Dr Hannah Burrows

Dr Hannah Burrows
Dr Hannah Burrows

Dr Hannah Burrows


Senior Lecturer


Crombie Annexe, CA102

Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History


My main research interests are in the medieval North, particularly Old Norse-Icelandic literature, language, culture, and society. I studied for a BA (Hons) in English and Linguistics at the University of York, where the city's visible layers of history, Norse-influenced street names, and the opportunity to study unusual things (Old English and Old Norse, among others) all contributed to me falling in love with medieval languages, literatures and cultures. I stayed on for an MA in Medieval Studies, followed by a PhD examining literary-legal relations in early Iceland. I was finally persuaded away from the charms of northern England for a postdoctoral position in sunny Sydney, where I worked on the international research project Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages (2007-12). On my return to the UK I started inching north, with a stint as a Junior Research Fellow at Durham University, before coming to Aberdeen as Lecturer in Scandinavian Studies in September 2014. Since then I have spent time as an ERASMUS Visiting Scholar in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Vienna, and am currently Senior Lecturer and Director of the Centre for Scandinavian Studies.

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

Director, Centre for Scandinavian Studies
Director of Postgraduate Taught Studies, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy
Programme Director, MLitt in Scandinavian Studies
Academic Advisor, Apardjón Journal for Scandinavian Studies
Library rep, History

Nominated for an Excellence in Leadership award 2019.

External Memberships

Honorary Secretary, Viking Society for Northern Research (2019-)
Steering Group Member, History UK (2016-19)


Research Overview

My main research interests are in the medieval North, particularly Old Norse-Icelandic literature, language, culture, and society. During 2017-19 I held an AHRC Leadership Fellowship for a project entitled What Am I?, which examines the language used in Old Norse poetry to express ideas about the world and humanity's relationship with it. I am increasingly interested in theoretical and critical approaches from the cognitive and environmental humanities, and their applicability to Old Norse and medieval literature.

My PhD thesis investigated literary-legal relations in medieval Iceland, and I continue to be interested in legal culture. I've researched and published on the use of legal terminology and court scenes in sagas; lawspeakers and lawyers; the impact of literacy on legal knowledge; and the use of poetry in various legal contexts.

Having edited the poetry from Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks for the skaldic project, I became especially interested in the saga's collection of riddles, the world views they represent, and the traditions they play with, which has allowed me to think and write about Old Norse mythology, representations of the natural world, poetic traditions, humour and play, Old Norse bird puns, and lots of other fun and interesting things besides (many of which feed into my current project). I am also interested in the semantics of humour and laughter in Old Norse, jokes about women, and the genderedness of laughter in medieval Scandinavia, and have published on the translation and adaptation of Old Norse texts.


I am Principal Investigator, with Daniel Derrin (Durham), of the Humours of the Past (HOP) Network. Follow us on Twitter @historichumour

I am Bibliography Editor for the Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages project.

Funding and Grants

2017-19: What Am I? Riddles, Riddling Language and World View in Old Norse Poetry - AHRC Leadership Fellows Scheme

2017: The Saga of the Conspirators. Impact, Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation award, University of Aberdeen

2016-17: Humours of the Past - AHRC Research Networking Scheme (with Daniel Derrin)

2016: Censured and Censuring: Humour, Laughter and Identity in (early) Scandinavian Society - Royal Society of Edinburgh Small Grants Scheme

2015: Humours of the Past - Principal's Interdisciplinary Fund, University of Aberdeen


Teaching Responsibilities

In 2021-22 I am involved with the following courses:

HI2526 Vikings: An Introduction (co-ordinator)
HI355P History of Emotions (co-ordinator)
HI356J Thinking History
HI4026 Special Subject: Myths of the North (co-ordinator)
HI502J Old Norse 1: Language, Literature and Culture (co-ordinator)
HI552M Old Norse 2: Language, Individuals and Society (co-ordinator)
HI5594 Research Preparation in Historical Studies
Undergraduate and MLitt dissertation supervision.

I was nominated for an Excellence in Postgraduate Teaching Award in 2015 and 2017.

PGR supervision

I am lead supervisor for the following PhD researchers:

Pam Corray, 'Children Not Seen and Not Heard in Old Norse Literature'
Heidi Synnøve Djuve, 'The Medieval Scandinavian Specula'
Jennifer Hemphill, 'Weather Magic in Medieval Scandinavia'
Neal Locke, 'Personal Transformation in Medieval Scandinavian Literature: Three Case Studies'
Nate Richardson-Read, 'Queer Themes in Old Norse Mythology'
Solveig Marie Wang, 'Investigating the Nature of Norse-Sámi Relations in the Middle Ages'
Caroline Wilhelmsson, 'Swedish Identity, c.800-c.1288'

Second supervisor for:

Hamza Aziz, 'Morality in Viking Age Scandinavia'
Ingrid Hegland, 'An Interdisciplinary Reassessment of the Causes of the Viking Age'
Cattlyn Obel, 'The West Semitic Origins of Thor’s Combat with Jormungandr'

Former PhD students:

Dr Stefan Drechsler, ‘Making Manuscripts at Helgafell in the Fourteenth Century’ (2017)
Dr Keith Ruiter, ‘Mannjafnaðr: A Study of Normativity, Transgression, and Social Pragmatism in Medieval Scandinavia’ (2018)
Dr Claire Organ, ‘Colour in the Eddic Mythological Poems’ (2019)

I would be happy to hear from students wishing to undertake doctoral research in any area of Old Norse-Icelandic literature, culture and history.

Profiles for some of the current postgraduate research in the Centre for Scandinavian Studies can be viewed here: Scandinavian Studies Postgraduates.


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  • Reawakening Angantýr: English Translations of an Old Norse Poem from the Eighteenth Century to the Twenty-First

    Burrows, H. M.
    Translating Early Medieval Poetry. Birkett, T., March-Lyons, K. (eds.). Boydell & Brewer, pp. 148-164, 17 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
  • Some Þing To Talk About: Assemblies in the Íslendingasögur

    Burrows, H.
    Northern Studies, vol. 47, pp. 47-75
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Wit and Wisdom: The Worldview of the Old Norse-Icelandic Riddles and Their Relationship to Eddic Poetry

    Burrows, H.
    Eddic, Skaldic, and Beyond. Chase, M. (ed.). Fordham University Press, pp. 114-135, 22 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
  • Enigma Variations: Hervarar saga’s Wave-Riddles and Supernatural Women in Old Norse Poetic Tradition

    Burrows, H.
    Journal of English and Germanic Philology, vol. 112, no. 2, pp. 194-216
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Cold Cases: Law and legal detail in the Íslendingasögur

    Burrows, H.
    Parergon, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 35-55
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Rhyme and Reason: Lawspeaker-poets in Medieval Iceland

    Burrows, H.
    Scandinavian Studies, vol. 81, no. 2, pp. 215-238
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The Secret Lives of Lawspeakers: The portrayal of lögsögumenn in the Íslendingasögur

    Burrows, H.
    Á austrvega: Saga and East Scandinavia. Ney, A., Williams, H., Ljungqvist, F. C. (eds.). Gävle University Press pp. II, 151-159, 10 pages.
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Conference Proceedings
  • Legal Knowledge, Literacy and the Shifting Spheres of Power in Medieval Iceland

    Burrows, H.
    Quaestio Insularis, vol. 8, pp. 36-50
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
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Books and Reports

Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Journals