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Swedish university adds Nobel scandal to curriculum

Henrik Montgomery, TT News Agency, via REUTERS file picture | The Swedish Academy's formal gathering at the Old Stock Exchange building in Stockholm, Sweden, December 20, 2018

After a sexual assault case rocked the Swedish Academy and temporarily forced it to postpone awarding its annual Nobel Prize in Literature, a Swedish university has decided to add the scandal to its literary curriculum.

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Under the banner “The Nobel Prize, the Swedish Academy and the women”, the part-time summer course is worth 7.5 credits and replaces the customary Linnaeus University course focusing on the most recent Nobel literature prize laureate.

The decision to revamp the course came after the Swedish Academy, the body responsible for selecting the annual Nobel literature winner, in May of last year announced it would postpone its 2018 pick until 2019 after a sex abuse scandal split academy members and resulted in a number of them – including Sara Danius, the academy’s first ever female permanent secretary – quitting.

>> READ MORE: Frenchman at centre of Nobel scandal jailed for rape in Sweden

The scandal, which broadened to include accusations of a culture of misogyny within the academy and suspected leaks to the media naming previous winners in advance, meant that the annual course offered at Linnaeus University was temporarily out of teaching material. Until it decided to focus on the current situation of the Swedish Academy, including the scandal.

“If you’re curious to understand the twists and turns surrounding the Swedish Academy, [the course] can give you a more in-depth understanding and perhaps also give you answers to some of the things that have been discussed, but with which you might not be that familiar with yourself,” Linnaeus University lecturer Piia Posti told Swedish Radio.

The course will also focus on the reasons why there have been so few women (14) that have been awarded the Nobel literature prize since it was first handed out in 1901.

“We don’t look at individual literary works but at literature as a phenomenon in society,” she said, adding: “How are prizes received, and what are the powers behind a selection?”

“It can help you to understand how you, as a reader, are influenced by different social contexts, and how that affects your literary consumption and your choice of literature.”

Only on seven occasions has the academy decided to postpone the Nobel literature prize.

Prior to the 2018 cancellation, the last time the prize had been withheld was in 1949, when academy members felt that none of the candidates met the criteria stipulated in dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel’s will.

The winner of the 1949 year's prize, American writer William Faulkner, was announced in retrospect, the year after.

Two Nobel literature prize winners are set to be picked this year, but the Nobel Foundation, which controls the prize money donated by Nobel, has warned that in light of the recent scandal it may drop the academy from awarding the prestigious award altogether.

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