Dr. Steven Sondrup, Department of Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature
I received a MEG in December of 2009 and, thus, pursued the goals outlined in that application during 2010 and am continuing through 2011. The proposal was to have selected students work closely with me on preparing a manuscript on the comparative history of Nordic literary culture for publication by John Benjamins under the aegis of the Publications Coordinating Committee of the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA). This is a long-term project in that it will eventually consist of four volumes each running between 600 and 700 pages. The various chapters are being written by a team of distinguished scholars from the United States, all of the Scandinavian countries (including the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland), Great Britain, Germany, and France. The task I as editor-in-chief along with the students initially faced was translating some of the submitted chapters into English, editing them all in such a way that style and consistency were standardized, and assuring above all that that details were scrupulously verified for completeness and accuracy. Students have recently begun work in establishing thematic and intellectual continuity among the submissions of various contributors. The work has proceeded well in that volume 1 is nearing completion and volume 2 is well underway. In more specific terms, this accounting means that forty-one chapters running to approximately 1,350 pages have been completed. Annual written and oral reports have been submitted to the ICLA Publications Coordinating Committee to whose meetings in Paris and Lisbon a student has accompanied me and has taken an active part in the proceedings. Their role has been such that they are, though students, almost expected to be present and take part. The Coordinating Committee has expressed complete satisfaction with the work accomplished to date and the fundamental methodological innovations we have brought to the logic of the entire series, an assessment that reaffirms the commitment to publication already made. Students have been even more vigorously involved in meetings with both North American as well as European contributors concerning detailed planning for specific parts of the project.
We have a small office generously furnished and equipped by the College of Humanities that accommodates the staff of the scholarly journal I also edit, Scandinavian Studies, as well as the students working on the Comparative History of Nordic Literary Cultures. By carefully adjusting work schedules, the two operations are kept separate with very little interference between the two completely distinct projects. (The publication of Scandinavian Studies is now funded entirely by the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study through grants from the venerable Swedish Academy and the Pro Suecia Foundation. Since all bills are paid by the Association treasurer, there is absolutely no mixing of or overlap in funding.) I have been able to spend considerable time three days a week in a mentoring context that has led to a very productive, harmonious, and, I hope, long-lasting rapport. Travel with students has allowed for other kinds of interaction as well as working with them in a demanding scholarly context. Students have profited from this relationship in coming to understand the very high value I attach to absolute accuracy, adequate and timely preparation, and assuming responsibilities of various sorts on their own initiative. As we have traveled to various locales both in the United States and abroad, students have seen how central gospel standards can be represented in conspicuously intellectual arenas in such a way that they are highly respected in the circles here involved.
The students who participated have worked in something of a hierarchical arrangement. In January of 2010 Ben Bigelowthen a graduate studentbegan work and quickly assimilated the needed skills for the first and mid-level tasks. In February 2010, Jon Williams joined the team as an undergraduate who was mentored both by Ben and myself. Ben finished his M.A. degree in August 2010 with a clear emphasis on the culture of the Nordic region. He then entered the Scandinavian doctoral program at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has continued his work on this project with a senior member of the Berkeley Scandinavian faculty and an important member of our editorial team. Jon Williams then moved into the more responsible position of a mentor working with Rebecca Fairbank while preparing an MA thesis on the influence of Icelandic literature in Argentina. Mrs. Fairbank, however, was awarded a FLAS grant a few months after beginning and was not allowed under the terms of that grant to accept any employment so was required to resign her position. Spencer Nance, an undergraduate and specialist in Danish with the support of his Norwegian wife, is making the transition from a Scandinavian Studies employee to a mentored position already having highly developed skills. We anticipate inviting another undergraduate to join our ranks should funding become available.
The anticipated “academic deliverable” that the mentored students will produce is two volumes of our four-volume series that are nearly ready for publication. It goes without saying that their contributions in an important editorial capacity will be fully acknowledged in the publications along with the fact that their work was supported to a very large extent by the Brigham Young University Office of Research and Creative Activities.
Because of the nature of this scholarly initiative, findings or results are much more difficult to enumerate than they would be in a project in the hard or social sciences: no experiments that yield specific new insights in the usual sense of the word are being conducted. The results of the work will be two volumes that will afford significantly greater insight into the richness, breadth, and profundity of Nordic literature and a significantly broader sense of who the inhabitants of the Nordic region are to scholarly readers both outside as well inside the region. All involved with the project, including myself, seasoned scholarly contributors, and students, have seen new connections or marveled at an insight into the production of a literary tradition that the methodologically new juxtaposition of various chapters has yielded. These insights are highly particular in comparison to those of carefully designed scientific experimentation and do not readily lend themselves to brief summary. The bottom line, though, is that everyone has profited in different, individual, and uniquely personal ways in terms of understanding the dynamics of the development of a largely underappreciated literary tradition.
All of the funding provided save one small exception, part of a consultation trip to Berkeley and some minor supplies, went into student salaries. I realize that relatively few students were involved, but their training and the accomplishment of their tasks required a considerable time commitment, and the involvement of graduate students in mentoring roles proved expensive. The travel to and accommodation in Copenhagen, Paris, Lisbon, and multiple trips to Berkeley I have personally underwritten.