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Signe Karlstrom Lectures

The Scandinavian Studies Program proudly sponsors the annual Signe Karlström Memorial Event, which has featured talks by major Scandinavian scholars and artists. The annual event, funded through an endowment established by Olivia Maynard and Olof Karlström, provides an opportunity for the U-M community and general public to enhance their understanding and appreciation of Scandinavian Culture.

2019 Signe Karlström Annual Lecture

Swedish Food Cultures from the Viking age until today, and how the 19th century Swedish food culture came to be preserved in Swedish-America

Swedish Food Historian Richard Tellström presents on Swedish food culture from the Viking age to current times, exploring food techniques, dishes, regional foods and typical food products, with a focus on the 20th century to modern times and New Nordic Cuisine. Tellström will also touch on how Swedish-Americans and their culinary heritage, how 19th century Swedish food culture has been preserved by Swedish immigrants to the US.

PhD Richard Tellström is an assistant professor in food and meal science at the University of Stockholm. He can be seen in several popular TV productions on Swedish Television dealing with food history. He has been consulted for several contemporary Swedish movies, making sure the food is time appropriate. Books published include Hunger och Törst (2015) and Från krog till krog (2018).

This lecture is open to the public and will take place in the East Conference Room of Rackham Auditorium (915 E Washington St, Ann Arbor, MI 48109).

Event is cosponsored by SWEA, Detroit Swedish Foundation, and Swedish Institute

2019 Richard Tellström
  Assistant Professor in Food and Meal Science at the University of Stockholm
  Swedish Food Cultures from the Viking age until today, and how the 19th century Swedish food culture came to be preserved in Swedish-America
2018 Carly Elizabeth Schall
  Assistant Professor of Sociology at Indiana University--Purdue University Indianapolis
  The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Welfare Machine: Immigration and Social Democracy in Twentieth-Century Sweden
2016 The Norén Festival
2015 Lena Einhorn: Greta Garbo, The Unknown Story
  ”I thought I ’knew’ Greta Garbo.” This is how Swedish author and film maker Lena Einhorn begins the epilogue of her novel Blekinge Street 32. Einhorn had already made a television documentary about Greta Garbo and had therefore had reason to spend many hours with this inaccessible and – mostly – unhappy woman who was once the world’s greatest movie star. A movie star who hailed from the poorest district of Stockholm, who rose to be the most famous Hollywood actress over almost two decades, only to suddenly retire, at age 36, with the famous words: “I want to be left alone.”
2014 From the Mountains to the Fjords: Music From Norway

Haugtussa, Edward Greig (1898)

Tessa Romano, mezzo-soprano

César Cañon, piano

Sonata for cello and Piano, Edward Grieg (1882)

Clamavi, Arne Nordheim (1980)

Katri Ervamaa, cello

Naki Sung Kripfgans, piano

2012 Author and filmmaker Lena Einhorn

August Strindberg and His Turbulent Life lecture by Lena Einhorn. Swedish author and playwright August Strindberg – a brilliant and yet highly controversial personage – died a hundred years ago this year. He is considered by many to be the best author who ever wrote in the Swedish language. But Strindberg is known not only for his extensive body of work, but also for his complicated personality, which combined a deep-rooted misogyny with an attraction to strong women (to name only one of his many contradictions). Consequently Strindberg has become known, and hotly debated, not only for what he wrote, but also for how he lived.

Nina's Journey movie screening followed by a discussion with the director, Lena Einhorn. The true story of one woman's struggle to escape the Nazi pogroms of World War II inspired this historical drama from writer and director Lena Einhorn. Nina Rajmic (Agnieszka Grochowska) was born and raised in Warsaw, but when Poland was invaded by Germany, she and her family discovered their nationality didn't matter as much as the fact they were Jewish. Nina, her brother Rudolph (Pawel Iwanicki) and her parents were driven from their home and relocated to the Warsaw ghetto, where they became second-class citizens and learned first hand about the ruthlessness of the Third Reich. While Nina and Rudolph were lucky enough to survive the abuse that the occupying forces meted out, their parents were not so lucky, and in time Nina fled Poland in the company of fellow student Jerzy Einhorn (Andrzej Niemczyk) and settled in Sweden, where they completed their education and enjoyed successful careers in medicine. Ninas Resa (aka Nina's Journey) was adapted from Lena Einhorn's book about the life of her mother Nina Rajmic-Einhorn, with recordings of Nina used on the soundtrack for narration.

2011 A Tribute to Jussi Björling 
  Jussi Björling (1911-1960) possessed arguably the greatest operatic voice of the 20th century. His musical legacy will be commemorated in his centennial year with a thrilling combination of live vocal performances by Mats Carlsson, leading tenor of the Swedish Royal Opera, and carefully selected recordings and a slide show compiled and presented by Björling expert, Bertil Bengtsson. The audience will be taken on a fascinating and moving journey through the life of this incomparable artist. If you have not heard the voice of Björling before, be prepared for a life-changing experience.
2011  Distinguished Swedish Writer & Nobel Prize Committee Member Kjell Espmark introduced Lend Me Your Voice, his first book of poetry translated into English, and discussed his experiences as a member of the Nobel Literary Prize Committee.
2009  Festen Event "Festen" was proudly sponsored by the Signe Karlström Fund, the Swedish Institute, U-M Residential College, SWEA, the Finnish Center Association, Kalevala, and IKEA.
2008 Lars Trägårdh
  A Swedish Theory of Love: Radical Individualism in the Land of Social Solidarity
2006 Göran Therborn
  Director of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences, Uppsala, and University Professor of Sociology at Uppsala University

The Making of Equality: Social Processes and Swedish Experiences

The Union of Europe: From Europeanization to Global Ambition and Global Subservience


Ideas of Wealth and Welfare in Sweden and the USA Two lectures by David Östlund, historian and Fulbright-lecturer from Stockholm University.

