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Judith Jesch

Professor of Viking Studies, Faculty of Arts

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Biography

I was educated at the Universities of Pennsylvania (USA), Durham (UK, BA in English Language and Medieval Literature), Oslo (Norway, Leverhulme Study Abroad Studentship) and London (PhD in Scandinavian Studies, UCL). Before coming to Nottingham in 1985, I worked as a Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main (Germany). During my time at Nottingham I have been Head of the School of English Studies (2001-4), and was promoted to Professor of Viking Studies in 2002. In 2020 I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.

Expertise Summary

Areas of expertise - Old Norse language and literature, runology, and interdisciplinary Viking Studies.

I am currently:

I am also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Society of Antiquaries, and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

  • Outreach and Public Engagement

Blog for my current project: https://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/ragnasislands/

Vikingology Podcast - The Saga of the Earls of Orkney and Skaldic Poetry, discussion with historian Terri Barnes and author C. J. Adrien (May 2023)

History Extra Podcast - What Norse poetry reveals about the Viking Age, with Carolyne Larrington, hosted by Matt Elton (April 2023)

BBC Radio 3 Sunday Feature - The Ancient Algorithm, programme on runes and runic inscriptions with Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough and various other contributors (April 2022)

BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking - Discussion about Vikings and writing history with Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, Neil Price, Elizabeth Boyle and Kevan Manwaring (March 2022)

Messages from the Middle Ages: Discovering Runes - Podcast for Gone Medieval with Dr Cat Jarman (July 2021)

In praise of Queen Astrid of Norway - 10-minute talk for the British Academy (March 2021)

Podcast on Women in the Viking Age for Jorvik Viking Festival (February 2021)

Digital Museum event, Seafaring series, Vikings (February 2021)

The Viking Diaspora - Podcast interview for the Seven Ages website, 'Exploring History, Archaeology, Science and Culture' (November 2020)

Inghen Ruaidh, the Birka Grave and Viking Warrior Women Not What You Thought You Knew with Fern Riddell and Rebecca Gowland (September 2020)

Valkyries: Fierce women of war BBC World Service, Forum with Bridget Kendall, Marianne Hem Eriksen and Sif Rikharðsdóttir (July 2020)

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Vikings, but were afraid to ask History Extra podcast with David Musgrove (May 2020)

The Danelaw In Our Time BBC Radio 4 with Melvyn Bragg, Jane Kershaw and John Hines (March 2019)

Runes: The Vikings in their own Words on The History of Vikings podcast with Noah Tetzner (October 2018)

Research Summary

My research has always focused on the relationships of language, texts and contexts in the Viking Age and medieval Scandinavia, with a particular focus on runic inscriptions, skaldic verse and… read more

Current Research Students

I am co-supervisor (80%) for:

Christopher Mawford, working on liminality and wisdom in Eddic poetry (with Dr Paul Cavill)

I am co-supervisor (60%) for:

Harriet Clark, working on kingship, regionalism, and co-rulership in the Norwegian realm, c. 1015 - 1250 CE (with Dr Christopher Callow, History, University of Birmingham)

I am co-supervisor (50%) for:

Tom Fairfax, working on Kinship Connections and the Earldom of Orkney, c. 900-1263 (with Professor Nicola Royan)

I am co-supervisor (40%) for:

Jasmin Higgs, working on the functions of runic writing in Britain between c.400-650AD (with Dr Martin Findell, and Dr Philip Shaw, Durham University)

I am co-supervisor (20%) for:

Michele Roncarati, working on wolves and and the wolfish: imagery of a cultural phenomenon in Old Norse-Icelandic (with Dr Christina Lee and Professor Nicola Royan)

Natalia Radziwillowicz, working on Considering the connections between Scandinavia and the southern Baltic coast c. 10th - 13th centuries (with Dr Monica White and Dr Kate Olley)

I also co-supervise or advise PhD candidates in other institutions:

Agni Papamichael (Department of History, University of Birmingham)

Jonas Koesling (University of Iceland)

Michael Hansen (University of Iceland)

Past Research Students

(100%) Roderick Dale, whose thesis was on Berserkir: A Re-Examination of the Phenomenon in Literature and Life (2014); now published as The Myths and Realities of the Viking Berserkr (2022)

(80%) Aya Van Renterghem, whose thesis was on The written rune: alphabets and rune-rows in medieval manuscripts from the continent and the British Isles (2018; with Dr Paul Cavill).

