Roland Thorstensson


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)


Hoppa sten

Courses Taught

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
SWE-101Swedish I132009/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-100First Term Seminar92007/FA, 2006/FA, 2005/FA, 2004/FA, 2003/FA, 2002/FA, 2001/FA, 2000/FA, and 1999/FA
SWE-344Special Topic: Young in Sweden82010/SP, 2008/SP, 2007/SP, 2006/SP, 2003/SP, 2002/SP, 2000/SP, and 1999/SP
SWE-102Swedish II82010/SP, 2008/SP, 2007/SP, 2006/SP, 2004/SP, 2002/SP, 2001/SP, and 1999/SP
SWE-301Conversation and Composition: Swedish Short Story72008/FA, 2007/FA, 2004/FA, 2003/FA, 2002/FA, 2001/FA, and 1999/FA
SWE-201Intermediate Swedish I42009/FA, 2006/FA, 2005/FA, and 2000/FA
SCA-117Henrik Ibsen42008/FA, 2006/SP, 2003/SP, and 2000/SP
SCA-234Scandinavian Film42007/SP, 2004/SP, 2002/SP, and 1999/SP
SCA-244Special Topic: Ingmar Bergman32010/SP, 2009/SP, and 2007/SP
SCA-235The Sami People32008/JN, 2004/JN, and 2000/JN
SCA-377August Strindberg22008/SP and 2001/SP
SWE-302Scandinavian Poetry and Music22004/SP and 2001/SP
SCA-100Scandinavian Life and Culture12009/FA
SCA-100Scandinavian Life and Culture Lab12009/FA
SCA-221The Sami People12009/SP
SCA-222People and Politics12009/SP
SCA-223The Study of Nature12009/SP
SCA-220Sweden Today12009/JN
SCA-205Ingmar Bergman12006/JN
SCA-268Career Exploration12006/JN
IDS-213Indigenous People12002/JN
SCA-103Winter in Norway and Sweden12001/JN
SWE-202Intermediate Swedish II12000/SP

Courses prior to Spring semester 1999 are not displayed.