Dr Hannah Burrows

Dr Hannah Burrows
BA (Hons), MA, PhD (York)

Senior Lecturer

Dr Hannah Burrows
Dr Hannah Burrows

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 272739
The University of Aberdeen Crombie Annexe, CA102
Web Links

Some of my academic publications can be found at https://aberdeen.academia.edu/HannahBurrows.

Listen to the 'Rune Carol', my collaboration with the Embassy of Sweden in London and the Financial Times, here: www.FT.com/runecarol. Lyrics adapted and translated from the medieval rune poems by me and music by Johan Hugosson.

Continuing the Christmas theme, here's a short piece I wrote about the spookier side of the festive season: https://theconversation.com/scandinavian-winters-of-old-were-less-hygge-more-nordic-noir-69386


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.


Research Interests

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.

Research 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 2019-20 I am involved with the following courses:

HI1027 Making History
HI4026 Special Subject: Myths of the North (co-ordinator)
HI502J Old Norse 1: Language, Literature and Culture (co-ordinator)
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 students:

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'
Solveig Marie Wang, 'Investigating the Nature of Norse-Sámi Relations in the Middle Ages'
Caroline Wilhelmsson, 'Defining Swedish Identity, c.800-c.1288'

Second supervisor for:

Cattlyn Obel, 'The West Semitic origins of Thor’s combat with Jormungandr'

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

Further Info

External Responsibilities

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

Admin Responsibilities

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

Professional Development

November 2018 - Scotland's Mental Health First Aid course.
April-July 2017 - Participant in Scottish Crucible 2017.
December 2015 - April 2016 - Participant in Aurora programme for women in Higher Education (Leadership Foundation).

Community Engagement

July 2019 - Kenning The Land. Creative writing workshops.
July 2017 - So You Think Vikings Are Funny Do You? Performance in collaboration with Aberdeen Performing Arts, at Underdog, Aberdeen.
May 2017 - Viking Humour. Public lecture at May Festival 2017.
September 2016 - The Saga of the Conspirators. Performance in collaboration with Aberdeen Performing Arts, at The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen.
December 2015 - Rune Carol. Adapted from the Old English and Scandinavian rune poems in collaboration with Johan Hugosson (composer), the Embassy of Sweden in London and The Financial Times.



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  • Burrows, H 2020, Court Poetry: Assemblies and Skaldic Verse. in R Scheel (ed.), Narrating Law and Laws of Narration in Medieval Scandinavia. Ergänzungsbände zum Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, vol. 117, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, pp. 91-116. [Online] DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110661811-005
  • Burrows, HM 2020, in press. Expertise and Experience: Nuancing Terms for Legal Practitioners in the Íslendingasögur. in T Gobbitt (ed.), Law | Book | Culture in the Early and High Medieval West. Brill, Leiden.
  • Burrows, H 2020, in press. No Sense of Humour? Humour Words in Old Norse. in D Derrin & H Burrows (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Humour, History and Methodology. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Burrows, H (ed.) 2019, Kenning the Land: New Writing from the Scottish Isles Inspired by Viking and Old Norse Poetry. Centre for Scandinavian Studies, University of Aberdeen.
  • Burrows, HM 2019, The Mead of Poetry: Old Norse Poetry as a Mind-Altering Substance. in M Anderson & M Wheeler (eds), Distributed Cognition in Medieval and Renaissance Culture. The Edinburgh History of Distributed Cognition, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 99-119.
  • Burrows, HM 2017, Anonymous gátur. in KE Gade & E Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics . Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages , vol. III, Brepols , Turnhout, pp. 631-635.
  • Burrows, HM 2017, Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks. in M Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages VIII, Brepols , Turnhout, pp. 367-487.
  • Burrows, HM 2017, Reawakening Angantýr: English Translations of an Old Norse Poem from the Eighteenth Century to the Twenty-First. in T Birkett & K March-Lyons (eds), Translating Early Medieval Poetry: Transformation, Reception, Interpretation. Boydell & Brewer, pp. 148-164.
  • Burrows, H 2015, 'Some Þing To Talk About: Assemblies in the Íslendingasögur', Northern Studies, vol. 47, pp. 47-75.
  • Burrows, H 2014, Wit and wisdom: The worldview of the Old Norse-Icelandic riddles and their relationship to eddic poetry. in M Chase (ed.), Eddic, Skaldic, and Beyond: Poetic Variety in Medieval Iceland and Norway. Fordham University Press, pp. 114-135.
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