Professor Heather O'Donoghue

My primary field of research is Old Norse-Icelandic literature – that is, the poetry and prose of medieval Iceland and Norway. I have also worked and published on relations between Old Norse-Icelandic literature and Old English literature, and am interested in links with Old and Middle Irish. Most of my recent research has been on the reception of Old Norse literature in post-medieval European culture – primarily, but not exclusively, European and American literature – and the afterlife of Old Norse myth, especially in its political dimension. In 2014 my book English Poetry and Old Norse Myth was published by Oxford University Press. It begins with possible Scandinavian elements in Old English poetry (especially Beowulf) and traces the continuing and developing influence of Old Norse myth, taking in such poets as Dryden and Pope, Thomas Gray and William Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge, Walter Scott, Matthew Arnold, William Morris, Hugh MacDiarmid and David Jones, W.H. Auden, and Seamus Heaney, as well as a large number of less mainstream poets, particularly contemporary ones. In the last few years, I have published a number of papers on the reception of Old Norse myth and literature, and have recently investigated the influence of Old Norse myth on Thomas Hardy, Gunter Grass and Herman Melville. I am currently working on a monograph provisionally entitled Voice, Time and Fictionality in the Icelandic Family Saga.

I have also published on contemporary crime fiction, and am presently a judge on the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for contemporary thrillers.


Serving as a judge for the annual Dagger Award for Crime Fiction.

College Website


  • Madness, Mythology and Mitteleuropa: the Old Norse background to Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum

  • Re-presenting Icelandic saga narrative for Victorian readers

  • From Heroic Lay to Victorian Novel: Old Norse Poetry about Brynhildr and Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native

  • The Reception of Eddic Poetry

  • A Place in Time: Old Norse Myth and Contemporary Poetry in English and Scots

  • More
List of site pages