"Social Engineering": From Benevolent Business Efficiency to the Experts' Welfare State "Social engineering" became a catchword among American progressives in the interwar period. In recent decades it has often been used with reference to Swedish society as the epitome of the rationally planned welfare state. The concept was originally launched in America in 1899, referring to a kind of expert-guided benevolence on the part of Big Business, seen as a partial solution to "the social question". This origin has immediate links to the group of Swedish "progressives" who shaped the first foundations of the Swedish welfare state in the start of the 20th century. Both contrasts and similarities with American thought shed new light over the Swedish way from "social war" to "social peace".

The Swedish Model: Soft-Socialism or Vigorous Capitalism with a Human Face? Since the 1930s Sweden has often appeared as a symbol in international debates. Cherished as an enviable ideal society by American left-liberals, Sweden has also been painted as a dystopia by conservatives. What gave this small country on the northern fringe of Europe its reputation to possess a unique "model"? Conspicuous economic prosperity? Cultural traits of modernist-rationalistic consensus? A comprehensive social security system? Were such features rooted in ancient national traditions and mentalities? Were they on the contrary a result of pure chance in the interplay between a unique set of social forces, such as a strong and autonomous business community? Or was the "People's Home" an edifice built by the Social Democrats, using their governmental power 1932-1976 to materialize the ideas of reformist socialism?


Scandinavian Chamber Music Concert #1 Faculty and students, including Soren Hermansson, Erling Blondal Bengtsson, Eric Ronmark, and the School of Music Chamber Choir, conducted by Jerry Blackstone. "Visions of Northern Sounds" a film portrait by Peter Berggren introduces us to maestro Eric Ericson, leading choral conductor of our age. Discussion with the director follows.

Scandinavian Chamber Music Concert #2 Featuring School of Music faculty and students, including Megan Besley accompanied by Steve McGhee.

The Poetic and Beautiful Scandinavia An exhibition of photography by Merete Blöndal Bengtsson


Two Lectures On Swedish Theater and Film by Swedish theater and film historian and translator Leif Janzon

Exorcising On Stage: Ingmar Bergman's Theater Since 1942, Ingmar Bergman's stage work in Sweden has been both controversial and celebrated. First seen at major theaters outside Stockholm, from the sixties at the Royal Dramatic Theater and at the Royal Opera, his productions have since the eighties also visited the USA. Leif Janzon has followed his work closely since the sixties and shows the continuous interaction between his theater and his films and TV productions, with "the Bergman actors" as an important common denominator. Bergman's work is also considered in its cultural, social, and biographical context. Cosponsored by Film and Video Studies.

The Smile Of Garbo: The Emigrant One of the most fascinating and elusive film stars of our times, Garbo rose early to cult status. Née Greta Gustafson from the poor South Side of Stockholm, she – like so many Swedes before her – became a US emigrant. To most Swedes, Garbo's is not a mysterious, but an easily comprehensible Swedish fate, one among hundreds of thousands of compatriots, who out of poverty, ambition, and dreams, were forced to leave their physical and spiritual home. Her professional and private life is seen by Leif Janzon as emblematic of Sweden's social transformation since the late 19th century.

Biographical Notes Leif Janzon (b. 1944) has written extensively on modern Swedish theatre (in Swedish and English), and been a lecturer at several universities, both in Sweden and internationally. He is a librettist; his recent works include the opera "Trädgården" (The Garden; music Jonas Forssell), about Swedish scientist Carl von Linnaeus; and the musical "Kejsarinnan" (The Empress; music Mikael Wiehe), based on Selma Lagerlöf’s novel "Kejsaren av Portugallien."

He is also a translator of novels, plays, musicals, essays and poetry. Among writers translated are Norman Mailer, William Faulkner, Seamus Heaney, James Purdy and Arthur Koestler.


The Night Walkers By Kristina Lugn, Translated from the Swedish by Verne Moberg. A staged reading directed by Robert Greer, featuring Yvette Edelhart and Meg Gibson. With an introductory talk by the translator about the author and the play.


Concerts by The Rilke Ensemble


1997 Jan Ojvind Swahn (University of Lund), "Swedish Food Customs"
1994 Sven Steinmo (University of Colorado), "Can the Swedish Model Survive?"
1993 Elina Haavio-Mannila (University of Helsinki), "Friendship, Love, and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace"
1992 Tutti Soila (Stockholm University), "The Ideological and Cinematic Break of the Swedish Cinema in the 1960s"
1991 Rochelle Wright (University of Illinois), "America through Song: Scandinavian Emigrant Ballads"
1990 Gitte Mose (University of Copenhagen), "The Fantastic in the Swedish Novel after 1978"
1989 Birgitta Steene (University of Washington), "From August Strindberg's The Son of a Servant to Ingmar Bergman's The Magic Lantern: The Autobiographical Mode in Scandinavian Literature"