Professor Ralph O'Connor
Professor Ralph O'Connor

Professor Ralph O'Connor

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

About

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

Research

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

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)

 

 

Publications

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  • Dating the publication of Hugh Miller’s Testimony of the Rocks (1857)

    Taylor, M., O'Connor, R., Overstreet, L. K.
    Archives of Natural History, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 310-324
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • A Critical Study of Hugh Miller's Old Red Sandstone, 1838-1920

    O'Connor, R. J., Taylor, M. A.
    National Museums Scotland Publishing, Edinburgh
    Books and Reports: Books
  • Hugh Miller, The Old Red Sandstone; or, New Walks in an Old Field

    O'Connor, R. J. (ed.), Taylor, M. A. (ed.)
    National Museums Scotland Publishing, Edinburgh
    Books and Reports: Scholarly Editions
  • Romance, legend and the remote past: historical framing in late medieval Icelandic sagas

    O'Connor, R. J.
    'Vera Lex Historiae'?: Constructions of Truth in Medieval Historical Narrative. Taranu, C. (ed.). Gracchi Books
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Geology and paleontology

    O'Connor, R. J.
    The Routledge Companion to Victorian Literature. Denisoff, D., Schaffer, T. (eds.). Routledge, pp. 401-413, 13 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Putrid fables and true histories: Perceptions of authenticity and the management of scepticism in Northern humanist fornaldarsaga scholarship

    O'Connor, R.
    The Legendary Legacy. Driscoll, M., Hufnagel, S., Lavender, P., Stegmann, B. (eds.). University Press of Southern Denmark, pp. 117-159, 43 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • The meanings of “literature” and the place of modern scientific nonfiction in Literature and Science

    O'Connor, R.
    Journal of Literature and Science, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 37-45
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Science for the General Reader

    O'Connor, R.
    The Routledge Research Companion to Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Science. Holmes, J., Ruston, S. (eds.). Routledge, pp. 155-171, 17 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • History and Fiction

    O'Connor, R. J.
    The Routledge Companion to the Medieval Icelandic Saga. Jakobsson, A., Jakobsson, S. (eds.). Routledge, pp. 88-110, 24 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Monsters of the tribe: berserk fury, shapeshifting and social dysfunction in Táin Bó Cúailnge, Egils saga and Hrólfs saga kraka

    O'Connor, R.
    Kings and Warriors in Early North-West Europe. Rekdal, J. E., Doherty, C. (eds.). Four Courts Press, pp. 180-236, 57 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Fabulous Content, Historical Purpose and Scribal Strategy in Irish and Icelandic Saga Narrative: Some Comparative Perspectives on the Colophon to the Book of Leinster Táin

    O'Connor, R.
    Adapting Texts and Styles in a Celtic Context. Harlos, A., Harlos, N. (eds.). Nodus, pp. 305-330, 26 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Bárðar saga between orality and literacy

    O'Connor, R.
    Folklore in Old Norse. Bek-Pedersen, K., Sävborg, D. (eds.). Tartu University Press, pp. 139-169, 31 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Classical Literature and Learning in Medieval Irish Narrative

    O'Connor, R. (ed.)
    D. S. Brewer, Cambridge. 254 pages
    Books and Reports: Books
  • Irish narrative literature and the Classical tradition, 900-1300

    O'Connor, R.
    Classical Literature and Learning in Medieval Irish Narrative. O'Connor, R. (ed.). D. S. Brewer, pp. 1-24, 24 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Was Classical imitation necessary for the writing of large-scale Irish sagas?: Reflections on Táin Bó Cúailnge and the “Watchman Device”

    O'Connor, R.
    Classical Literature and Learning in Medieval Irish Narrative. O'Connor, R. (ed.). D. S. Brewer, pp. 165-195, 31 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Hyena-Hunting and Byron-Bashing in the Old North: William Buckland, Geological Verse and the Radical Threat

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Uncommon Contexts. Marsden, B., Hutchison, H., O'Connor, R. (eds.). Pickering & Chatto, pp. 55-82, 28 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Uncommon Contexts: Encounters between Science and Literature, 1800-1914

    Marsden, B. (ed.), Hutchison, H. (ed.), O'Connor, R. J. (ed.)
    Pickering & Chatto, London. 239 pages
    Books and Reports: Books
  • The Place of Myth in Modern Science: Some Theoretical Considerations

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Science, Fables and Chimeras. Rousillon-Constanty, L., Murillo, P. (eds.). Cambridge Scholars Press, pp. 19-36, 18 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Compilation as Creative Artistry: A Reassessment of ‘Narrative Inconsistency’ in Togail Bruidne Da Derga

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, vol. 65, no. -, pp. 1-48
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel: Kingship and Narrative Artistry in a Mediaeval Irish Saga

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Oxford University Press, Oxford. 386 pages
    Books and Reports: Books
  • Victorian saurians: The linguistic prehistory of the modern dinosaur

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 492-504
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Astronomy and dream visions in late medieval Iceland: Stjörnu-Odda draumr and the emergence of Norse legendary fiction

    O'Connor, R.
    Journal of English and Germanic Philology, vol. 111, no. 4, pp. 474-512
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Victorian Science and Literature Part II: Vol. 7: Science as Romance

    O'Connor, R. J. (ed.)
    Pickering & Chatto, London. 420 pages
    Books and Reports: Books
  • Facts and Fancies: The Geological Society of London and the Wider Public, 1807-1837

    O'Connor, R.
    The Making of the Geological Society of London. Lewis, C. L. E., Knell, S. J. (eds.). The Geological Society, pp. 331-340, 10 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Reflections on popular science in Britain: genres, categories and historians

    O'Connor, R.
    Isis, vol. 100, no. 2, pp. 333-345
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • From the epic of Earth history to the evolutionary epic in nineteenth-century Britain

    O'Connor, R.
    Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 207-223
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Byron’s Afterlife and the Emancipation of Geology

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Liberty and Poetic Licence. Beatty, B., Robinson, C. E. (eds.). Liverpool University Press, pp. 147-164, 18 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Storytelling and the Otherworld in Togail Bruidne Da Derga

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Approaches to Mythology and Religion in Celtic Studies. Bergholm, A., Ritari, K. (eds.). Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 54-67, 14 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Truth and lies in the fornaldarsogur: the prologue to Gongu-Hrolfs saga

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Fornaldarsagaerne. Ney, A. (ed.). Museum Tusculanums Forlag, pp. 361-378, 18 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Young-earth creationists in early nineteenth-century Britain?: Towards a reassessment of 'Scriptural geology'

    O'Connor, R. J.
    History of Science, vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 357-403
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The Earth on Show: Fossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802-1856

    O'Connor, R. J.
    University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA. 541 pages
    Books and Reports: Books
  • Interrogating genre in the fornaldarsogur (contribution to round-table discussion)

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Viking and Medieval Scandinavia, vol. 2, pp. 291-293
    Contributions to Journals: Comments and Debates
  • Kirkdale Cave and the poetry of William Buckland

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Studies in Speleology, vol. 14, pp. 39-41
    Contributions to Specialist Publications: Articles
  • Lyell, Charles

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Entries for Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
  • Searching for the moral in Bruiden Meic Da Reo

    O'Connor, R. J.
    Ériu, vol. 56, pp. 1-27
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • 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. 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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