Elphinstone PhD Scholarship in Celtic & Anglo-Saxon Studies at the University of Aberdeen

Research Theme: Religion, Literature and History in Mediaeval Western Europe

Supervisor 1: Dr Aideen M. O'Leary 

Supervisor 2: Professor David N. Dumville

Project 1: Latin Christianity and the Western Fringe: Debates, Conflicts and Resolutions

Relations between the mediaeval Christian Latin ‘mainstream’ and the ‘Western fringe’ have often been characterised by disagreements in religious practices, e.g. the dating of Easter, canon laws on marriage, and succession in ecclesiastical offices. This applies in particular to the Gaelic world, leading to a perceived dichotomy of ‘Roman v. Gaelic’ practices. More recent scholarship has illustrated how diverse and complex the Celtic world and Anglo-Saxon England were within themselves, dissipating concepts such as ‘Celtic Christianity’ and leading to sophisticated studies of how mediaeval Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England interacted with the papacy and with ecclesiastical foundations and authorities on the Continent, from ca AD400-1200. Proposals are welcomed on any aspect of these relationships, especially with regard to disputes or problems and how they were resolved. A proposal may be centred on languages or events, and should focus on primary evidence.

Project 2: Transmissions and Transformations of Biblical Apocrypha in the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Worlds

Biblical apocrypha, originally composed in Aramaic, Greek or Latin, found their way to the western Christian ‘periphery’ in the Middle Ages. Latin New-Testament apocrypha in particular were transmitted and adapted in extremely varied and interesting ways. The dissertation would investigate the transmission of specific gospels, apocalypses or other apocryphal text(s) -- or broader apocryphal theme(s) -- in Anglo-Saxon England and/or the Celtic world.

Project 3: Religion and the Individual in the Mediaeval West

Individuals often played important roles in forming religious belief-systems and in effecting ecclesiastical change, for example the formation of saints’ cults, representations of holy men and women in visual art and iconography, and the achievements and limitations of royal ‘secular’ rulers, heroic figures and other literary characters. Applicants are encouraged to analyse the literary/historical presentation, the works (if appropriate), and/or the significance of an individual who played a transformative role in the ecclesiastical history or devotional culture of mediaeval western Christians, particularly Celts and/or Anglo-Saxons.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit.

Applicants to this interdisciplinary PhD theme are encouraged to think across Celtic, Germanic and Latin cultures, to focus on primary evidence, and to traverse traditional scholarly fields, for example, literature, language, history, archaeology, art history, anthropology, mediaeval Latin, Celtic studies and Anglo-Saxon studies. The successful applicant will have knowledge of Latin and at least one mediaeval Celtic or Germanic language as appropriate to the proposed topic. PhD titles can be adapted to suit an individual proposal, in consultation with the lead supervisor prior to submission of the application.

Elphinstone Scholarships – General Information

A number of Elphinstone PhD Scholarships are available across the arts, humanities and social sciences, linked to specific, individual research projects. These Scholarships cover the entirety of tuition fees for a PhD student of any nationality commencing full-time study in October 2015, for the three-year duration of their studies.

How Do I Apply?

To apply for an Elphinstone PhD Scholarship, you should apply for a PhD via our online system, in the Programme Details Section:

Name of the lead supervisor in the Name of Proposed Supervisor field

Enter 'Elphinstone PhD Scholarship’ in the Scholarship/Studentship Title field

Name the project title in your Research Proposal and upload to the application Portal

Candidates should simultaneously register their desire to be considered by emailing the Graduate School Administrator, Ann Marie Johnston, at

Deadline for submission of applications: Thursday 30th April 2015.

Full details here.

Eligibility for an Elphinstone Scholarship is based on academic excellence. Applicants must have the equivalent to a UK 1st class or an Upper Second (2.1) Honours undergraduate degree and/or a Masters with Commendation/Merit or Distinction.


CALL FOR PAPERS: ‘Reviving the Dead: Classical Imitation in Renaissance Literature’

Grierson Centre Workshop, 22-23 May, 2015

The imitation of classical literature in the Renaissance is an area which has attracted increasing attention in recent years, from classicists and early modernists alike. This workshop is designed as a forum for further contributions in the field, asking not only how such study can enrich our understanding of Renaissance literature, but also whether and how our understanding of the classical literature itself might benefit from attention to Renaissance readings and reworkings. The title is intended merely as a suggestion of ways in which you might want to approach the theme, for instance:

  • depictions of the Underworld in epic, which from the Odyssey, through the Aeneid, to Dante’s Inferno and Spenser’s The Faerie Queenehave always figured as a space in which to echo and transform the voices of poetic predecessors;
  • elegies for dead poets, which might imitate the work of their subject in order to immortalize them, or else to overgo them;
  • tropes of imitation as metempsychosis (as when Francis Meres writes that ‘the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare’),
  • or as a conversation or even party with the dead (as when Herrick promises to ‘rouse Anacreon from the dead, / And return him drunk to bed’);
  • the resurrection of classical poets or characters from their poetry on the stage, as when Marlowe’s Faustus makes Homer sing to him, or Jonson brings Horace and Ovid back to life in the Poetaster.

