Literature in the Nordic Curricula: a study of the concept of literature and legitimization for literary education in the curricula for lower secondary education

Submitted by: Aslaug Fodstad Gourvennec
Abstract: Education in the Nordic countries has many common features across national borders. Within L1 education in general, and literary education in particular, the Nordic countries have influenced each other within the Scandinavian language area (see e.g. Elf & Kaspersen, 2012). This dialogue between the Nordic L1 subjects allows for comparative analysis of curricula. Such analysis has been made on the notion of multimodality (Elf, Gilje, Olin-Scheller & Slotte, 2018); however, this paper is the first to investigate notions of literature and literary education. While teaching practices and notions of what is regarded as valid scientific theory alter slowly, curricula may be said to change rapidly as part of ongoing political governance (Krogh, 2003). In this paper, we understand curricula as documents rendering cultural representations of literary education, or what we with Gee (2014) frame as cultural models.

In this paper, we investigate notions of literature and literary education expressed in the Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish L1 curricula for lower secondary education. Using a discourse analytical approach (Gee, 2014), we study the concept of literature and the legitimization for literary study within the L1 subject as expressions of cultural models of literature and literary education. Preliminary findings show that in the curricula of all four countries, an extended concept of text is manifest; that is, there is no hierarchical division between literary texts and other texts. Literature is legitimized both as a study object and as a means for identity development, formation and linguistic development; however, the legitimizations are emphasized differently in each of the curricula. There are also variations in how specific or open the curricula are in terms of teaching methods. In conclusion, we discuss the educational challenges and opportunities that arise in the comparison of cultural models of literature and literary education manifested in the Nordic curricula.

Keywords: curricula; literary education; cultural models; lower secondary education, Nordic L1


Elf, N. F. & Kaspersen, P. (Eds.). (2012). Den Nordiske skolen - fins den?: didaktiske diskurser og dilemmaer i skandinaviske morsmålsfag. Oslo: Novus.
Elf, N. F., Gilje, Ø., Olin-Scheller, C. & Slotte, A. (2018). Nordisk status og forskningsperspektiver i L1: Multimodalitet i styredokumenter og klasserumsrumspraksis. In M. Rogne, & L. Rune Waage (Eds.), Multimodalitet i skole- og fritidstekstar: Ein vitskapleg antologi. (pp. 71-104). Oslo: Fakbokforlaget.
Gee, J. P. (2014). An introduction to discourse analysis: theory and method (4th ed.). London: Routledge.
Krogh, E. (2003). Et fag i moderniteten: Danskfagets didaktiske diskurser. Odense: Syddansk Universitet. Det Humanistiske Fakultet.