Mary Kay Norseng


Tel.: (310) 206-6858. Fax: (310) 825-9754.

I joined the Scandinavian faculty at UCLA in the 1970s and since that time have been privileged to partake in the blessings and the curses of the humanistic endeavors of teaching, writing, and research. The students of a quarter of a century have been the great gift. My own student years were spent primarily at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where I received my Ph.D. in Scandinavian Literature in 1975. At UCLA I have been responsible for Norwegian, the language of my fathers, as well as literature and culture courses, graduate and undergraduate, in 19th, 20th, and 21st century Scandinavia, and in the craft of writing, the pearl in the oyster of my literary studies.

The various strands of my scholarly interest--the fin de siècle, artistic women and women's writing, the theater, Ibsen, Norwegian literature, feminist and psychoanalytic theory--have tended to converge in the study of the aesthetics of melancholy. I have written on two of the major cultural icons of the Norwegian 1890s the singular poet of modem alienation, Sigbjørn Obstfelder, and the legendary bohemian, Dagny Juel Przybyszewska, informed by the fin-de-siècle's obsession with beauty and death. With my colleague, Faith Ingwersen, I edited a collection of essays on the turns of the centuries in Scandinavia, honoring our close friend and my Norwegian mentor, Harald Naess. Most recently I have been writing essays on the subject of loss and the intersection of passion, will and melancholy in the female literary subject, including characters as seemingly diverse as Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler and the contemporary Danish writer, Peter Høeg's Smilla. In future I will be pursuing the aesthetics of joy, in one way or another, though initially in Ibsen's "theater."

Scandinavian studies provides a rewarding context for my work. As a member of the Scandinavian Section at UCLA I have been fortunate to have truly fine, fun, and supportive colleagues. I have served as head of our esteemed Section several times since receiving tenure in 1980: 1980-83, 1986-89, 1992.1998. I am honored to have recently been elected to serve as vice-president and then president of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, our national organization. I have been a member of the Norwegian Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1994.

Selected Publications:


  •   Sigbjørn Obstfelder. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982.
  •   Dagny. Dagny Juel Przybyszewska. The Woman and the Myth. Seattle: U of Washington, 1991.
  •   Dagny Jul. Kvinnen og myten. Transl. Hanne Bramness. Oslo: Gyldendal, 1992.
  •   Fins(s) de Siècle in Scandinavian Perspective. Studies in Honor of Harald S. Naess. Co-edited    with  Faith Ingwersen: Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1993..

Recent Articles

  •   "A House of Mourning: Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne." Scandinavian Studies, No. 1, 1997.
  •   "The Stockmann Coup: Ibsen, McKellan, Nunn." Western European Stages, Fall, 1998.
  •   "Suicide and Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. The Seen and the Unseen, Sight and Site, in the Theater of the Mind." Scandinavian Studies. No. 1, 1999.


  •   Scandinavian 11-15: Norwegian Language
  •   Scandinavian 50: Introduction to Scandinavian Literature
  •   Scandinavian 50W: Introduction to Scandinavian Literature (Writing 2)
  •   Scandinavian C144: Ibsen
  •   Scandinavian C147: Hamsun
  •   Scandinavian CM186: Voices of Women in Scandinavian Literature