000/FA, 2000/SP, and 1999/FA
FTS-100 First Term Seminar 9 2007/FA, 2006/FA, 2005/FA, 2004/FA, 2003/FA, 2002/FA, 2001/FA, 2000/FA, and 1999/FA
SWE-344 Special Topic: Young in Sweden 8 2010/SP, 2008/SP, 2007/SP, 2006/SP, 2003/SP, 2002/SP, 2000/SP, and 1999/SP
SWE-102 Swedish II 8 2010/SP, 2008/SP, 2007/SP, 2006/SP, 2004/SP, 2002/SP, 2001/SP, and 1999/SP
SWE-301 Conversation and Composition: Swedish Short Story 7 2008/FA, 2007/FA, 2004/FA, 2003/FA, 2002/FA, 2001/FA, and 1999/FA
SWE-201 Intermediate Swedish I 4 2009/FA, 2006/FA, 2005/FA, and 2000/FA
SCA-117 Henrik Ibsen 4 2008/FA, 2006/SP, 2003/SP, and 2000/SP
SCA-234 Scandinavian Film 4 2007/SP, 2004/SP, 2002/SP, and 1999/SP
SCA-244 Special Topic: Ingmar Bergman 3 2010/SP, 2009/SP, and 2007/SP
SCA-235 The Sami People 3 2008/JN, 2004/JN, and 2000/JN
SCA-377 August Strindberg 2 2008/SP and 2001/SP
SWE-302 Scandinavian Poetry and Music 2 2004/SP and 2001/SP
SCA-100 Scandinavian Life and Culture 1 2009/FA
SCA-100 Scandinavian Life and Culture Lab 1 2009/FA
SCA-221 The Sami People 1 2009/SP
SCA-222 People and Politics 1 2009/SP
SCA-223 The Study of Nature 1 2009/SP
SCA-220 Sweden Today 1 2009/JN
SCA-205 Ingmar Bergman 1 2006/JN
SCA-268 Career Exploration 1 2006/JN
IDS-213 Indigenous People 1 2002/JN
SCA-103 Winter in Norway and Sweden 1 2001/JN
SWE-202 Intermediate Swedish II 1 2000/SP
Courses prior to Spring semester 1999 are not displayed.