Elizaveta Matveeva, whose thesis was on Reconsidering the tradition: the Odinic hero as saga protagonist (2016; with Dr Paul Cavill)

Runestone Images and Visual Communication in Viking Age Scandinavia (2013; with Dr Christina Lee)

(50%) Cassidy Croci, whose thesis was on New Methods for the (Land-)Taking: Visualising the Narrative Networks of the Sturlubók Redaction of Landnámabók (2024; with Dr Sheryllynne Haggerty and subsequently Dr John Baker)

William Pidzamecky, whose thesis was on Longphuirt, Wintersetlu, and Gorodišče: A Study of Viking Age Scandinavian Sites in Ireland, England, Russia, and Ukraine from the Eighth to the Tenth Centuries (2023; with Dr John Baker)

Teva Vidal, whose thesis was on Houses and Domestic Life in the Viking Age and Medieval Period: Material Perspectives from Sagas and Archaeology (2013; with Dr Christina Lee)

(40%) Elisabeth Magin, whose thesis was on Runes, runic writing and runic inscriptions as primary sources for town development in medieval Bergen, Norway (2021; with Dr Christopher King, Archaeology, and Dr Gitte Hansen, University of Bergen).

(20%) Stefanie Künzel whose thesis was on Concepts of infectious, contagious, and epidemic disease in Anglo-Saxon England (2018; with Dr Christina Lee).

Eleanor Rye, whose thesis was on Dialect in the Viking-Age Scandinavian diaspora: the evidence of medieval minor names (2016; with Dr Jayne Carroll)

Earlier, I supervised successful PhDs on the poetics of the Sagas of Icelanders (Slavica Ranković), the horse in the Viking imagination (Betsy van der Hoek-Springer), poetic discourse in Viking Age England (Jayne Carroll), and the historical context of Scandinavian runic inscriptions in Britain (Katherine Holman).

Current Research

My research has always focused on the relationships of language, texts and contexts in the Viking Age and medieval Scandinavia, with a particular focus on runic inscriptions, skaldic verse and historical sagas. I also write on questions of orality and literacy, geography, migration and diaspora, and Scandinavian contacts with the British Isles.

My main current project is an annotated translation of the Saga of the Earls of Orkney, contracted to Birlinn. In connection with this, I am PI on the AHRC-funded Research Development and Engagement Fellowship Ragna's Islands: A New Saga Narrative for the Twenty-first Century (February 2024 - June 2025). Also on the team for this project are Dr Matthew Blake and Corinna Rayner. The project has a blog where you can follow its progress: https://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/ragnasislands/

Past Research

My expertise focuses on a variety of texts composed and written in Old Norse-Icelandic. These include:

  • poetry of the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries, originally oral and now surviving in written versions of the 13th century or later, especially that usually termed 'skaldic'
  • runic inscriptions from the 8th to the 15th century
  • Icelandic sagas, especially the Kings' Sagas and other historical works, and the Sagas of Icelanders.

I have extensive research experience in the general and cultural history of the Viking Age in Scandinavia and in areas settled by Scandinavians, with a broad knowledge of interdisciplinary approaches and an interest in questions of orality and literacy, and of migration, diaspora and cultural memory. I also have research experience in the more general history, literature and culture of Norway, and of Scandinavian Scotland.

School of English

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telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5900
email: english-enquiries@nottingham.ac.uk