Old Norse

MSt and MPhil students interested in Old Norse-Icelandic literature and language will find themselves at the centre of a large and vibrant research community in the subject, with a strong international profile. We have three faculty members specializing in Old Norse:

  • Carolyne Larrington works on Old Norse myth, eddic poetry, and fornaldarsögur (legendary sagas) and is presently heading the Interpreting Eddic Poetry Project.
  • Sian Grønlie works on conversion narratives and the relationship between sagas and saints' lives.
  • Heather O’Donoghue is the Vigfússon Reader in Old Norse, a post whose previous holders include Gabriel Turville-Petre and Ursula Dronke. She has just finished a book on the reception of Old Norse myth by English poets, and also works on saga narrative and links between Old Norse and Old English.


Other Oxford scholars work in adjacent or overlapping fields, for example Professor of Anglo-Saxon Andy Orchard, who has published on Old Norse. There is always at least one Old Norse option amongst the ‘C course’ choices for the 650–1550 MSt, up to three Old Norse options in the second year of the Medieval English MPhil, and we are happy to supervise masters dissertations on almost any Old Norse or Old Norse / comparative literary topic. Masters students who are completely new to Old Norse can attend introductory classes throughout the first (Michaelmas) term of their course, in preparation for options the following term.

We have a termly seminar (ONORS –the Old Norse in Oxford Research Seminar) which welcomes distinguished visiting speakers from all over the world, as well as providing a friendly and supportive forum for graduates to present their work in. The seminar is also a social occasion, and is followed by drinks, and usually, dinner. We welcome anyone – from undergraduates just starting out on Old Norse to interested graduates and senior members from other faculties – to the seminars (and sometimes, to parties, if there’s something to celebrate!) and our mailing list has over thirty names on it. We have close contact with Old Norse specialists in other faculties such as history, or archaeology, so that co-supervision, or just informal advice gathering, is always on hand. Oxford Old Norse scholars also have close collaborative links with Old Norse departments elsewhere in the UK, for instance, an annual symposium on Old Norse and Old English organized jointly by Oxford, Cambridge and London, or a series of AHRC-sponsored training projects in conjunction with Cambridge, Nottingham and London (and last year, the Centre for Nordic Studies in Orkney!). And of course, we regularly collaborate with scholars elsewhere in Europe and North America, both when they visit Oxford and when Oxford scholars and research students attend international workshops and conferences.

As well as the celebrated resources of the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford, we have our own room in the English Faculty Library, the Turville-Petre Room, which has one of the best collections of Old Norse books in the world, and is a particularly good place for students of Old Norse to settle down and work in. Both for its material resources – books and working space, especially – and for the sheer number of people working on Old Norse in one way or another who are always delighted to welcome newcomers, Oxford is an ideal place to begin or continue Old Norse studies at masters level, and to lay the foundations for successful doctoral study.

Illustration of the stern end of Viking ship from a 12th-century Treatise on astronomy