But you may come up with your own approach to the topic, of course.

Please contact Dr. Syrithe Pugh at if you are interested in taking part.



Rythme et résonance / Rhythm and Resonance 9 September 2014, 10.30 – 16.15, Humanity Manse, University of Aberdeen

10: 30 – 11.00 Coffee and welcome

11:00 Professor Eric Benoît (Université de Bordeaux-3), "Tensions dans la voix poétique" (40 minute paper)

11:55 Dr David Evans (St. Andrews), “Entre formes fixes et formes fluides: textures insaisissables dans la poésie française du dix-neuvième siècle” (20 minute paper)

12:30 Lunch

1:15 Dr Elodie Laügt (St. Andrews), "Le marquage du temps dans la pratique poétique de Sabine Macher" (20 minute paper)

1:45 Dr Àine Larkin (Aberdeen), “Anne F. Garréta’s paroxysmal rhythms / Les rythmes paroxystiques d’Anne F. Garréta” (20 minute paper)

2:15 Dr Clémence O’Connor (Aberdeen), “Soustraire l’arrivée’: Heather Dohollau, une poétique de la lenteur” (20 minute paper)

2:45 Dr Greg Kerr (Glasgow), “Impersonality and commonality of experience in the poetic constraints of Michelle Grangaud” (5 minute paper)

3:00 Dr Adrienne Janus (Aberdeen):  wrap-up + questions for further discussion

3:10 Coffee and further discussion

4:15 End of workshop


'Satirical Voices: (Re-)Imagining Satire from Antiquity to the Present’

A workshop organised by the Sir Herbert Grierson Centre for Textual Criticism and Comparative Literary History, and the Centre for Celtic Studies

Friday and Saturday, 23-24 May 2014, at the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies, Humanity Manse

Sir Herbert Grierson was a Classicist by training; the main objective of this workshop is to explore Classical satire and its reception in the mediaeval and modern worlds. Given the universality of satire as a political and literary tool from Antiquity to the present, we will discuss satirical writing as ‘re-imagined’ in vernacular European literatures. This meeting is intended as the beginning of a programme of collaboration with scholars at other universities, leading to a larger collaborative project for which external grants will be sought. We will hold a series of networking events focusing on the mediaeval and modern reception of Classical literature; the project will culminate in January 2016, with a conference to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Sir Herbert Grierson’s birth, on 'Receptions of Classical Literature', and/or the legacies of Sir Herbert Grierson.

Friday 23 May

11-11.30am  Coffee & Welcome


Professor Jane Stevenson (Regius Professor of Humanity): ‘Faking a Poetess?’

Dr Syrithe Pugh (English): ‘“Mixed with some Satyrical bitternesse”: Spenser’s Reading of Virgil’s Eclogues in The Shepheardes Calender’

Chair: Dr Aideen O’Leary

12.30-1.30pm  Lunch for all attendees


Professor Patrick Crotty (Irish and Scottish Studies): ‘A Peregrination Around Captain Grose: Some Contexts for Brian Merriman's “The Midnight Court”’

Chair: Dr Aideen O’Leary


Dr Samantha Newington (Divinity): ‘Greek Satyr - a Play on Words and Image’

Dr Elizabeth Elliott (English): ‘“Unbound ingyne”: Allan Ramsay and the Appeal of Medieval Satire’

Chair: Dr Syrithe Pugh

3.30-4pm  Coffee


Dr Paul Flaig (Film and Visual Culture): ‘How to Make Adorno Laugh: Juvenal, Harpo Marx, and Comic Utopia’

Dr Jesse Barker (Hispanic Studies): ‘“A Brilliant Idea, but Frozen”: Satirising Consumer Culture and the Pursuit of Happiness in Recent Spanish Narrative’

Chair: Dr Margaret Jubb

Saturday 24 May

10.30-11am  Coffee


Dr Aideen O’Leary (Celtic & Anglo-Saxon Studies): ‘Receptions and Reversals of Persius in Eleventh-century Normandy’

Chair: Dr Syrithe Pugh


Dr Vivien E. Williams (Centre for Robert Burns Studies, University of Glasgow): ‘Mock-eulogies, Indecent Practices and the Whore of Babylon: a Study of Satirical Bagpipe Iconography’

Chair: Dr Aideen O’Leary

12.30-1.30pm  Lunch for all attendees


Dr Michael Brown (History): 'Jonathan Swift and the Shadow of Mandeville'

Dr David Wheatley (English): ‘The Case of Kevin Higgins, or The Present State of Irish Poetic Satire’

Chair: tbc

2.30-3pm  Coffee & Conclusion


‘The State of the Text’
22-23 Nov 2013

In association with the Research Institute for Irish and Scottish Studies, the Grierson Centre organized an inaugural symposium entitled ‘The State of the Text’, held in Aberdeen on November 22-23 2013. It attracted papers on the construction of national meaning through literature, statelessness and literature, the critical editing of texts, texts as material object, and the intersections of literature and other creative practices, including visual culture and dance. Keynote speakers included Derek Attridge (York), Jeremy  Robbins (Edinburgh) and Greg Kerr (Glasgow). You can read the programme here.