Our PhD students conduct research in a wide variety of subject areas--to find out more about their work click on the tabs below.

Heidi Synnøve Djuve

Thesis title: Contextualising the Scandinavian specula principum

Research: Before coming to Aberdeen, I studied at the Institute of Languages and Literature at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway. My current research focuses on a tradition of political writings meant to educate young monarchs, princes and leaders. This tradition is commonly referred to as specula principum, or mirrors for princes. The aim is to compare and contextualise the two representatives of the Scandinavian specula; Konungs Skuggsjà and Konungastyrelsen. Through a comparative examination of the texts, I intend to evaluate the interconnectivity and exchange of culture and ideas between Scandinavia and Europe during the medieval period.

Deniz Cem Gülen

Thesis title: Sources of Knýtlinga saga

Research: Before coming to Aberdeen, I studied Political Science and Medieval European History at Bilkent University, Turkey. I came to the University of Aberdeen in 2015 to pursue my doctorate. My current research, supervised by Prof. Stefan Brink and Prof. Michael H. Gelting, investigates the sources of Knýtlinga saga. Through a comparison of primary sources, I am examining to what extent the authors of Knýtlinga saga used other sources in composing the saga. In so doing, I am exploring why they changed the narrative of Danish history so significantly.  After my PhD, I am planning to pursue an academic career, mostly focusing on the influence of other literatures on Old Norse sources.

Blake Middleton

Thesis title: An Examination of the development of the Norse Giants from their myths to the sagas, þættir and skaldic poetry in which they appear

Research: Blake comes to Aberdeen from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States. He has a keen interest in early medieval Norse and Insular narrative literature. He has previously studied at Penn State University, obtaining his BA in Medieval Studies with a minor in English and at the University of Glasgow where he completed an MLitt in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, focusing on the supernatural within Icelandic sagas. He began his PhD at the Centre for Scandinavian Studies in 2013. Blake’s PhD project focuses on the Giants within Old Norse mythology, sagas, þættir and skaldic poetry.

Cattlyn Obel

Thesis title: The West Semitic origins of Thor’s combat with Jormungandr

Research: My PhD is investigating whether the myth of Thor’s combat with Jormungandr has its origins in West Semitic mythology. My research involves a comparative study of the parallel motifs in the Ugaritic Baal Cycle and Thor’s mythology. I aim to show that the Baal Cycle can help to decipher Thor’s myths. In particular, my research will reveal that Thor’s sea combat is only one part in a chain of events that culminate in him becoming foremost of the Viking Age deities. My supervisors are Professor Stefan Brink of the Scandinavian Department and Dr Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer from the Department of Divinity and Religious Studies.  

I have had a life-long interest in religion and spirituality, which extends into my free time. I am particularly interested in African Traditional Religions in the New World and the worship of Santa Muerte in Mexico. I work part-time in a nursing home, where I developed my interest in the spiritual aspects of palliative care.

Claire Organ

Research: Claire has conducted all her studies at the University of Aberdeen (‘Access’ to PhD) gaining her MA in English and Celtic Civilisations and MLitt in Viking and Medieval Studies. Her doctoral project entitled: Colour in the Eddic Mythological Poems conducts in-depth contextual critical analyses of the colour usage (associative and/or symbolic functions) in the individual poems, as well as one additional poem Rígsþula. Understanding the fluidity of medieval colour symbolism and the versatile nature of colour Claire presents evidence that demonstrates the mythological eddic poems had a stable form of colour symbolism.

Keith Ruiter

Thesis title: Mannjafnaðr: A study of normative pragmatism and social complexity in early medieval Scandinavia

Research: Having previously studied a BA at the University of Alberta and an MA at the University of York, I came to the University of Aberdeen in 2015 to pursue my doctorate. For my doctoral project, I am conducting interdisciplinary research on topics surrounding normative transgression and exploring the relationship between deviance and normativity in early medieval Scandinavia. The project is supervised by Dr Hannah Burrows and Professor Stefan Brink and generously supported by the University of Aberdeen's Elphinstone Scholarship scheme. More generally, my work endeavours to use interdisciplinary methodologies to contextualise and deepen understandings of normativity, social inclusion, and cultural accommodation in the past.

Solveig Marie Wang

Thesis title: Investigating the Nature of Norse-Sámi Relations in the Middle Ages


Research: My research, supervised by Dr. Hannah Burrows and Dr. Charlotta Hillderdal, primarily focuses on cultural contact and exchange between the Norse and the Sámi in the medieval period, with a principal focus on patterns and structures describing these relations in various sources. I am particularly interested in questions of identity, spatial understandings, northern-Norwegian power centres and ideas of cultural hybridity. By focusing on an interdisciplinary and comparative approach through the analysis of Old Norse sources, mainly sagas, compendia and legal material, archaeology, linguistics, onomastics and toponymy, as well as Sámi folklore and ethnographic accounts from the early modern period, I aim to present a more multi-cultural picture of medieval Scandinavia.