Virgin Spring, The Seventh Seal. For
many people of a certain age these titles evoke memories of youth and nights
spent in a dark theater, soaking up romantic images of mysterious places and
times. Ingmar Bergman's movies were all the rage in the late 50s and 60s, when
seeing them bestowed a glint of sophistication and worldliness.
A couple of decades later, Linda Rugg, a farm girl from Nebraska City,
discovered the wonders of New York City as a
freshman at Barnard
College, among which were
the wealth of movie theaters.She "caught
up" on the classics which had not been available at the one-screen Pioneer
Theater in her hometown. Among those classics were the films of Bergman. She
Her interest in all things Swedish had been one of those
"cosmic accidents," as she called it. As a high school German student,
she convinced her parents to allow her a two-month stay in Germany, where
she lived with a family and improved her language skills. After returning home,
she wheedled and cajoled her skeptical parents to accept an exchange student
for a year's stay, expecting to further improve her German. The Lutheran
organization that sponsored the exchange program instead delivered a 17-year-old
girl from Sweden.
Although to Linda's disappointment, she spoke no German, her English was quite
good, and she soon found a place for herself in Linda's family. They became
(and still are) the best of friends.
Linda went to live in Sweden
two years later with her friend's family in a town 100 miles northwest of Stockholm.Linda conversed only in Swedish, learned that
the best way to get from one village to the next was by bike, and figured out
how to live through the long dark winter days. She explained that instead of
coming home from school and having a nap in the dark afternoon--at 3 pm the
stars were out--she would strap on her cross-country skis and go for miles on
the well-lighted ski trails around the town. In the summer, there was hiking
and biking in the beautiful countryside. It was a life-altering year.
College, she majored in
German and English and discovered a great love of literature, movies, and
mysteries from many countries. After graduation she felt as though she had just
gotten started in her field, and further studies beckoned. Harvard offered a Ph.D.
program in comparative literature, which she completed in 1989.
Linda currently teaches at UC Berkeley as an associate
professor of Scandinavian and has published two books and many articles in her
field (see her biography under Film Studies at Berkeley.edu). Her research and
teaching interests include Bergman and Strindberg, autobiography, ecology and
culture, and American literature and culture.
For her OLLI course, she will focus on mystery writing in
Scandinavia, including current writers such as Stieg Larsson and Henning
Mankell (author of the Wallender stories) of Sweden
and Karin Fossum of Norway.
Students will be asked to read a book by a husband and wife team, Maj Sjowall
and Per Wahloo, who wrote many popular mysteries in the 60s.
When asked whether she has a mystery of her own to write, she
hesitated, then explained that good mysteries are complicated to construct.
There must be a depth of knowledge about the background time and place and an
understanding of character and motive. But who knows--with her background and
skills, one may some day emerge.
Linda Rugg will be teaching "Murder on Ice: Crime and Detection in Scandinavian Literature and Film" on Wednesdays, January 27-March 3, from 9:30-11:30 am at the David Brower Center.