Professor Ralph O'Connor

Professor Ralph O'Connor
Professor Ralph O'Connor
Professor Ralph O'Connor

Professor in the Literature and Culture of Britain, Ireland & Iceland

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 272467
Office Address

School of Divinity, History and Philosophy,
Crombie Annexe,
Meston Walk,
King's College,
University of Aberdeen,
Old Aberdeen,
AB24 3FX
Room: 215

School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture
School of Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History

Research Overview

My research currently falls into four linked areas: mediaeval Celtic literature, mediaeval Icelandic and Scandinavian literature, modern history of science, and literary history c. 1750-1920. My specific interests within these fields are:

  • Science and literature, and the literary study of science-writing, 1750-1950 (mainly in Britain and America)
  • The prehistory of science fiction, 1850-1950 (Britain, America, France)
  • The history of popular science and science communication, 1750-present
  • Myth, religion and the physical sciences since 1800
  • Mediaeval Irish legendary, historical and mythological narrative, 700-1700
  • Mediaeval Icelandic legendary, historical, mythological and chivalric narrative, 1200-1900
  • Fictionality and genre in mediaeval narrative
  • Kingship ideology and inauguration rituals in mediaeval and early modern Ireland and Scotland
  • Mediaeval and modern monsters and their functions
  • Literature, art and music of the Celtic Revival and its aftermath in Ireland, Scotland and England, c. 1880-1950

Current Research

I am currently completing my seventh and eighth books: a monograph on perceptions of historicity and fictionality in the writing and rewriting of Icelandic sagas, 1200-1900 (funded by a two-year Leverhulme Research Fellowship), and a new edition of Hugh Miller's much-loved masterpiece of Victorian science and landscape writing, The Old Red Sandstone (co-edited with Dr. Michael A. Taylor). I am also engaged in ongoing studies of secular inauguration-rituals in mediaeval and early modern Ireland and Gaelic Scotland, the symbolic linkages between dragons and dinosaurs in modern science and its communication, and a comparison of Irish and Icelandic versions of the Phaidra-Hippolytos story-pattern. The comparative study of frenzied warriors and shapeshifters in mediaeval Irish and Icelandic sagas which I produced during my year as Research Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study, Oslo (2012-13) has recently been published in Kings and Warriors in Early North-West Europe, ed. Jan Erik Rekdal and Charles Doherty (Dublin: Four Courts, 2016).

Funding and Grants

2009-10: my research was supported by the AHRC-funded Research Leave Scheme. This award was made via the Modern Languages panel in order to enable me to finish my book The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel, published by Oxford University Press in 2013.

2012-13: teaching cover grant and stipend from the Centre for Advanced Study in Oslo (at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters) where I was resident Research Fellow for the year.

2015-17: Leverhulme Research Fellowship (teaching cover and research travel award)


Teaching Responsibilities

  • HI 1518 Vikings!
  • CE 1028 Romans, Celts, Druids, and Warriors
  • CE 2027 Arthur in Medieval Welsh and Gaelic Literature
  • CE 2028 The Vikings in Scotland AD 795-1266
  • CE 2529 History of the Celtic Languages
  • CU 2507 Brains, Breeding and the Bomb: From Enlightenment to Scepticism
  • CU 3011 Science and Religion: From Galileo to Creationism
  • CE 3585/4585 Tales of Vengeance and Enchantment: Mediaeval Irish Sagas
  • CE 3575/4575 Celtic Myth in the Modern World: From Ossian to the New Age
  • EL 40BL Frankenstein to Einstein: Literature and Science
  • CU 4029 Aspects of Culture
  • HA 4057 Critical Perspectives in Art History
  • HI 5029 Mediaeval Texts and Manuscripts
  • CU 5510 Trolls, Druids and the Walking Dead: Visions of the Pagan Past in Mediaeval Ireland and Iceland

I am currently supervising the following PhD projects:

  • The Circulation of Phrenological Knowledge and the British Phrenological Periodical Press in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century (Liz Neesam, History)
  • Adam Ferguson’s Progress and Termination of the Roman Republic: Passions, Epistemology, and Politics in the Late Scottish Enlightenment (Xandra Bello, Irish and Scottish Studies)
  • An Aesthetic of Seasonal Variation in the Landscape Art of Baltic Germany and Scandinavia, 1800-1920 (Sophie Dietrich, History or Art)
  • Authority and the Archetype of the Liminal Wise Man in the Sagas of Icelanders (Barrett Sink, Scandinavian Studies)

I have supervised the following completed PhD projects:

  • Understanding the Content, Form and Purpose of Hero Myths as Symbolic Resources of Nation and Insurgency: The Case of the Provisional IRA in the Northern Ireland Conflict, 1969-1998 (Lawrence Butler Perks, Politics & International Relations)
  • Madness and Deception in Medieval Irish and Norse-Icelandic Sagas (Laura Matheson, Celtic)
  • 'Let each man show his manhood': Masculinity and Status in Old Norse and Medieval Irish Literature (Lisa Wotherspoon, Scandinavian Studies)




Page 5 of 5 Results 41 to 48 of 48

  • The poetics of earth science: 'Romanticism' and the two cultures

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, vol. 36, pp. 607-617
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • History or fiction? Truth-claims and defensive narrators in Icelandic romance-sagas

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Mediaeval Scandinavia, vol. 15, pp. 101-169
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Hugh Miller and geological spectacle

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Celebrating the life and times of Hugh Miller: Scotland in the early nineteenth century. Borley, L. (ed.). University of Aberdeen: Elphinstone Institute, pp. 237-258, 22 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Thomas Hawkins and geological spectacle

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, vol. 114, pp. 227-241
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Icelandic histories and romances

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Tempus, Stroud. 160 pages
    Books and Reports: Books
  • Not Drowning but Waving: The Sagas of Icelanders after the Golden Age

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Quaestio, vol. 1, pp. 66-81
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Stepmother Sagas: An Irish Analogue for Hjálmþérs saga ok Ölvérs

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Scandinavian Studies, vol. 72, no. 1, pp. 1-48
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Mammoths and Maggots: Byron and the Geology of Cuvier

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Romanticism, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 26-42
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
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Books and Reports

Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Journals

Contributions to Specialist Publications