Lecturer in Scandinavian Studies, Hannah Burrows, tells us about her role researching and teaching Viking and Medieval Scandinavian literature, language, culture and history.  





Tell us about your role at the University

I’m based in the Centre for Scandinavian Studies, where I research and teach Viking and Medieval Scandinavian literature, language, culture and history. Research-wise I’m interested in various intersections between law, humour, and poetry. This allows me to think and write about Old Norse mythology, representations of the natural world, poetic traditions, insults, Old Norse bird puns, and lots of other fun and interesting things besides.

Teaching-wise I do quite a lot with postgraduates: I’m the programme co-ordinator for the MLitt in Scandinavian Studies and lead supervisor for six PhD students. I also teach Scandinavian-related undergraduate courses in the History Department. I’m currently History’s lead for engagement and employability, and I represent the department on the steering group of History UK, an independent national body that promotes and advocates for History in UK Higher Education.

How do you usually start your day?

With copious amounts of tea.

What brought you to the University of Aberdeen?

The internationally excellent reputation of the Centre for Scandinavian Studies, and its collegial and vibrant research community. I’m from the North West of England originally, and after taking all three of my degrees at the University of York I decided it was probably time for a change – so I moved to Sydney, Australia, for a postdoc position on the international editing project Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages. It turned out I was replacing someone (Dr Tarrin Wills) who had just taken up a lectureship at the University of Aberdeen, and the project’s website is hosted here. So when my current position was advertised after five and a half (lovely warm) years in Sydney and a Junior Research Fellowship at Durham, I’d heard quite a lot about the Centre and had it on good authority that it was a good place to be.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?
As others have said, the variety and flexibility are pretty attractive. Every day truly is different, from introducing undergraduates to the joys of Old Norse literature for the first time, to finding yourself involved in creating a new Christmas carol, to travelling to new places for conferences (this time last year I was in New Orleans!), to discussing interesting things with interested people on a daily basis. It’s also a real privilege to mentor PhD students, and see their projects and careers develop.
What are your work priorities at the moment?
Now teaching’s finished I’m getting into some research and engagement projects, and there’s lots going on! I’m Principal Investigator of an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded Research Network, Humours of the Past, and we have a conference coming up this summer at Durham University, where my Co-Investigator is based. Humour hasn’t always been taken seriously as a subject of academic research, but it has a lot to tell us about people, identity and cultural values. For instance, I’m interested in the genderedness of humour and laughter in medieval Scandinavia, and in legal regulation of humour – both issues we still debate in modern contexts. Our network brings together researchers from across the arts, humanities and social sciences, with practitioners such as playwrights, directors, archivists and curators: anyone with a professional stake in interpreting and communicating humour from past cultural contexts. For the same project I’m giving a talk on ‘Viking Humour’ at the May Festival. I was recently awarded an Impact, Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation grant to translate and adapt an Old Icelandic saga as a storytelling/stage performance, with Aberdeen Performing Arts – that will be happening in July. And in September I’ll take up an AHRC Early Career Leadership Development Fellowship for a new project investigating depictions of the natural world in Old Norse poetry, so I’m getting into the preparatory work for that.
How do you like to relax outside work?
You do know that question kind of freaks academics out? I’m coming out of hibernation now with the longer and (slightly) warmer days, so I’m looking forward to doing some more walking in the Highlands. I also like cooking, setting higher education and the world to rights with my partner Daniel, who’s also an academic, and reading and watching Nordic Noir.