Centre for the Study of the Viking Age

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Jessie Yusek

Research Student,


Research Summary

Current Status

PhD (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic

I research mentions of supernatural beings and powers in medieval Icelandic and Middle English literature to discover what these mentions tell us about gender roles and relations in those societies.

Research Summary

My research examines, compares, and contrasts Middle English romances and medieval Icelandic sagas. Specifically, it explores supernatural, mythological, and folkloric creatures, understanding them not only as sites for testing cultural norms, but also as categories of characters and creatures in which social anxieties were expressed. This research is necessary in order to develop a more nuanced of different medieval peoples who are underrepresented in other primary and literary evidence. This includes lay people and especially women, who, being on the margins of society and history writing, were rarely acknowledged in medieval sources.

In my proposed project I argue that the supernatural creatures and folklore of both England and Iceland act as useful sites of analysis for questions of gender and subversion. This is because, in these categories, medieval authors created representations of deviant women as a way to interpret transgressions, both real and fictional. In addition to deviant and monstrous women, these categories also allowed medieval authors and audiences to express and understand heroic women acting outside of their prescribed gender roles, while still being seen as positive characters. Moreover, given contact between Iceland and England in this period, choosing literature from both locales also provides insight into cross-cultural European understandings of women and understandings of gender from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries.

Research Interests

  • Gender history
  • Social history
  • Medieval England
  • Medieval Iceland
  • Viking Age
  • Mythology and Folklore

Research Supervisors

Dr Christina Lee http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/english/people/christina.lee

Dr Joanna Martin http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/english/people/joanna.martin

Primary Funding Sources

Vice-Chancellor's Scholarship for Research Excellence (International) for the School of English

Conference Papers & Presentations

Conference Papers

  • Mythological Women in Medieval English and Icelandic Literature, The 7th Austmarr Symposium, December 2017 (forthcoming)
  • Monstrous Women, UArctic Conference August 2017
  • Exploring Giants and Gender in Medieval Icelandic Literature and Society, Association for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies in Canada (AASSC) Congress, May 2017
  • Monstrous Women: Gender in Medieval Icelandic Literature and Society, Háskóli Íslands Student Conference on the Medieval North, April 2017

Poster Presentations

  • Shape Changers, Giants, and Humanoids: Exploring Gender in Medieval Icelandic Literature and Society, Nordic Research Network, August 2017
  • Shape Changers, Giants, and Humanoids: Exploring Gender in Medieval Icelandic Literature and Society, Brock University Mapping New Knowledges Graduate Student Conference, April 2016

Additional Information

  • Teaching Assistant, Department of History, HIST1F90 Empires and Revolutions, Brock University, September 2015 to April 2016
  • Master of Arts History - September 2015 to October 2016
  • Bachelor of Arts History and Women's and Gender Studies - September 2010 to April 2015

Centre for the Study of the Viking Age

Trent Building
The University of Nottingham
University Park

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5900
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 5924
email: csva@nottingham.ac.uk