The Western Home: A Literary History of Norwegian America
The Western Home: A Literary History of Norwegian America is a history of American literature. It is different from other histories of American literature in that the language of the writers and their readers was not English. There have been studies of American authors who have used languages such as French, German, Spanish, or Swedish, but this is the first comprehensive history of any literature written and read in the United States in another language than English. Indeed, most histories of American literature are based on the theory that English is the only American literary language. Such a theory, however, dismisses the fact that English has in periods been a minority language in many areas. In this book American literature is the literature of people who are American by choice or by birth regardless of the language they may have used.
The earliest use of Norwegian in the United States is in the letters of immigrants from the mid 1820s. By the late 1840s and early 50s there were newspapers and a few books, mainly religious, in Norwegian, by the 1870s the first novels, plays, and volumes of poetry had been published. By the end of the nineteenth century literary institutions such as publishers, journals, and bookstores were in place and made the further growth of Norwegian-American literature possible. In a concluding section the work of six major writers is considered: Simon Johnson, Dorthea Dahl, Jon Norstog, Johannes B. Wist, Waldemar Ager, and Ole Edvart Rølvaag. Even though some of their work is available in English translations, these and the other writers discussed in The Western Home can no longer be ready by the descendants of those can no longer be read by the descendants of those they were written for. A few speakers remain and a newspaper continues to appear, but Norwegian has ceased to exist as an American literary language. This book demonstrates, however that Norwegian has indeed been an American literary language and that many of the American writers in this language deserve our attention.