Sigrid Undset

Sigrid Undset (sĬ´grĬd ŏŏn´sĕt), 1882–1949, Norwegian novelist. Poverty forced Undset to do secretarial work for a time (1898–1908). Her early novels of contemporary life, among them Jenny (1911; tr. 1921, new tr. 2001), were frank and realistic works in which she described women's struggles for selfhood in a male-dominated society but nonetheless strongly upheld traditional social structures. Her writing, always powerfully ethical, deepened in religious intensity after her conversion (1924) to Roman Catholicism. Undset is most famous for her historical novels dealing with universal human problems. Kristin Lavransdatter (3 vol., 1920–22; tr. 1923–27 and 1997–2000), considered her masterpiece, tells of love and religion in medieval Norway. It was followed by the excessively detailed and more explicitly religious Olav Audunsson (4 vol., 1925–27; tr. The Master of Hestviken, 1928–30).

Her later works include tales of contemporary family life, among them Ida Elisabeth (1932, tr. 1933), The Faithful Wife (1936, tr. 1937), and Madame Dorthea (1939, tr. 1940), and the autobiographical The Longest Years (1934, tr. 1935) and Return to the Future (1942). Undset came to the United States after the Nazi invasion of Norway (1940) and made a successful lecture tour of the country before returning home in 1945. She was awarded the 1928 Nobel Prize in Literature. Her work fell into obscurity during the latter half of the 20th cent., but interest in her writing was revived beginning in the 1990s, sparked by the publication of new and improved translations.

See biography by A. H. Winsnes (tr. 1953, repr. 1970); T. Page, ed., The Unknown Sigrid Undset: Jenny and Other Works (2001).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Sigrid Undset: Selected full-text books and articles

Christianity and Culture By J. Stanley Murphy Helicon Press, 1960
Librarian’s tip: "Amid the Encircling Gloom" by Sigrid Undset begins on p. 130
Six Scandinavian Novelists: Lie, Jacobsen, Heidenstam, Selma Lagerlof, Hamsun, Sigrid Undset By Alrik Gustafson Biblo and Tannen, 1969
Librarian’s tip: "Christian Ethics in a Pagan World: Sigrid Unset" begins on p. 286
A History of Norwegian Literature By Harald S. Naess University of Nebraska Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: "The Epic Novelists: Undset, Dunn, Uppdal, Falkberget" begins on p. 210
A History of Norwegian Literature By Harald Beyer New York University Press, 1956
Librarian’s tip: "Sigrid Undset" begins on p. 304
Writers and Writing By Robert Van Gelder Charles Scribner's Sons, 1946
The Unknown Sigrid Undset: Jenny and Other Works By Sigrid Undset; Tim Pace; Tiina Nunnally Steerforth Press, 2001
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Author Advanced search


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.